Discada. Cowboy wok. Disco. Gwok. Plow disc cooker. Cajun wok. Disc grill. Outdoor wok. Disc.
Familiar with any of these names? If not, don’t sweat it. Until recently, I was one of many outdoor cooking enthusiasts who had never even heard of the terms. However, if you are familiar, you’re one of a small but growing number of passionate cooks who revere discada cooking, a style found in pockets of the American Southwest but similarly replicated around the world.
So, what is “discada”?
The name is one of a number of terms given to cooking outdoors on a converted plow disc — yes, those same discs mounted behind tractors and used to till and prepare the ground for farming; the term also refers to a mixed meat dish traditionally prepared on a plow disc that is popular in northern Mexico. Do an internet search and you’ll turn up chat rooms and online forums, social media pages and dedicated websites, as well as a few commercial producers and custom fabricators.
Serves: 4 to 6
Time: 45 minutes, plus marinating time
2 to 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, or as desired
5 cloves garlic
» teaspoon ground cumin
3 green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
½ cup canned or fresh (skin removed) diced tomatoes
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup canola oil, plus more for cooking
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 ½ pound skirt steak
Sliced bell peppers and onions, for serving
Small corn or flour tortillas, for serving
Crumbled queso fresco and/or Mexican crema, for serving
Pico de gallo or salsa, for serving
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the chipotle chiles, garlic, cumin, green onions, cilantro, tomatoes, lemon, lime and orange juices, oil, salt and pepper. Purée.
Rub the marinade all over the skirt steak, then place in a large resealable plastic bag with the marinade and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.
Remove the bag from the refrigerator 1 hour before grilling to allow the steak to come to room temperature.
Heat a discada or grill over high heat, and coat with a thin film of oil. Grill the steak until medium-rare, 4 to 6 minutes on each side. (For lower-heat burners, it might be easier to slice the steak prior to grilling to insure the pieces sear properly, and don’t simply simmer in their juices while cooking.) Remove the steak and slice crosswise across the grain into thin strips. Meanwhile, grill the sliced peppers and onions until charred and softened.
Remove the steak and vegetables from the discada. Lightly oil the discada and warm the tortillas on both sides. Serve immediately, along with the steak fajitas, vegetables, cheese and pico de gallo.
Pork chili verde
Serves: 4 to 6
Time: 1 ½ hours
4 poblano chiles
6 Hatch chiles (or 4 Anaheim and 2 jalapeños)
1 pound bacon, coarsely chopped
2 pounds tomatillos, peeled and quartered lengthwise
⅓ cup garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup beer
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 ½ pounds pork tenderloin, cut into ¼- to ½-inch cubes
4 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons lard or canola oil
1 quart chicken broth, more as needed
Roast the chiles: Heat the discada until hot. Roast the chiles until blistered and charred on all sides. Place in a plastic bag until cool enough to handle, then rub off the charred skin (do not wash, or this will remove flavor). Seed and coarsely chop the chiles, then set aside.
Heat the discada over medium-high heat until hot. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat is rendered and the bacon begins to crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatillos, onions and garlic cloves. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and the tomatillos begin releasing their juices, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the beer, scraping up any flavoring from the surface of the discada. Remove from heat.
Purée the vegetables, along with the chiles, cilantro and green onions in a food processor (this will probably need to be done in batches).
Season the tenderloin cubes with the salt and several grinds of pepper.
Heat the discada over medium-high heat until hot. Add the lard and brown the pork on all sides. Add the vegetable pure, along with the chicken broth. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender and the chili is thickened, 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.
Serves: 4 to 6
Preparation: 30 minutes
¼ cup canola oil
1 onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 jalapeño, chopped (more to taste)
2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
4 zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch slices
4 ears corn, leaves and silk stripped, and cut crosswise into 1-inch slices
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth, more if needed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Crumbled queso fresco, for garnish
Heat a discada over medium heat until hot. Add the oil, then the onion, garlic and jalapeño. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, zucchini, corn, salt, pepper and cumin, along with 1 cup broth. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes. Add additional broth if needed. Stir in the oregano. Remove from heat; check seasoning.
Place the vegetables on a serving platter, sprinkle with the cheese and serve immediately.
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