Not long ago, Finn and I were walking through Trader Joe’s, when he made his usual pit stop at the samples counter. The offering was pork carne asada, on top of a bed of tortilla chips, sprinkled with cheese. The pork had been microwaved and wasn’t very good, but I could sense that it had a decent flavor underneath the icky microwave texture. Finn, on the other hand, decided it was his favorite new food, which made me sort of thrilled, since I love carne asada.
But I wouldn’t buy the freezer bag of precooked, pre-packaged meat, and I didn’t have a good carne asada recipe, that is until we got home a few minutes later and I asked Betsabe, who was working for me that day, if she had a good recipe. She looked at me as if I was crazy for not having one, then raved about a family recipe which involves garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, a tomato mixed in a blender and used as a marinade for the meat, for up to a day. Then, she said you sprinkle some carne asada powder on the meat, grill or fry and eat with tortillas or rice, etc. She swore that everyone in her family loved it, from her parents to her husband to her baby son. When I asked her what was in the carne asada powder she shrugged and said she had no idea and we laughed. She assured me you could make it with just the marinade which is what I did because I didn’t get myself to any one of the many Mexican markets in my town before making this.
The BEST thing about this, aside from the fact that it’s delicious, is that it’s very, very fast. I chopped and prepped the condiments, set the table, and made the marinade in about 20 minutes at lunchtime. I had my pan out and ready to go on the stove, so when we rolled inthe door from ballet class at about 6:25, I sent the kids to put on their cozy pajamas and by the time the sat down to eat their first course cucumber salads the meat was near done. By 6:40 they had warm, carne asada filled tortillas on their plates.
I got my meat, which was a prepackaged 1 lb bag of Fajita meat from Holding Ranch at my farmer’s market. It’s precut into perfect little pieces, and my kids adore it. If you cook this meat really, really fast, it’s delicious and tender, but it’s also easy to overcook. I made this dinner very last minute, so I pulled some inauthentic condiments from what I had on hand, and I would have preferred to have some salsa and avocado or guacamole, but really, we didn’t miss it. Kory & I added black beans and rice, and we easily would have had leftovers from the 1 lb of meat, only Kory & I decided to eat them that night.
red cabbage, romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, cucumber salad, baby leeks/green onions
I let Ella and Finn choose their own toppings, which is a fun way for them to eat. I think it encourages choice and independence and the illusion that they are controlling what their meal. The trick is to put out a variety of healthy things, most of which they like, along with a few new things. I do this a lot. I learned in Texas to eat carnitas or fajitas with less meat to tortilla ratio, so 1 lb of meat easily provides enough for our family of four. Unless we get greedy. Ella’s first looked like this:
And here, the girl shows you how to roll a tortilla. In case you were wondering.
adapted from Betsabe
Marinade for every 1 lb fajita beef:
- 4-6 large cloves garlic
- juice of 1 large lemon
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small-medium, fresh tomato
- 1 tsp salt
- Optional: carne asada powder
+ white onion for final grilling
Puree all ingredients in a blender then pour over meat and let marinate for several hours or up to 1 day.
Thinly slice a white. Sautee onion in a little olive oil until tender, then drain the marinade from the meat and stir fry quickly with a sprinkling of carne asada powder until cooked. Serve with warm tortillas, and/or rice and black beans and salsa, avocado, etc.