Carne Asada Fries
There’s something lovely about the unapologetic lustiness of a big pile of nachos, and these carne asada fries turn the dial up to 11 on that pleasure. They feel tailor-made to fill the hole in our hearts left by all those happy hours we didn’t get to share with friends during the pandemic, and they make the ideal appetizer-for-dinner when that’s the only thing that will do. (Same goes for our chili cheese fries, actually.)
The soul of this dish is the carne asada: tender, juicy steak marinated in a sauce with roasted chiles, cumin, citrus, and a fistful of cilantro. (In the test kitchen, we were all agog at the ease of “roasting” chiles in the microwave.) Consider making a double batch to use in tacos and rice bowls.
In this recipe, the steak contributes a hearty, smoky flavor while the fresh jalapeño, tomato, and onion add a fresh bite of heat and acid. Crema cools the spiciness. The crunchy fries add a decadent counterpoint to the carne asada, almost like a Mexican poutine, but without the sleep-inducing layer of gravy in the Quebecois version.
This recipe calls for frozen fries, which are great when time is of the essence, but our test kitchen recommends trying it with our light and crispy homemade air fryer French fries when you have the time to cut up potatoes — or the occasion demands it. Maybe when your friends return to your patio for finger food for the first time.
Finally, the hearty protein of the steak will be a steadying influence alongside the cocktail of your choice. We enjoyed ours with a mai tai, which was perfect, but these would also be well matched with a strong margarita or an ice cold beer.
For the carne asada:
3 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
3 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 cup water
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for grill
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
6 garlic cloves
1 small bunch Gelson’s organic cilantro, leaves and tender stems only, some reserved for garnish
1 Tbsp whole cumin seed, toasted and ground
1 Tbsp whole coriander seed, toasted and ground
2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 lb skirt steak, cut into 2 equal-size pieces
For the air fryer French fries:
2 15-oz packages frozen French fries
¼ cup crema
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1 small white onion, diced
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
Lime wedges, for garnish
Special equipment: air fryer
To make the carne asada: In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the ancho and guajillo chiles and microwave until pliable and fragrant, 10 to 20 seconds.
Transfer the ancho and guajillo chiles to a blender and add the chipotle chiles, water, orange juice, lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, cilantro, cumin, coriander, and dark brown sugar. Blend until a smooth sauce has formed, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with kosher salt, to taste.
Transfer half of the sauce to a sealed container and set aside in the refrigerator. Transfer the other half to a large bowl and stir in the 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Add 1 steak to the bowl and turn to coat. Transfer to a large container. Repeat with the remaining steak, and then pour any excess marinade over the steaks. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
When you’re ready to make the fries, remove the reserved sauce from the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature.
To make the fries: Spray the basket of an air fryer with oil. Spread half the fries on the air fryer basket in one layer, spray the fries with oil, and cook at 400° for 6 minutes. Toss the fries and cook for 6 to 8 minutes more, or until crispy. Transfer to a serving plate. Repeat with the remaining fries.
Lightly oil and heat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Remove the steaks from the marinade and wipe off any excess sauce. Grill, turning occasionally, until the steaks are well charred on the outside and the centers register 110° on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes total. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice the steaks thinly against the grain, then chop into bite-size pieces.
To assemble the carne asada fries: Place the fries on a large plate and drizzle the reserved sauce over them, to taste. Scatter the carne asada, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños over the fries. Drizzle with the crema, and garnish with the reserved cilantro leaves. Serve hot.
Recipe adapted from: Serious Eats