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In search of West Texas asado

Have you ever had asado? Nope, not carne asada. Asado. You haven’t? Don’t worry; I hadn’t either until a couple of months ago. But I don’t think it’s too farfetched for me to say it’s now one of my favorite dishes. Here’s how I learned about it.

Last year, I was dashing through the Times Square subway station during the morning rush hour and I saw a man wearing an Austin College T-shirt. Austin College, my alma mater, is such a small school that you seldom see people sporting kangaroo pride. So even though I was late, I had to stop and chat with him.

It turned out he was my year and yet I couldn’t place him until he said where he was from. “Of course!” I said. “You’re the guy from Gun Barrel City!” And then my memories of him all fell into place. I mean, when someone comes from a place with a name like Gun Barrel City, how could you ever forget him?

West Texas asado recipe | Homesick Texan

He was only in town for a few days, but when he returned to his home in Odessa, Texas we started an occasional correspondence. When I decided this summer to fly into Midland—the sister city to Odessa—I contacted him and he graciously offered to take me to dinner.

I arrived on a Sunday and since the area has a large Catholic population, most places were closed. After much research on his part, he finally settled on Ajuua’s. I was delighted to see that the restaurant was packed with Mexican families and most of the men were wearing cowboy hats and boots. This was going to be good.

“You should get the asado,” he said.

“Carne asada?” I said.

“No, asado,” he said. “It’s a local specialty.”

He then explained that asado is pork slow cooked in a red-chile sauce. It’s similar to New Mexico’s carne adovada, except adovada is made with New Mexican red chiles and asado is made with anchos.

West Texas asado recipe | Homesick Texan

I very excited to try the asado, but unfortunately, it was so wonderful that the restaurant was sold out for the evening. It wasn’t until two days later when I stopped at Fabela’s on my way to the Midland airport that I was able to try this regional dish. And after a bite, I understood why it was the local favorite—tender bites of pork were covered in a smoky, garlic-rich sauce brightened with Mexican oregano and cilantro.

When I returned to New York I asked, nay, begged Mark to give me a recipe. He consulted with a friend of his who graciously shared with Mark his family’s recipe. Some of the proportions were strange (apparently, Mark’s friend was a bit vague on certain points, and not willing to completely divulge his family’s method) and it was recommended that it be cooked on a disco, a large skillet made out of tractor parts. But after tinkering with it, I managed to recreate what I felt was a passable asado that would not insult the taste of any of the good citizens of West Texas.

West Texas asado recipe | Homesick Texan

Now don’t be put off by the time involved in making this—yes, as with a little planning you can be eating your own bowl of asado within 4 hours. And if you don’t have a the Mexican wide skillet made from tractor parts (also known as the Mexican wok)—Mark has generously provided directions on how to weld your own, if you are so inclined. Or you can use a Dutch oven, wok or regular cast-iron skillet, too.

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Print
4.91 from 10 votes

West Texas asado

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

  • 16 ancho chiles, seeded and stemmed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons lard, bacon grease, or peanut oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Crumbled cotija cheese, for serving
  • Warm flour tortillas, for serving

Instructions

  • In a dry skillet heated on high, toast the ancho chiles on each side for about 10 seconds or just until they start to puff. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover. Leave the heat on until the water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak until soft, about 30 minutes.
  • Once hydrated, discard the soaking water, rinse the chiles well, then place into a blender. Place chiles in a blender with 1/2 cup of fresh water. Puree until smooth.
  • Heat the lard in a Dutch oven on medium heat. Generously salt and pepper the pork, and add to the pot, cooking until browned. Remove the pork and add to the pot the onion. Cook for 5 minutes then add the garlic. Cook for 30 more seconds.
  • Return the pork to the pot and pour in the chile puree. Add 1 cup of water, the cilantro, oregano, cumin, and allspice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook covered on low heat for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. 
  • Serve in bowls topped with cotija or wrapped in flour tortillas for tacos.

PS: Mark Flowers explains how to make your own disco (for cooking, not dancing)
1. Get the materials: One disc harrow blade, such as Grizzly Stallion Blade Plain 20 inch and one 1.25″x 1.25″ seven gauge piece of steel; and two 3/8″ diameter x 4” wide square “U” bolts.
2. Cut the small piece of steel to fit the square hole in the disc. Weld that piece into the hole.
3. Weld the “U” bolts on opposite sides of the underside (the convex side) the disc to serve as handles.
4. Grind away the rough edges of the welds so that the interior of the disc and the underside of the disk are smooth.
5. Sandblast the disc to remove the remant black paint. (I don’t have a sandblaster, so I took my disc to “Nipco” a machine shop here in Odessa. They didn’t charge me. When I offered to pay, they said, “Hell, that didn’t take but a minute, besides, I wouldn’t feel right charging you to strip your disc.” Mighty neighborly, I thought.
7. Season it like I’m sure your grandmother did her cast-iron skillet. Cook with it over a gas flame.

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115 Comments

  1. Odessa born and raised until a year and a half ago! Now live in Austin area!! I can't find my good West Texas Mexican foods anywhere. I may have to try this receipe! My favorite places that I always go back to when we visit are La Margarita on Grant and Garibaldy's across from the collisium. You have to try it!! I hope this is as spicey I am used to!! Thanks!!

  2. Odessa born and raised here as well happily relocated to Wyoming, I was raised on this and it’s missed by my husband and me! I’ve failed multiple attempts to make other recipes but I will be trying this for Fathers Day! Thank you for the share!

  3. West Texas Girl says:

    Being from West Texas all my life, you may also want to try to make Chile Colorado, similar to Asado. This is made with the chiles but it has beef and potatoes! Absolutely wonderful! Wrap with flour tortilla and cheese! Soooooo good!

    Closest place that is almost like Asado in Austin area is a place in Round Rock called Rio Grande Tex Mex on Mays, ask for Puerco Cascabel plate…very close to Asado taste, they use corn tortillas for it so you can ask for flour. I do miss West Texas food, we need Jumburrito, Taco Villa and Texas Budget here in Austin haha! Weird how you can miss places! 🙂

    1. Lisa Fain says:

      West Texas Girl–I love chile Colorado and agree that West Texas food is wonderful. Here’s my recipe for this dish.

  4. This sounds awesome, I’ll definitely have to try it.
    I’m a little confused by the cooking time. The write-up says “you can be eating your own bowl of asado within 12 hours”. But if you add up the times listed in the recipe it’s only about 3 hours (half hour for the soaking, 2.5 for the cooking). Please explain the discrepancy. Thanks!

    1. Lisa Fain says:

      PM–It’s a typo. Thank you for inquiring! Ha!

  5. Brad Bounds says:

    Hello! Native Midlander here. I only recently learned asado was such a geographically-specific dish. I now live in East Texas and and missing West Texas Mexican food.
    I discovered this recipe a couple of weeks ago and have been chomping at the bit to try it.

    You nailed it!

    It’s as good/better than any asado I’ve ever had…for real! So, so, so, so pleased to have found your recipe. Thank you!
    -Brad

    1. Lisa Fain says:

      Brad–That’s some high praise! Thank you and I’m glad it reminded you of your West Texas home.