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Carne Asada with Nopales and Green Onions

Serves 8

Total Time
1 hr 30 mins

Carne asada is ideal for hosts because it's quick and flavorful even without a marinade. Vidal Mozqueda, a backyard griller in San Francisco who works as a busser in the city's Acquerello restaurant, buys thinly sliced skirt steak at a carnicería. He grills it over a searing mesquite lump-charcoal fire; we used part briquets to help the fire burn longer. Cooked on a gas grill, the recipe is less smoky but still a crowd-pleaser. To drink, Mozqueda offers beer and pomegranate-sparkling water spritzers.

su- Carne Asada with Nopales and Green Onions

 3 tablespoons chili powder (a blend of ground chiles and other seasonings)
 1 tablespoon kosher salt
 1 tablespoon ground chipotle chile
 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
 3 pounds very thinly sliced skirt steak or flap meat* (sliced horizontally by a butcher into sheets about 1/8 in. thick), or unsliced skirt steak
 1 can (12 oz.) Mexican lager beer, such as Modelo or Corona
 2 pounds cactus pads (nopales), cleaned*, sliced lengthwise almost to base
 2 pounds green onions or spring onions*, roots and scraggly tops trimmed, large bulbs split in half
  Corn tortillas (7 to 8 in. wide)
  [SUB_RECIPE_LINK {Salsa Verde and/or} {152517}]
  [SUB_RECIPE_LINK {Salsa Roja} {152518}]
Step 1

Make seasoning blend: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Step 2

Prepare meat: Working over a large bowl, sprinkle a piece of meat on both sides with seasoning blend. Set in bowl and repeat, layering seasoned meat. Add beer and mix with hands until evenly moistened. Let stand while you prepare the fire.

Step 3

For charcoal, ignite a very full chimney of half mesquite lump charcoal and half mesquite charcoal briquets on firegrate of a charcoal grill. When lit, 20 to 25 minutes, dump coals onto firegrate and add 1/2 chimney more lump charcoal; let burn 5 minutes to ignite. Arrange coals in a slope from one side of firegrate to the other. Set cooking grate in place. For gas, heat grill to very high (550° to 650°), then lower heat for one burner to medium-high.

Step 4

If needed, cut meat in pieces to fit grill. A portion at a time, start grilling cactus and onions over cooler part of fire, covered and turning occasionally, until cactus is olive green and onions are just tender (4 to 8 minutes total, up to 15 minutes for spring onions). If needed, drape onion tops over cactus to keep from blackening before bulbs are done. Transfer to a board. Cook meat a portion at a time over hottest part of fire, turning once, until medium-rare, 1 to 4 minutes total (3 to 8 minutes for unsliced skirt steak). Add meat to board and let rest about 5 minutes.

Step 5

Meanwhile, warm a few tortillas at a time over cooler side of grill, turning once, 30 to 60 seconds total; as warmed, stack and wrap in a towel.

Step 6

Thinly slice meat across the grain into strips, saving any juices to pour on top. Cut cactus into strips. Set out meat and vegetables with tortillas and salsas, for making tacos.


*Find thinly sliced skirt steak or flap meat at a Latino meat market or supermarket (it may be called arrachera or ranchera). Find whole cactus pads and spring onions (cebollitas, which have large bulbs) at Latino markets and well-stocked grocery stores. To remove spines and fuzzy dots from cactus, wear gloves and scrape a knife down flat sides; also pare rims. Don't rinse, or cactus will get sticky.


Make ahead: Through step 2, up to 1 day, chilled.

Nutrition Facts

Servings 0

Amount Per Serving
Calories 356Calories from Fat 37
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 14g22%

Saturated Fat 5.4g27%
Cholesterol 111mg37%
Sodium 1001mg42%
Total Carbohydrate 14g5%

Dietary Fiber 5.5g22%
Protein 40g80%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.