Being from West Texas, I’d be remiss if I didn’t post a recipe for West Texas Asado. It’s a local favorite here that most people from other areas of the state have probably never heard of.
Don’t get West Texas Asado confused with Carne Asada. They’re two entirely different things. Carne Asada is meat grilled over a fire outside. Asado is more like a chili that has pork, instead of beef, in it.
It’s very similar to Chile Colorado from Mexico, or Carne Adovada from New Mexico.
My earliest memory of eating Asado was when I visited my grandparents’ house in Barstow, Texas. A tiny town just outside of Pecos.
There was a little restaurant in an old gas station just off of Business 20. I don’t think that old gas station is still standing at this point. Anyway, they served it with tortillas and had it labeled as the “Cory Special.”
My name is Cory, so at that age, I decided it was named after me. It wasn’t, but I wouldn’t let anybody tell me otherwise. That was my name, and I didn’t know anybody else that had it, so those were my tacos.
I probably ate my body weight in Asado five times over. Who wouldn’t love a taco that was named after them?
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How to Make West Texas Asado
There are probably as many versions of Asado as there are West Texans that cook it. This is simply my version.
The main thing with Asado is it uses a lot of dried chiles. People use all different kinds to make it. Anchos are the most commonly found in the versions that I’ve eaten. I’ve also had it with guajillos and pasillas.
I prefer it to be primarily anchos with a couple of chipotle moras thrown in to add some heat and a smoky undertone.
Keep in mind, though, that chipotles are dried jalapenos and will give it a kick. Remove the seeds or leave them out altogether if you want a milder Asado.
As for cooking the meat, it’s just like any other braise. You just brown the pork, then the onions, put them together in the pot, and add your chile and garlic puree. From there, you just cook it at a low simmer until the meat is tender, then thicken it up at the end with a little masa harina.
As far as the chile puree goes, all you need to do to get the flavor right is to drain them well after softening them in water. If you don’t drain all the cooking water, it can lend a bitter taste.
Finally, don’t be afraid of all the garlic. It seems like a lot, but the chiles have such a strong flavor that it takes a lot of garlic to cut through.
Variations on Cooking Asado
You’ll find, in West Texas, that some people use a contraption called a discada to cook their Asado. A discada is basically a big wok made from a tractor plow disk and generally uses propane for heat, sometimes charcoal.
It’s not necessary to have one to cook it. It comes out just fine in a cast iron dutch oven.
One variation that I like to do is smoke the pork whole in my barbecue pit using pecan wood until it hits an internal temperature of about 160 degrees, then take it off the pit and let it cool for about thirty minutes.
From there, you can dice it up and cook it in the chile puree.
If you decide to do that, it’s a good idea to exclude the chipotle peppers so that the finished product doesn’t taste too smoky. You can also cut the braising time in half. Just keep testing it until the meat hits the tenderness you want.
West Texas Asado
- 1 tbsp. pork lard
- 3 lbs. pork butt - cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 tsp. kosher salt - divided
- 15 dried ancho chiles - stemmed, seeded, and deveined
- 1-2 dried chipotle moras - stemmed and seeded
- 1 large yellow onion - diced
- 1 whole garlic bulb
- 5 cups chicken stock - divided
- 1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds - toasted and ground (or, substitute 1 tsp. ground cumin)
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
- 2 tbsp. masa harina
- Dice the pork butt into 1/2-inch cubes, then sprinkle evenly with 1-1/2 tsp of kosher salt. Set aside to rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
- While the pork is resting, wipe the chiles clean with a paper towel, then cut them in half, remove the seeds, the veins on the inside, and the stems. Preheat a cast-iron pan or comal over medium heat then toast the chiles for about 10 seconds on each side. While the comal is still hot, toast the cumin seeds until aromatic, then grind them in a spice grinder, set aside.
- Add the dried chiles to a pot of simmering water, along with the whole bulb of garlic. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Thoroughly drain the chiles and garlic. Set the garlic aside to cool, then add the drained chiles and 2 cups of chicken stock to a blender jar. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the garlic cloves and add to the blender jar. Puree until completely smooth.If you have a small blender, you may need to do this step in two batches.
- Preheat a cast-iron dutch oven, then add 1 tbsp. of lard. Swirl to coat, then, in two batches, brown the pork thoroughly on all sides. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon, then add the onions and the remaining salt to the dutch oven. Cook, stirring frequently until translucent and just starting to brown.
- Add the pork back into the dutch oven, along with the chile puree, and all of the herbs and spices. Swirl the remaining chicken broth in the blender jar to get all of the chile puree out and add it into the dutch oven. Simmer on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the lid and turn the heat up slightly to maintain a steady simmer, and cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the masa harina and mix into the Asado until thoroughly blended. Simmer an additional 10-15 minutes to thicken up.
- Serve with cotija cheese, diced white onions, cilantro, and piping hot flour tortillas.