As many of you know, I enjoy learning the history of dishes that are popular here in our country.
The hot brown, Cobb salad, the Reuben sandwich are some examples of dishes that have an interesting backstory. You can add the fajita to that list.
Most of us would assume the fajita is something that originated deep in Mexico, or maybe Spain, centuries ago. But in truth, the fajita originated along the Texas-Mexico border in the 1930s.
Mexican laborers traditionally helped ranchers manage large herds of cattle. When the cattle were butchered, part of the laborers wages was paid in the form of beef, albeit the toughest cut, known today as the skirt steak. These laborers perfected the preparation of this tough cut with simple marinades and then wrapped the grilled meat in a soft taco shell.
While the term “fajita” is now used for just about anything wrapped in a soft taco shell, its original definition was limited to beef, specifically skirt steak. Today’s dish utilizes three chicken breasts and a flat iron steak.
History lesson is now concluded. Let’s get started.
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
2⁄3 cup lime juice
4 cloves of crushed garlic
1 1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 1⁄2 tsp salt
2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Place the flat iron steak in a large ziplock bag. Place the chicken breasts in a second large ziplock bag. Whisk all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and then split the marinade evenly by pouring half over the beef and the other half over the chicken. Squeeze the air out of both bags, close them up and place in the fridge for a couple hours. Technically you could start marinating the beef earlier as beef takes longer to take on the flavor of a marinade, but two hours works just fine.
If you don’t own one yet, go out and buy a grilling saute’ pan. We use ours all the time. In this case we cut red, orange and yellow bell peppers into strips and combined with onions that had been halved and then sliced. Toss in a light application of vegetable oil and season with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Saute’ directly over the hot coals or gas flame, stirring frequently. After ten to fifteen minutes of this your vegetables should be lightly charred but still crunchy. Place the grilled vegetables in a casserole bowl and in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.
Next, place the marinated chicken and steak on the grill. If using a charcoal grill, close the lid and allow to cook for a few minutes. Now turn the chicken and the steak. If using a charcoal grill place the lid on it again and cook for three to five minutes. Remove the lid and start turning frequently until the chicken approaches 160 degrees and the steak reaches 135 degrees. The steak will likely finish cooking first. After removing the meat from the grill allow to rest for a few ￼minutes, then slice thin. Load up a warm soft taco shell with your favorite meat, the grilled vegetables then top with sour cream, salsa, avocados, shredded cheese, whatever toppings you desire. Enjoy!
Dave Lobeck is an Edward Jones financial adviser by day and a BBQ enthusiast on nights and weekends. Liz is his wife. You can contact Dave with your BBQ, cooking or grilling questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit their YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/BBQMyWay.