Mexican food is one of my favorite cuisines to cook, and to eat, for a couple reasons. And fajitas are a great example.
As far as cooking, it’s pretty easy. Generally, the spice combinations are simple, and the proteins and vegetables are interchangeable.
It’s probably one of the most delicious cuisines out there! I mean, we already know I have a serious love of cheese so maybe I’m biased, but the mixture of melty cheese, salt and heat, and of course the millions of varieties of salsa just makes me really happy.
Note: Fajitas are a quick and easy, and they provide a completely well-rounded meal. Plus, if you make enough, you can have them a couple days in a row. Cha-ching!
Okay so for your fajitas, you want to focus on the protein and the veggies. I’m a serious steak lover, and I know that red meat goes very well with this spice combo, so I went that direction. You could do pork, chicken, or even tofu if you wanted.
Pro-tip: If you are using steak, go for a thinner variety like hangar, flank or skirt.
Whatever source of protein you’re using, make sure it’s fresh and room temperature before you begin cooking. Slice it up nice and thin and set aside. This provides the most surface area on each piece to soak up all the tasty flavors and will get nice and caramelized as you cook.
Now for the spices. Here’s another great thing about Mexican food: HEAT! Remember, like with all seasonings, you can always add more later but you can never take it away.
My fajita seasoning includes chili powder, cayenne powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Obviously, it’s the cayenne and red pepper that provide your fire here, so use wisely. Mix these up in a bowl and toss them into a resealable bag with the olive oil, lime juice, and your protein.
Seal up that bag and give the whole thing a vigorous shake, making sure the contents are easily distributed. Let it sit to the side for about 15 minutes and get to work on the rest of your ingredients.
Fajitas traditionally have sauteed onions and peppers on top but you could add in plenty of other things like mushrooms, garlic, leafy greens- the opportunities are endless! I went simple (and with what was in my fridge already) with onions, peppers, and garlic. For the bigger veggies, you just want skinny slices. Again, like the protein, you want to provide as much surface area to get that yummy caramelization. The garlic will get minced up super small and will get tossed in after, so keep it separate.
The veggies can get put in a saucepan with some butter, and put on medium-low heat. When caramelizing veggies, it’s better to go low and slow rather than high heat because you don’t want to risk burning. I also prefer butter to oil for flavor and for texture, as butter tends to give a smoother feel to the veggies and oil gives more of a fried, crispy edged feel. Once they’ve begun to sweat, or turn translucent, go ahead and toss in your minced garlic.
Pro-tip: Garlic burns extremely fast, especially when minced, so make sure there’s a decent amount of fat in your veggie pot. Mmm, butter.
Cast iron is great for caramelizing meats! Because you’ve already tossed yours in oil, there is no need to oil the pan. Just turn it on as high as it goes (and don’t forget to open windows and turn on the exhaust fan to avoid smoking out your apartment), and wait for the smoke signals. Once you see those white wisps, throw in the meat. Make sure each piece gets its own space, so do this step in batches to avoid overcrowding. Let each side sit for about 90 seconds before flipping, and don’t leave any side un-seared.
Since you cut up your proteins into skinny slices, you really won’t need much time, especially if it’s red meat which requires resting time anyway. Once each side of your protein pieces is caramelized to your liking, remove from the heat. Your veggies should be about done so it’s time to assemble!
This is the fun part because it’s completely customizable. Personally, I’m a purist. I use my steak, onions and peppers, shredded cheddar (from a block, not a bag, because preservatives are gross), flour tortillas because they’re softer, and a yummy, locally made salsa verde. But you can add guacamole, sour cream, and whatever else your heart desires!
If you’re feeling adventurous, toast up your tortillas in a pan with a little bit of butter for extra flavor! Plus who doesn’t like warm, buttery tortillas? Blend up some margaritas and you’ve got yourself an easy, yummy, Mexican dinner!
½ pound protein- steak, chicken, tofu, etc.
Tortillas – flour or corn
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp cumin
¼ cayenne powder
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsps vegetable or canola oil
½ white or red onion
1 bell pepper
1-2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp unsalted butter
RECIPE | Serves 2
Slice up uncooked protein into very thin slices.
Combine chili powder, cayenne, salt, pepper, cumin, red pepper, oil, and lime juice. Toss with protein in a resealable bag. Set aside
Slice vegetables into very thin slices. Mince garlic. Combine vegetables with butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Once translucent, add in garlic and a dash of salt.
Use a cast iron skillet over very high heat for cooking protein. Once you see wisps of smoke, place marinated protein in the pan, in batches to avoid overcrowding. Sear evenly on each side until appropriately caramelized.
If cooking steak, remove the meat and let it rest for a couple minutes, covered.
Toast tortillas in a pan with a little butter.
Assemble protein, vegetables, cheese and other accessories.