Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fajitas – Are they an authentic Mexican dish?

The answer to that is sort of yes, and sort of no. The Spanish word “faja” means belt or girdle; and refers to the cut of meat known as “skirt steak”. The word “fajita” means a smaller version of the steak itself; the smaller strips of meat found in a fajita.

Grilling meat was not a new style of cooking for the Mexican culture, nor for America; but Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) introduced their American counterparts to their style. Many parts of cattle were discarded, such as the skirt, or given to the ranch hands in lieu of monetary compensation for their work. A historical story, done at Texas A&M University, established that this could be traced as far back as the 1930’s in Texas; hence the beginning of what is called “Tex-Mex” cuisine.
While the fajita originally contained beef, nowadays it can contain chicken, pork, seafood, or a combination of these items. Other typical ingredients served with the fajita are onions, bell and/or hot peppers, Mexican style rice, refried beans, cheese and condiments such as sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Wrapped in warm tortillas, the fajita becomes the perfect little type of sandwich; packed with food and flavors.

2 lbs sirloin or round steak, cut into 2” x ¼” strips
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2” x ¼ “strips
2 large onions, cut into ¼” strips
1 large each red, yellow and green bell peppers, cut into ¼” strips
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 dozen 8” tortillas (corn or flour)

Refried Beans
Sour Cream
Shredded Mexican Blend or Sharp Cheddar Cheese

½ cup canola oil
½ cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1 ½ minced fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper

Put steak and chicken strips in two separate sealable plastic bags. Prepare marinade by placing all ingredients listed under Marinade into small bowl and whisking together. Divide marinade between the two bags; seal and refrigerate overnight. In a third plastic bag, place the onion and pepper strips, black pepper, garlic powder, 2 Tbsp oil inside; gently shake to mix together and also refrigerate overnight with steak and chicken.

When ready to make fajitas, separately cook steak, chicken and vegetables in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Cook steak and chicken until no pink is showing; cook vegetables until tender. For the tortillas, heat a 10” skillet or stove top griddle on medium-high heat; warm tortillas for 30 seconds on each side.

Serve steak, chicken, vegetables and tortillas with items listed under Garnish, so each serving can be made as desired.

Makes 12 servings.

Mary Cokenour
May 10, 1996