Carne Asada is a typical steak dish in Latin America known for its delicious charred and smoky taste. This recipe incorporates annatto and a side salsa, which adds tons of color and flavor!
The best thing about having friends who share a love for cooking is sharing tips and tricks! Carne Asada is a typical skirt steak dish in Latin America known for its delicious smoky flavor. A friend suggested I incorporate annatto (also known as achiote) and an onion cilantro salsa -- it elevates the recipe in a way I thought was not possible.
A bit of background on Annatto: Annatto seeds come from trees which grow in mostly tropical or subtropical regions. You can find annatto in various forms in larger Hispanic markets. They come in seeds, paste or powder, and can be incorporated to recipes in different ways.
Seeds are at times easiest to find, so I used them for this recipe. There are recipes out there explaining how to make annatto paste at home from the seeds, but for me it did not work. I believe that in order to do that you would need an industrial strength spice grinder!
The best thing to do with the seeds is to steep them in oil. You can then use the oil to cook or you can improvise a delicious sauce recipe.
In a saucepan, combine the the oil and annatto. Heat on low-medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until the oil turns a bright red. Stir now and then and don’t let it boil.
Add the chiles, garlic, onion, cumin and oregano. Return to low heat and let them steep for 10 minutes. Again, do not boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
Once cooled, transfer to the blender, add cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, pepper and salt to taste. Blend on high until smooth and emulsified. Taste for salt, divide into 2 airtight containers or a large plastic squeeze bottle until ready to use. Yields about 2 1/2 cups of sauce.
Onion Cilantro Salsa
Combine all of the ingredients for the cilantro salsa in a bowl. Stir well to combine, taste for salt. Cover tightly and let marinate for at least 2 hours. If you can marinate it overnight, even better.
Remove the meat from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Season on both sides with salt, pepper, cumin and granulated garlic. When ready, preheat your outdoor grill on high.
Right before adding the meat, brush the grates with oil. Grill the beef for 8 to 10 minutes, turning as needed and basting with annatto sauce every time. Remove beef from grill, tent with foil for a few minutes.
Slice thin against the grain or serve whole. Top with the onion cilantro salsa, and serve with remaining spicy annatto sauce. Enjoy!
Use any leftover annatto sauce to upgrade your tortillas.
A taquería trick I learned from my sister-in-law, Norma, is to baste your corn tortillas with hot sauce while they heat up on the hot comal. It sears the sauce in and makes for a tasty, moist tortilla. I used the annatto sauce.