Carne Knowledge - is it really anything to get excited about?
Local poster was asking where to find carne asada after reading this NY Times article.
Now the picture looks delicoious, but I've never seen anything like that. Usually it is just chopped up beef cooked on a grill. When I first started eating at taco trucks this was my timid, cautious choice. But it got really, really boring.
Maybe it is the rub that makes it? The NY Times article has a recipe with the article. Here's a Chow recipe.
Is there anything amazing about carne asada that I'm missing ... anything that would make me want to cheat on my Al pastor or carnitas?
As I have noted on the Bay Area & L.A. Boards.... real Carne Asada is rare in California (at least in restaurants). The proliferation of marinated skirt steaks at the Carnicerias evidences that real Carne Asada is consumed at home (or at the park).
East L.A. is one of the few places that has had excellent Carne Asada... iconic La Parilla has had great versions at different eras, El Parian (the source of the picture) as well as the RIP El Grillo but there are many sit down, weekend places that have credible Carne Asada there.
Eat Nopal, again you speak the truth.When EN says that in East LA there are only credible versions of carne asada in a few places, he is saying a mouthful.
I don't order carne asada in LA, especially not at LA taco trucks or stands.There are many wonderful other things to be had at LA Mexican restaurants or stands that are done well.
What you've missed about carne asada you will only find in Mexico, specifically in Sonora, Chihuahua, Sinaloa,D.F.(Sonoran beef)or Coahuila.Also, in TJ at the Sonoran restaurants that receive shipments of Sonoran beef.
I dream of a fine Mexican steakhouse right on La Cienega to go up against Fogo de Chao or Matsuhisu with imported Sonoran beef, cheese, chiltepines,costillas, and tripas de leche.The produce could be procured locally and the wine list could be augmented by direct importation from Mexican wineries in Baja, much like some Brazilian churrascarias like Fogo de Chao bring artesinal cachaca to their restaurants.
The American public would have to also embrace Fogo de Chao prices for carne asada.It would take a bold restauranteur and patience with a public accustomed to dollar tacos with prosaic skirt steak, that goes for both Latino and non-Latino.
That would be exciting! A true Mexican parrillada with New York steak from Angus beef raised in Sonora, luscious tripas de leche, costillas, and flawless queso fundido from Sonoran cheese.
As far as tacos, the carne asada is best with New York steak cuts(Sonoran) blended as they are in Sonora with palomilla and another cut.I would absolutely frequent a Mexican taco truck in LA with the cahones to do that.
For great carne asada, the cut of beef does matter greatly, as does the cooking method -- char grilled -- and the way it's cut. The NYT mentions the beef cut Flap Meat for carne asada, and I can second that eagerly. It's not hanger steak, skirt steak, flank steak, or flatiron steak. It is coarse, beefy, well-marbled, and fantastic al carbon. I buy it whenever I can find it, and fire up the grill
I think part of the charm of carne asada (at least those from restaurants or taco trucks) is the fabulous flavor and depth the meat takes from the grime, ahem, uh, I mean the "seasoning" that's been nurtured on the grill from years and years of use.
This is almost impossible to reproduce at home, no matter what recipe you follow.
But to answer your question ... No. I would definitely choose a good al pastor over a carne asada.
The Chow recipe is almost right, but not quite, and cutting it in chunks is a real no-no in my book. You can get a carne asada steak, which is served whole, or the carne asada tacos/tortas/burritos, which would be the steak sliced thinly. It shouldn't be chopped up beef on a grill. To me that is fajita meat. And I would never use a rub on a carne asada.
Here is another thread on this that is short and sweet:
But I also love the al pastor and carnitas!
You need to look into char grilled outer skirt steak, and maybe steer clear of griddle fried chuck steak from taco trucks?
Think of it this way - would you rather have a juicy steak on the grill, or stew meat chopped and pan fried? The rub would be secondary. Cut of meat, and method of cooking make a huge difference. If you ever come to Chicago, post on the Chicago board, and we'll point you to some places that grill up some stellar carne asada for you. It's like eating a steak from your back yard grill - not chopped up leather.