Carne Asada With Annatto Sauce and Onion Cilantro Salsa, photo by Sonia Mendez GarciaPhoto by Sonia Mendez Garcia

Carne Asada With Annatto Sauce and Onion Cilantro Salsa

Cuisine: Latin
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6 servings
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.

Ingredients

  • Annatto Sauce
  • 1/4 cup annatto seeds or 2 tablespoons annatto powder
  • 1 cup canola oil you can use olive oil if you prefer
  • 6 - 8 chiles de árbol or 1 tablespoon red chile pepper flakes
  • 1 serrano pepper sliced
  • 4 - 6 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 large lime juiced
  • salt to taste
  • Onion Cilantro Salsa
  • 1 1/2 cups white onion finely diced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 - 2 habanero peppers sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chiles pequin crushed (or red chile flakes)
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 teaspoon pepper fresh, cracked
  • salt to taste
  • 3 - 4 whole allspice optional
  • Carne Asada
  • 2 lbs round steak pounded thin, or your favorite cut, sliced into 6 equal portions
  • Granulated garlic
  • Ground cumin
  • oil for brushing on grates of grill
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

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Directions

Annatto Sauce
  1. 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.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.
  2. 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. 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.
  3. 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.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
  1. 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.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.
Carne Asada
  1. 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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Slice thin against the grain or serve whole. Top with the onion cilantro salsa, and serve with remaining spicy annatto sauce. Enjoy!

Chef Notes

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.

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