February 26, 2014

easy carne asada tacos

Are y'all busy like I am? Oh man, we. are. swamped. I love it all, but there are businesses to run, people to love on, meetings to attend, sports events to watch, hospitals to visit, a house to clean, company to host, and - oh yeah - a new store to open. It's ebb and flow, isn't it? One week we might not have a single thing going on, and then just like that we meet ourselves coming and going!  Well the last two weeks have been the latter. Coming and going. Coming and going. Coming. And. Going. And in those times, I do my darndest to try to have something that we can eat at home. Oh, yes, we do our fair share of fast food and quick Mexican dining. But when I can swing it, we eat at home. My honey has been a super-hero this week helping pull home-cooked meals together while I'm working on the Euna Mae's store. {see that announcement HERE}  He has made spaghetti, smoked chicken, and "daddy burgers" which is the best burger anywhere. He's the best. I'm a lucky girl.

Disclaimer really fast: we were so busy that we were starving when it was time to eat this supper. So my picture isn't great because we were just ready to inhale our meal. And I had company which makes photographing food really awkward. 

Anyway...being busy means putting slow-cooker meals into action! And this easy carne asada recipe saved me a ton of hands-on time and allowed me more time to work, go to a meeting, take my youngest to a birthday party, and run some family errands. A friend shared this recipe with me over coffee, and I knew it would be one that we would love. We'll eat just about anything in a flour tortilla which is all we did with this meat. Tender shredded carne asada, sour cream, a little white queso, and fresh sliced avocado! So the fact that it is so easy to make AND it's fall-apart and flavorful makes this dish something that I'll fix often.

Among other tweaks that I made to the original recipe, the original calls for cooking a flat iron steak in a slow-cooker for 8 hours. Are you ready for this: I don't own a slow-cooker. {shock and awe} I really don't. I use either my good enameled dutch oven for all-day cooking or  my pressure cooker when I don't have the luxury of time.  So I actually made this carne asada in 2.5 hours in my pressure cooker because I couldn't start supper til 3:30 in the afternoon on this particular day. Had I had the sense or the time to put this in my dutch oven in the morning, I would've let it cook low and slow all day long. But I didn't. So in the pressure cooker it went! Pressure cookers seal up tight as a vault and maintain moisture which made this meat unbelievably tender. And pressure cookers get the job done in almost a quarter of the time that a slow-cooker does. BUT most of America has a slow-cooker, so if that's what you love then by all means use yours for this recipe! No matter how you decide to cook this carne asada, I'm willing to bet your family will love it like mine did. 

{feeds 7-8 people, depending on your people}

*The following directions are for carne asada in a pressure cooker; please see footnote for slow-cooker option.

2lbs. flat iron or flank steak
2 yellow onions, cut into thin rings
1 red pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow or orange pepper, cut into strips
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped, optional
3/4 cup beef stock

-for the rub-
4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp brown sugar

Allow the beef to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so; then using the flat side of a meat mallet, hammer the steaks until flattened by about half. Hammering the steaks breaks down the extra connective tissue that this particular cut of meat is known for and makes the meat more tender. Cut the meat in half lengthwise so it will fit in your pot better.
 In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the dry rub. Set aside.

Over medium-high heat with enough oil to cover the bottom, heat the pressure cooker without the lid on until the oil starts to shimmer a little. While the pot is heating, pat the meat dry with paper towels and rub liberally with the seasoning mix. You may not use all of the seasoning, but you'll want to rub the seasoning into the meat on all sides. When the oil is hot and shimmering, place the beef in the pot to sear the meat and get good dark color on the outside. I sear mine in batches; just be sure not to crowd the pot. Sear all sides and remove from the pot. {See blog post HERE on how to sear meat for big flavor.}

Turn down the heat to low and let the pot cool down for a minute. Add the beef stock to the pot and stir to loosen the bits that are in the bottom. Return the seared beef to the pot with the stock and pile the sliced onions, peppers and jalapeno right on top. 

Put the lid on the cooker, sealing it according to your cooker's directions. Then over medium-high heat, build up the pressure until the cooker indicates; then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 hours. Turn off heat, and allow the pressure to release naturally by letting the pot sit off of the heat for an additional 30 minutes. The meat will continue to cook as the pot cools down and releases the pressure. Magic things happen inside a pressure cooker.

Carefully remove the lid; and using two forks, shred the beef and nibble a bite. Repeat. You won't believe how good. I mean it.

Serve warm carne asada forked into flour or corn tortillas with sour cream, sliced avocado, and Nana's Fresh Homemade Salsa.  Garnish with cilantro and lime.

SLOW COOKER OPTION: After searing the meat in heavy bottomed pot, put the meat in a slow cooker with the beef stock, onions, and peppers. Cook on low for 8 hours.