A fajita is a term found in Tex-Mex cuisine, commonly referring to any grilled meat usually served as a soft taco on a flour or corn tortilla. The term originally referred to the cut of beef used in the dish which is known as skirt steak. Popular meats today also include chicken, pork, shrimp, and all cuts of beef. In many restaurants, the fajita meat is brought to the table sizzling loudly on a metal skillet, with the tortillas and condiments.
Where did Tex-Mex cuisine originate?
Texas is the proud home and provenance of Tex-Mex foods. In exploring the history of fajita, I read several articles and many credible stories emerge, and all of them have roots in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. It only makes sense that several people from the same ethnic group with roots in the same geographic area would come up with similar cooking techniques and names for the raw materials at hand.
The cut of meat and the cooking style, directly on a campfire or on a grill, along with the Spanish nickname has gone back as far as the 1930s in the ranch lands of South and West Texas. During cattle roundups, the butchered beef was regularly to feed the hands. Throwaway items such as the hide, the head, the entrails, and meat trimmings such as skirt were given to the Mexican cowboys as part of their pay. Many other hearty border dishes such as; barbacoa de cabeza (head barbecue), menudo (tripe stew), and fajita (grilled skirt steak) have their roots in this practice. In 1969 the “Fajitas” leaped from campfire and backyard gills to the state fair. The food became popular in Tex-Mex restaurants across Texas in cities such as Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. In southern Arizona, the term “Fajitas” was unknown except as a cut of meat until the 1990s, when Mexican fast food restaurants started using the word in their marketing. In recent years, fajitas have become popular at American casual dining restaurants.
So here is my take on fajitas, this is my marinade that I have developed over the years and is good to use whether you are using beef, chicken, shrimp. Except if using shrimp cut marinade time to 30 min and cooking in half as well.
2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1/2 in chunks
Juice and zest of one orange
Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon & lime
1 Tbsp New Mexico Chili Powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp crushed dried oregano
1/2 cup orange juice
1 red bell pepper cut into ling slices
1 large onion cut into long slices
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided into three.
Cut chicken into 1/2 inch chunks and place into Ziploc bag or medium bowl and set aside.
Combine next nine ingredients into a small bowl and whisk to incorporate all ingredients. Pour into bag or bowl containing chicken and allow to marinade at least 2 hours.
Cut red bell peppers and large onion into long slices and put aside.
Using a cast iron skillet or other skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil. Drain marinade from chicken and add to hot skillet and cook. Depending on the size of the pan, you may have to work in batches. Cook chicken undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, until you have a good sear. Once seared well on one side, turn the pieces over and cook for another 2-3 minutes until well seared on the second side.
Once chicken is fairly seared remove to a cutting board and allow to rest covered with foil for 5 minutes cover with aluminum foil to rest for 5 minutes.
While the chicken is resting, cook the onions and peppers using the same skillet. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to the frying pan. Heat on high, once the oil is hot, add the onions and peppers to the pan. Use a metal spatula to scrape up some of the browned bits from the chicken and stir to coat the onions and peppers with the oil and brown bits. Spread the onions and peppers in an even layer in the pan. Let them cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. You want them to sear with some blackening. Stir the vegetables and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
Serve immediately with some warm tortillas. Add these optional sides for a slam dunk; shredded cheese, shredded cabbage, lime wedges, homemade salsa or guacamole, or cilantro and diced onion for a more authentic feel.
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