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Sep 2, 2008 08:18 PM

Carne Asada Burrito - SoCal Style

I fell in love with Carne Asada Burritos when I lived in San Diego. Now I’m back in the Orlando area and the only place that replicates the flavor I seek is an hour away.

Sure, many places sell Carne Asada Burritos, but they don’t taste quite right.

I’m hoping someone from SoCal can tell me how to get that authentic CalMex taqueria flavor I’m missing.

Next step is duplicating the Chicken Burrito as found in the hundreds of Roberto's, Los Pancho's, Alberto's, Robertito's, etc., etc., etc.

Mucho gracias in advance.......

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  1. Two things to keep in mind: (1) keep it simple and (2) use the right cut of beef.

    (1) keep it simple, do not marinade. Simply salt and pepper the meat when it's on the grill
    (2) Use flap meat, don't use more expensive cuts like skirt steak

    Make sure your grill is HOT.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I've got flap meat. I grill it with just salt and pepper. The meat tastes wonderful.

      It's the other stuff that I'm wondering about.

      One other problem is the inability to buy proper burrito sized/freshly made flour tortillas. Not availalbe withing a 50 mile radius of my home.

      1. re: bkhuna

        I don't know if this is available in your area, but there is a brand of tortillas, burrito size and taco size, named guerrero. You have to cook it before you use it and it is a good size and tastes very fresh. Nice and tin, but not too thin. I find it with the other pre-made tortillas. You should refrigerate when you get home.

        1. re: bkhuna

          Hmm, what "other stuff" are you talking about?

          As to the flour tortillas, do you have a Costco or Smart & Final near you? Also, check to see if the places that do sell burritos will sell you some freshly made flour tortillas.

          1. re: bkhuna

            bkhuna, I was born, raised, and currently live in San Diego. I agree completely with ipsedixit about the flap meat, it's pretty much what a lot of the taco shops in SD use. However, they will often add a little orange juice -and - a little lime juice along with the salt and pepper, marinate for a little bit (no more than over night, if that) and then cook. More orange than lime and not a huge quantity. If you've got any latin markets around your area you can actually buy a carne asada cut of meat, which is very thin. Some of it comes premarinated, but that is not going to get you SD-style carne asada for burritos.

            Most carne asada is not grilled, but griddled on a flat top over high heat so there is caramelization (part of the function of the OJ) on the outside of the meat and the edges get crispy. In order for this to happen the meat has to be fairly thin and the flat top fairly hot. It's partly about the sizzle. If you've got a gas range at home and a flat griddle that might fit over the burners you can make your own flat top, or use a wide skillet with a flat bottom. One of those old Revereware electric skillets will also work.

            For a true San Diego-style CAB, the only other "extras" are going to be pico de gallo and guacamole, neither of which are probably being made at the taco shop, most of that is purchased from outside vendors. Pico is easy to make, it's simply minced fresh tomato, onion, serrano, cilantro, salt and a squeeze of lime. For the guac, check out the frozen food section at your local supermarket and look for Calavo Avocado pulp, sauce or guacamole. Start with these and doctor them to what you want. Some taco shops will use a fairly chunk guacamole, others a thin one with more of a sauce-like consistency.

            A shot of red salsa can be added, thought not all of them do it. The salsa is usually guajillo or chile de arbol based. Rick Bayless has a really good red salsa in the front of his book "Salsa's that Cook" that, with a little doctoring, can get you close to SD taco shop salsa. Most of them don't make that in-house either ;-). Costco in CA carries a brand of red salsa under the Del Real label that a lot of taco shops in SD buy (directly from the manufacturer, not Costco). I can't guarantee the Costco in Orlando would also carry the product, but it's worth checking out. You'd be looking for the Roasted Salsa Rojo. (Add straight-cut french fries and you've got a California Burrito)

            The proper flour tortilla is a 12" one (though you may only be able to find 10" in your area) and it should not be too thick. It needs to be fairly thin, might be a tad bit stiff and they don't really have to be impeccably fresh. They need to be a little on the stretchy, leathery side in order to hold up to the filling and not break apart before you're done. Too thick (Mission brand are too thick) and they'll crack, too soft or too thin and they break. In SoCal most produce companies deliver tortillas to taco shops. If there is a wholesale produce vendor in your area that also sells to the public you might give them a call to see if they carry tortillas and would sell to you.

            Most taco shops do one of two things with the tortilla, they'll throw it on the flat top to heat up, which will also soften it up enough to make it pliable and rollable. Or, they'll use a Lincoln steamer and inject it with a couple of good shots of hot steam, which also heats it up and makes it pliable. The trick is to make the flour tortilla pliable enough to roll. You can do it on the range top, or wrap them up in foil with damp paper towels and heat in the oven, just don't nuke them in the microwave or they'll get hard too fast.

            Everyone thinks fish tacos were "invented" in San Diego. They weren't, and fish tacos are pretty ubiquitous. San Diego didn't invent the carne asada burrito, but we have perfected it and not very many other places even come close.

            1. re: DiningDiva

              lol; the SD-specific carne asada "dish" that always comes to mind are the "carne asada fries"... hangover meal of choice for many a young person, as I remember

        2. Except for the guacamole, I agree with the recos so far.

          Pico de gallo is a good asada topping, but any fresh salsa with good tomato/tomatillo tartness will be good. Unless your salsa taste buds are fine tuned, I'd stay away from commercial so-called fresh salsas/p.d.g. - many unbalanced bad tasting ones are out there. Make fresh salsa yourself - simple - search CH - lasts just as long in the fridge. Having said that, I confess that my emergency salsa is a bottle of La Costena Ranchera.

          Watch out for national tortilla brands like Guerrero, Mission, etc. They have a lot of preservatives and may have been in the supply chain way too long. The rare uncooked ones ref'd by danhole may be OK but are pricey.
          Trader Joe's, if available, sells an OK 10" tortilla. I like theirs because they are thinner and are less likely to be gummy like the monster >12" tortillas.

          As for chicken, always go roasted - stewed is bland and mostly awful. Find a EPL like citrus based marinade to help the chicken stay moist.

          San Diego /\= SoCal :-)

          1 Reply
          1. re: DiveFan

            "San Diego /\= SoCal"

            Yeah, San Diego = LoCal.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. Hey, thanks for resurrecting this thread. I too am a former San Diegan. The early replies on this thread are spot-on. The primary seasonings that characterize the Albertos, Robertos, etc., carne asada burritos are nothing more than salt, pepper and onions, cooked on a flat top grill, with a slather of guacamole. When you think about it, it makes sense, as those places are all about economy. Think cheap. They're not using exotic ingredients. It's also easy to duplicate the cheap salsa that comes in those little plastic cups. If you want to duplicate Cal-Mex fast food, think "how would a fast food taco joint do this cheaply?"