Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner. What does that mean? Well, for one, it means that we’re approaching the annual commemoration of the Mexican Army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla. Contrary to popular (and misinformed) opinion, it is not a celebration of Mexican independence. In fact, that occurs on Sept. 16. Next, it means that, in the United States, we’re gearing up for a wider celebration of Mexican-American heritage. You know how St. Patrick’s Day is a way to acknowledge and appreciate Irish culture? Well, Cinco de Mayo is probably the closest equivalent. While folks can use each day as an excuse to go out, party, and drink a bit too much, they are much more than that. Each day is a reminder of a unique people who have come to the United States from separate and distinct origins, and have made tremendous contributions to American culture. Finally, it means I have to decide what to make for dinner! Because I’m…well, me, one of the ways I really enjoy celebrating is to cook up dishes pertinent to the day.
This year, on St. Patrick’s Day, I went with corned beef and cabbage. On St. Joseph’s Day, my mom made a great spaghetti and meat sauce. On Cinco de Mayo, we’ll see. Maybe tacos. But here’s the deal: It’s me we’re talking about! And that means, when it comes to celebration meals, I’m going to do whatever I can to find a dish that involves beef! When it comes to Mexican food, the great thing is that you can often use whatever meat/protein you want. For me, that means carne asada. The interesting thing about carne asada is that it can be made in different ways, with different cuts of meat, with different flavors. That makes sense, though when you consider the term “carne asada,” which refers to beef that’s roasted, broiled, or grilled, the name itself has three different preparations built in!
So, with all of these options, you might be wondering, “How should I go about making carne asada?” Well, that’s going to depend on a number of factors. What do you like? How much time do you have? What cooking tools are you working with? The beauty of making a solid carne asada is that it is versatile. That’s why I’m going to run down several ways to make delicious meat for your Mexican dishes.
In the Crock-Pot
The great thing about a slow cooker or a Crock-Pot is how easy preparation is. Oh, and the fact that Crock-Pot cooking promotes unsurpassed tenderness. If you’re looking for a meal you can start in the morning and let cook throughout the day, the slow cooker is your best bet. Now, you won’t get the classic grilled taste, but the ease and rich flavors you’ll encounter can be worth it. For a citrusy-savory recipe that features flank steak, check here.
On the Grill
In the summertime, when the weather is fine…wait, that’s a song lyric! When it’s warm outside (still waiting, Chicago!), there’s nothing like firing up the grill and cooking al fresco. The best part about the grill is you’re going to get a great char and aesthetically pleasing grill marks. Additionally, you can get a grill nice and hot, cutting down on cook time. For a lime-accented skirt steak recipe, check here.
In the Broiler
Don’t have a grill? That’s okay! You can achieve grill-like results with your broiler. For a nice alternative to the grilled carne asada above, try this savory-spicy preparation here.
If you prefer your steak more on the well-done side, really enjoy the citrus flavors, and are interested in trying a chuck steak, try this recipe here.
On the Stove-Top
I love my cast-iron skillet. Why? Because it’s easy to cook with and easy to clean up. Plus, for meat, I can get a great sear that seems to add flavor, lock in juices, and create an ever-so-slight crispiness I find appealing. Lucky for me (and you), carne asada can be made on your stove-top in your cast-iron skillet. If you like to take risks, fuse cuisines, eat french fries, and enjoy cast-iron cooking as much as I do, check out this recipe here.
If you’re like me and like to keep things simple, you’re either going with carne asada, as is, with some rice or beans, or, you’re going with tacos. For a nice taco recipe, try this recipe here.
Super Bonus: Nachos
Chips? Check. Salsa? Delicious. Cheese? Extra, please! Steak? We actually might be talking about the perfect food. Whether it’s a snack, an appetizer, or a full-blown meal, nachos can fit the bill. For a carne asada nachos recipe, try here.
Now that you know how to cook carne asada in the slow cooker, on the grill, in the oven/broiler, and with your cast-iron skillet, you should be all set for your Cinco de Mayo meal. And don’t sleep on these dishes throughout the year either!