Monday, March 26, 2012

Fajita Night!

Every once in a while, I get a craving for my momma's fajitas. I'm sure her version has little resemblance to the authentic Mexican dish, but her fajitas are quite tasty. This was actually the first of my mother's dishes that I learned to cook on my own, and they are relatively easy, except for the amount of chopping and time involved. They do take a full night of cooking, but it is definitely worth it. I promise.

My mother's fajita night came about as a healthier option to both restaurant fajitas and the ground beef quesadillas that my brother requested all through his high school years. Mom and I both make chicken fajitas with onion and bell peppers, but I'm sure you could do shrimp, steak, or just the veggies. We also prefer more veggies than meat so the ratio is about 2:1, but, again, that's up to you. Everything about fajitas is very flexible, and it's easy to adjust the amount to the number of people from whom you are cooking.

The first step is to marinade the chicken. I cut 1.5 lbs of chicken breasts into strips, cover them in marinade, and put it all back in the fridge for about an hour. The marinade includes the juice of one lemon and half of a lime, around 1 tsp of salt and 1 of pepper, and 2 tablespoons of chili powder.

Raw chicken isn't the prettiest, but this is what the marinade should look like.
Next, I chop onions and peppers. I found red and orange bell peppers on sale for the same price as the green ones, so I used one of each color and 1 1/2 large sweet onions. I don't really worry about the size of bell pepper slices or how precisely I chop the onions because as long as they are all relatively the same size with the seeds removed they will all cook down evenly.

All the veggies are finally ready
Now on to the cooking, I use a cast iron dutch oven skillet to cook the fajitas (and most everything else). My mother graciously parted with this high-sided, well-seasoned skillet when I moved to Tuscaloosa, and I will be forever grateful. I could go on about the merits of my cast iron skillet (as any other Southern cook could), but that's a story for another day. Back to the fajitas, I always cook the chicken first because I want the chicken and marinade to flavor the vegetables. Depending on how much I cook, it takes a couple of rounds to cook all of the chicken strips because I try not to crowd them so they will char and cook quickly. I think there were 3 rounds of chicken this time.

Next, I cook the vegetables in the same fashion, and I believe there were 3 rounds like the chicken. When they are finished, the onions should be translucent and have a light brownish tint and the bell peppers should be slightly charred and a little duller in color.

After all the veggies are finished. I put all the vegetables and chicken back in the skillet, turn the eye off, cover it with a lid, and let it all mix together and warm back up for about five minutes.

The topping usually vary as to what is available and personal preferences of the group, but that night we had shredded sharp cheddar cheese, black olives, fat free refried beans, salsa, and sour cream. I also warmed whole wheat tortillas this time, but regular flour or none at all can be used. Sliced avocados are normally a standard topping for me, but I couldn't find a ripe one at the grocery that afternoon.

 All that's left to do is for everyone to make their fajitas to their liking. Here's mine:

Fajita side note: I threw a Tacky, Mexican Christmas Party last semester to celebrate finishing papers and grading and in honor of some long lost grad school friends, visiting from West Virginia and Maryland. The tacky part was just for fun. The Mexican part was because fajitas were one of the only dishes I was confident that I could cook for 20ish people, and they were a success. 

Here's an action shot. At least we know Steve enjoyed the fajitas and Lola, the dog, wanted some, too. 

See, everyone loves fajitas (and friends and holidays and tackiness).


  1. I love it! I'll have to try this recipe out on the parents soon! We love going to our local Mexican restaurant for Two-for-one Margarita Wednesdays, so I'll have to see if these pass their inspection. ;) I'll let you know how it goes.

  2. I'm going to have to try these too! They look delicious. :)