Thursday, July 13, 2006

From Humble Origins

A lot of dishes people here associate with Mexican food are not.

I made Fajitas for dinner. A dish that became almost cliché for stereotyped Mexican food some years ago. Although it it’s origins seem to have more to do with feeding the Vaqueros (ranch hands who came up from Mexico in the ‘30s to work the Texas cattle herds) with the throw-away scraps of meat from butchered cows. The ‘faja’ part of fajitas referring to the ‘skirt’ steak portion of the cow, which was grilled over mesquite coals, combined with whatever vegetable might be on hand, and eaten with the ubiquitous tortillas.

So it’s really more Tex-Mex workers food. More of that wonderful immigrant influence. A humble fare barrowed and turned into a huge Mexican restaurant trend.

I love it because of the bold spicy flavors. Plus I get to make some salsa and guacamole.

TeenGirl loves it because it is low fat, with lots of veggies.

TeenBoy loves it because it comes with corn tortillas and rice.

Added bonus, except for cooking the meat, it’s a cool meal to make. So everyone’s happy! (For a change!)

I made chicken fajitas this time. But you can just as easily make the traditional skirt steak fajitas, or even fish fajitas. All good.

We marinated the chicken breasts in some fresh squeezed orange juice (the secret ingredient!), lime juice, garlic, chilies, a dash of cumin and lots of cilantro for a few hours. I sliced the chicken breasts in half lengthwise first, both so that the marinade would have more area to soak into, and also so that the grilling would go very quickly – no time to burn.

When I make some guac (amole), it’s all I can do to get it made before I’ve eaten all the avocado. I like to buy an extra avocado just to eat while making the guac. My recipe, which changes every time, is based on lime juice, garlic, chilies and cilantro. With a little onion as well. Pretty basic, but delicious.

The salsa is really just the same with tomatoes instead of avocados. We were fortunate to have some really ripe tomatoes (if not particularly flavorful).

Some add sour cream, grated jack cheese, and other condiments on top. But I keep it pretty simple. So the flavors stay focused on the lime – cilantro – chili combination.

Chicken Fajitas
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

Guacamole (recipe follows)
Salsa (recipe follows)
Corn tortillas

For the chicken:
3 pounds chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise, fat trimmed
2 oranges, juiced
3 limes, juiced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chili, minced (seeds included)
2-3 chipotle chilies, chopped fine
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp Olive oil
1 tsp cumin
salt, pepper

3 red bell peppers
2 onions, peeled
1 lime juiced
olive oil

Combine all of the chicken ingredients in an airtight plastic bag. Shake well to combine. Let marinate in refrigerator for several hours, turning occasionally.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving marinade. Grill (or broil) the chicken over hot coals until browned on both sides. Remove to a plate and reserve.

Toss peppers and onions with some olive oil and some lime juice. Grill (or broil) red peppers and onions until they are well softened. Remove to a plate and reserve.

While chicken is grilling, bring marinade to a boil in a pot, and let reduce somewhat.

Cut chicken across grain into thin strips. Place in a large bowl. Cut peppers into strips, and add to bowl. Cut onions into wedges, and add to bowl. Add enough of the cooked marinade to moisten, and toss gently.

Serve with guacamole, salsa and tortillas. Enjoy!

Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

2 very ripe avocados, pitted, and flesh scooped out to a bowl
1 lime juiced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ serrano chili, minced
½ bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
½ onion, minced
salt to taste

Mash avocado with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Let sit for 1 hour to let flavors combine. Serve. Enjoy!

Salsa Fresca
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

6 to 8 ripe roma tomatoes, diced
1 lime, juiced
2 cloves garlic. minced
½ Serrano chili, minced
½ bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
½ onion, minced
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients. Let sit one hour to let flavors combine. Serve. Enjoy!

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