How To Grill Meat & Fish Like A Mexican
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In millions of backyards across Southern California, an asada represents more than just meat. It means family, friends, memories, great music, cold drinks, good times, and the community you’ve built – all centred on the promise of juicy grilled meat and all the fixings that remind you of your upbringing. The smell of asada is an invisible cloud of joy that forever lingers around the streets of Los Angeles. In a city like LA, where the taco is a way of life, backyard asada culture is as respected as church on Sundays.
Inviting someone to your carne asada is a gesture of love, respect, generosity and friendship. It’s a way of welcoming you and feeding you like family. At its most essential, all you really need for a proper carne asada is some meat, tortillas and salsa. But a true carne asada is only as good as you prepare it to be. Every family has their own secret carne asada recipe or their go-to carnicería (meat market) that they will defend and stay loyal to for having the best marinated beef, pork and chicken. An asada can be as intimate or as big as you’d like it to be. You don’t need to celebrate anything but life to gather loved ones and throw an asada, though a birthday asada is always my favourite.
The responsibility of being an asada grill master for the day comes with great privilege – and a cold beer to get you through it all. Fortunately for everyone, backyard-style carne asada is extremely forgiving. If we are being honest, many of us love and actually prefer the pieces of carne that are well beyond ‘well done’. Burned, even, or what we Mexicans like to refer to as bien doradito (‘extra crispy’). Hosting and making carne asada gets easier and more streamlined the more you do it. When you are first starting out, it’s okay to run out of meat. It happens. Next time, you will now know how much to buy per person, and even then you may mess up. The skill of knowing how much food to prepare is something you will master through years of experience.
INSPIRED? HERE ARE THREE RECIPES TO TRY ON THE BBQ THIS SEASON...
Salsa Borracha Ribs
This is the kind of recipe you purposely make at the end of an asada when everyone is already kind of full, just so you can hopefully have some leftovers. The meat absolutely falls apart and the sauciness of the dish lends itself perfectly to being tucked into a torta and devoured the next day.
Smoked Lamb Barbacoa
This variation is inspired by the barbacoa de Borrego that my family and I grew up eating in Tlacolula’s famous Sunday tianguis (open-air market), specifically at the booth owned by Doña Adolfa. Slowly smoking the chilli and spice-rubbed lamb in banana leaves adds an incredible depth of flavour.
Peel ’n’ Eat Guajillo Prawns
In Oaxaca, we get down and messy with our food. There is absolutely no shame in voraciously eating with our hands. Sometimes, like with this dish, it is absolutely necessary. Dare I say eating with our hands makes food taste even better? Fish sauce, traditionally used in southeast Asian cooking, is our secret ingredient in this recipe. It contributes such an amazing savouriness to anything you use it in.
Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling by Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral is available to buy here.
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