In Spanish, carne picada means “minced beef.” This is not to be confused with “carne molida,” which means ground beef.
In our carne picada recipe, we chop beef chuck into 1/4-inch cubes before we cook it. Cutting the beef into cubes like this makes for a much better texture than using ground beef. You’re welcome to use the same recipe to make carne molida if you like. Just change out the cubed beef chuck for ground beef.
The cubed beef chuck is much better than ground beef, though. If you can find it pre-chopped or can convince your butcher to chop it for you, you get bonus points.
This recipe requires quite a bit of chopping, so it’s a good idea to get it all done before you begin cooking.
To make it more efficient, start by roasting the poblano peppers under your broiler. Get them completely black on all sides, then put them in a heat resistant bowl and cover with plastic wrap to cool while you do the rest of your prep work (this helps to loosen the skins).
Chop the balance of your vegetables and meat next. Be sure to first cut any thick layers of fat off the meat, then cut it to the proper size. We’ve found that the quarter-inch chunks make for the best texture for tacos.
Finally, peel the skins off the poblano peppers, remove the seed pods, then chop them into a 1/4-inch dice.
If you set everything out in the order that it goes into the pot, it’ll make cooking it go much more smoothly. Setting everything out like this is called mise en place in professional kitchens (French for “setting up”).
Mise en place is one of the keys to being a great cook. It keeps you from running around the kitchen like a chicken with its head cut off while everything burns. Being able to relax while you cook also makes it a far more pleasant experience.
Pick from the following toppings to dress up your tacos, and you’re ready to go:
- Refried black beans
- Chopped cilantro
- Diced white onions
- Pickled red onions
- Crumbled queso fresco (or substitute crumbled feta)
- Shredded Oaxaca cheese (or substitute Monterrey Jack)
No taco is complete without salsa. Better than buying salsa from the store, make your own:
- Roasted tomatillo salsa verde – A bright and acidic green salsa
- Salsa de chile cascabel – Robust and flavorful dark red salsa
- Salsa de chile arbol – Acidic and tangy red sauce
- Pico de gallo – Fresh garden salsa
- Roasted tomato and jalapeno salsa – Standard table salsa
- Salsa ranchera – Cooked red salsa
- 2 poblano peppers
- 1 large yellow onion - diced small
- 4 serrano peppers - de-stemmed, de-seeded (optional), diced small
- 2 lbs. chuck steak - trimmed of fat and silversking, and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
- 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 4 medium roma tomatoes - deseeded and finely diced
- Preheat your broiler on high with your top rack near the top of the oven. Roast your poblanos in a broiler pan until blackened on all sides. Place in a heat proof bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
- Place the diced onions and serrano peppers in a bowl near your stove. Dice the beef and place in a separate bowl by your stove. Place chili powder, cumin, oregano, and the minced garlic in a small bowl by your stove.
- De-stem, then cut the tomatoes into quarters. With a spoon, remove all of the seeds and cores. Chop into a very small dice and place in a bowl by your stove. Peel then dice the poblano and place in a bowl by your stove.
- In a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat, saute the onion and serrano peppers with a pinch of salt. Remove from the skillet and set aside. About 10 minutes
- Add the beef to the pan and saute until well browned. Add the seasonings and garlic and saute for an additional minute. Add the onion mixture, poblanos, and tomatoes. Stir well to combine. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with toasted corn tortillas, salsa, crumbled queso fresco, chopped cilantro, and other toppings.