Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tacos al carbon


If you were in Houston in the 1980’s, it was hard to escape the ubiquitous tacos al carbon. Ninfa Laurenzo—of the eponymous Ninfa’s—made them her signature dish and as with her green sauce, many Houston Mexican restaurants soon added these tacos to their menus as well. Tacos al carbon became a defining characteristic of Houston Tex-Mex

But what exactly are tacos al carbon?

The term al carbon is the Spanish phrase for cooking over coal, so you should expect grilled meats inside a tortilla. If you have tacos al carbon in Mexico, you will indeed find a variety of meats wrapped in either corn or flour tortillas depending on where you are geographically. But in Texas tacos al carbon came to mean one thing: cuts of grilled beef, nestled in a fluffy flour tortilla.



But wait, isn’t that a fajita? Now this is where it gets confusing.

So what's the difference between fajitas and tacos al carbon? As I understand it, very little. Fajitas, which translates to little belts, are traditionally made with the tough diaphragm cut of beef known as skirt steak, which is a long and narrow, much like a belt.

The meat is often marinated and then grilled or griddled, and it’s served with a prescribed array of condiments such as guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream and a stack of flour tortillas, all used to roll your own tacos. And yes, you can make fajitas, the dish, out of shrimp or chicken, but since the word itself refers to the cut of beef, technically it should be called something else.

Tacos al carbon, however, can be made with any type of meat, not just the traditional skirt steak. And unlike fajitas, the tacos are already made instead of being a do-it-yourself affair. I think this is the main difference, but even for me it’s a bit of a semantic stretch.

Small differences aside, I still prefer tacos al carbon to fajitas. Sure, fajitas are a quite the spectacle, but sometimes you crave a more refined presentation. (Or perhaps I prefer tacos al carbon because I burned myself on the sizzling fajita skillet one too many times!) But no matter how you serve it, it’s hard to resist a fresh flour tortilla wrapped around succulent beef so flavorful you can eat the two together unadorned.



I live in a small apartment without any outdoor space so there’s no cooking over coal for me. But if I get my cast-iron skillet hot enough and then slide my steak under the broiler, I get a nice charred crust that’s almost as good as what I could get on a grill. So yes, technically these aren’t true tacos al carbon (they're more like tacos a la plancha, which means tacos of the griddle). But I don’t mind because after one bite I’m back in that little restaurant on Navigation where the beef is juicy, the tortillas are soft and the green sauce is plentiful.

Tacos al carbon, small-apartment style
Ingredients:
2 pounds skirt steak
Juice of 4 limes (about 1/2 cup)
4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup cilantro
1 jalapeno
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon of canola oil or nonstick cooking spray
Four green onions (optional)

Method:
To make the marinade, in a blender mix all the ingredients except for the skirt steak, canola oil and green onions. Pour over skirt steak and let it marinate for 2 to 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Before cooking, rinse off the marinade and let the steak come to room temperature. Heat on high for 10 minutes a large cast-iron skillet or grill pan (you may have to cut the steak in half to fit). Also, turn on the broiler in your oven. When the skillet is hot (to test I throw in a drop of water and it should immediately evaporate), grease your pan with either the oil or nonstick cooking spray and add your steak. Cook on one side for two minutes then turn and cook on the other side for two minutes.

After it’s cooked on both sides, place the green onions in the skillet with the steak still in it and place the skillet under the broiler for two minutes. Remove steak from pan and let it rest for 10 minutes. If onions aren’t charred enough, slide the skillet back under the broiler. After meat has rested, slice the meat against the grain and roll in fluffy, flour tortillas with green onions on the side.

Serves 4-6.

Notes: I don’t have a grill or outdoor space, so I don’t know as much as I’d like to about the subject, but to cook the steaks truly al carbon, I’ve been told five minutes per side should do the trick.

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68 comments:

Estela @ Weekly Bite said...

I'm from Texas and I LOVE LOVE LOVE these tacos!! Especially with pico de gallo in it!

Whitney said...

I miss Ninfa's and Pappasitos so much! I love that this recipe is small apt style :)

Mike said...

This is my favorite dish at Ninfa's on Naviagation, and I've been going there every Sunday for years (lucky me to live in Houston). We truly are blessed with amazing Tex-Mex here in Houston!

Lucie said...

These look delicious! Living in France makes me miss tex-mex food so, so much...!

Dawn said...

Tacos al carbon.... grilled skirt steak... Ninfa's.... lunchtime. Oh you have made my stomach growl. I have fond memories of many trips to Ninfa's in Baton Rouge after an LSU football game. My daughter, after visiting my mother in Houston, came home to tell me about this great Mexican restaurant. Surprise. Ninfa's! This just got a star in my reader. Thanks for sharing.

Catherine said...

I grew up going to ninfa's after we would visit my grandmother in Houston. Thanks to your recipe, I'm going to try to recreate a little magic at home.

Sarah said...

You're making me consider heading over to Ninfa's for lunch today. I haven't been in months!!

Memória said...

Your tacos look amazing. I will have to bookmark this and make it. I bet it would go so well with the homemade adobo sauce I made. Thanks for posting!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Whitney--I miss Ninfa's, too. Always a must-stop whenever I go home.

Estela--Yep, pico de gallo is wonderful with these.

Lucie--I can only imagine how much harder it must be to get Tex-Mex in France than NYC.

Mike--You are lucky. What a fine Sunday tradition!

Dawn--You're welcome! Glad I made your stomach growl!

Catherine--What a nice memory of Ninfa's.

Sarah--Well, months is just too long!

Memória--It would be excellent with that homemade adobo sauce!

bluejeangourmet said...

yum, yum, yum and yay! this is one of my most fundamental cravings, whether met at home (we are lucky enough to be able to grill in the backyard) or out.

finally got myself to the original Ninfa's on Navigation a few months ago and NOW I know what all of the fuss was about :)

Lo said...

Mmm. Beautiful simplicity. Can't beat grilled meat for a soft taco.

Screwed Up Texan said...

Congratulations of the nomination! You've inspired me for the week with thoughts of Tex-Mex running through my veins.

eonyc said...

I am going back to Houston in a few weeks and now I will HAVE to smuggle back a gallon or so of Ninfa's green sauce. It was never my all-time favorite restaurant, but that green sauce? Still the sauce of my dreams!!!!
And congrats on the nod! This is definitely one of MY favorite food blogs.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Blue Jean Gourmet--So happy you finally made it to THE Ninfa's!

Lo--You just can't, I agree.

Screwed Up Texan--Thank you! And heck, thoughts of Tex-Mex are always running through my veins!

Eonyc--That's always one of my first stops just for the green sauce alone. So amazing!

Aunty Pol said...

Yeah..The original Ninfa's on Navigation is the only place to go. It was sad to see some of them close when the son's got a tad carried away with growth such as El Tiempo . She was such a lovely person and handled all of the strife with grace and dignity.


Long time reader/follower who is waving from Houston.

May I post this link on my blog ?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Aunty Pol--And I'm waving back at you from NYC! And yes, you may link to this from your blog.

Bee said...

Isn't it interesting how many people have already mentioned the original Ninfa's on Navigation? I remember it, chiefly, for its absolutely lethal margaritas . . . but I am definitely going to go there in April and try their tacos al carbon.

In the meantime, I'm going to try and talk to an English butcher about skirt steak (I wonder what they call it?) and try out your grill/griddle pan method.

Heartiest congratulations on the food blog nomination. I will vote for you with pleasure.

Tommy said...

Congrats on the nomination.
You are to be commended. Your blog inspires people to cook and discover new dishes. I read a ton of food blogs, but hardly any inspire me to replicate any recipes. You're the exception.

ann said...

Oh man, ohmanohman. Tacos al Carbon are so good. I never realized they were the same thing, technically, as fajitas, but that might explain something. I love tacos al carbon, but I hate fajitas because I hate the smoke from the plate, and how it scents everything; my clothes, my hair, my skin. So maybe my love for tacos al carbon is how I get my fajita in a non-scent offending way!

Robin said...

Oh my gracious...I am dying for lunch at Ninfa's now, but I am in California! The Mexican food here is good, but it is not MY Mexican food. And tacos a la Ninfa are my favorite.

One of my Houstonian friends always trashes Ninfa's, even the Navigation location, and I can't understand why. When she took me to her two favorite TexMex joints, I thought they were way subspectacular. Taste is a funny thing.

I have pork tacos planned for tonight's dinner, but I'll be thinking wistfully of this recipe no matter how well they turn out.

Debbie said...

Mmmmm...this looks like one good taco.

Ed Schenk said...

Congrats on the nomination! great recipe too!

Liz said...

I love tacos al carbon AND fajitas for that matter... maybe just anything grilled and wrapped in a tortilla, especially when cilantro's involved. Love your blog!

suzinoz said...

Thank God I'll be in Texas in three weeks time. Tacos al Carbon is one of my favourite meals...and fajitas...and gorditas...and tacos...and tamales...and Whataburger...oh how I miss Texas! Thanks for the recipe.

Toiling Ant said...

I'm off of meat for Lent, but we'll be back in Houston for Easter and I'm thinkin' Tex-Mex sounds like a fantastic holiday feast to me. YEAH!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Bee--Thank you! As for the tacos, they're now called Tacos a la Ninfa, but it's the same thing. And that's a good question--it's the diaphragm so that might help guide your butcher if it's not called skirt steak.

Tommy-Aw, thank you! Readers like you keep me going!

Robin--Agreed, taste is a funny thing. Enjoy your pork tacos!

Ann--I like that line of thought! As I said, tacos al carbon are a more refined fajita.

Debbie--Thank you!

Ed--Thank you!

Liz--I'm pretty open to anything grilled and placed in a tortilla! And yes, the more cilantro the better!

Suzinoz--Have a good trip to Texas! And you're very welcome. Enjoy!

Toiling Ant--I think that sounds like a fine idea for an Easter feast!

Marjorie said...

Lisa, I am in New Braunfels, Texas and we are getting ready to go to Seguin for a mexican dinner. I will order tacos al carbon. The weather is fabulous it got up to 68 today. I do not miss the East Coast winter.

burkie said...

i, too, prefer tacos al carbon to fajitas. i have never understood the appeal of odor of burning paper and the smoke thereof in one's eyes when trying to eat. plus, it takes up too much room on the table. your tacos look scrumptious!

Barbara said...

I lived in Houston from 1974-78 and LOVED Ninfa's and Tacos al Carbon. Thank you for posting this!
-Barbara Reiss Newman

Maryn McKenna said...

Oh, wail, Ninfa's! My parents' first house in Houston was near one of the first branches, and going there in the 80s was a special treat. When I moved away, I could never understand all this fajitas fuss — they seemed so gunked up and inauthentic after the purity of a true Ninfa's al carbon! Memories...

Texana said...

Ninfa's, especially the original one on Navigation, is my "must go" whenever I get to Houston. It's really a trip back in time! My very favorite thing there is those little spicy carrot slices that used to be served to everyone but now one has to ask for them. If you love 'em, too, please see if you can come up with a recipe for them.

BTW, I voted for your page, and I am glad to have lived in TEXAS for all those years to enjoy the unique cuisine! Sure do miss it over here on the east coast!

Tasty Eats At Home said...

I was so excited when I discovered you were nominated! Woohoo! And as for these tacos al carbon, yum. It's about to be spring, and I'm so ready for fajitas, tacos al carbon, anything with that grill/charred flavor, alongside some fresh salsas and guacamole...yum.

K8E said...

Oh my goodness, how I miss Ninfa's. 12 years of living in Alabama and I still haven't found a decent Mexican restaurant. I'll be home to Houston for a visit in August though and Ninfa's is always on the list of restaurants to hit while I'm there.

ellen hanson designs said...

HI Lisa Homesick Texas (from another Lisa, homesick rtExan living in Brooklyn the past 10 or so years)
Heading down to Houston in March but now I'm drooling on Madison Ave. Haven't been to Ninfa's on Navigation since middle school at Lanier (go purple pups!) BUT did have crazy dleicious green sauce last night in Hell's Kitchen! What a surprise. Running late to a show and ducked into a place with a small sign that said "burritos and tacos" 56th? and Ninth or Tenth Ave. I am going to HAVE to recreate my steps and re-discover that tiny taco bar-cleaner and fancier than a FresCo Tortilla but similar set up. AWESOME TOMATILLO SAUCE not too sweet!

The Monday Through Friday Gourmet said...

Alright I'm pretty stoked to try these...I've been doing different taco's every friday night! Congrats on the nomination! You got my vote

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Marjorie--Actually, it's supposed to be in the 50's this weekend, so spring may be arriving here soon, too. Hope you had a fabulous dinner!

Burkie--They do take up a lot of room!

Barbara--You're very welcome.

Maryn--What good memories!

Tasty Eats at Home--Yes, nothing says warmer days are here than firing up the grill!

K8E--Yep, a trip to Ninfa's is always on my list as well!

Ellen--Oh! Thanks for the tip. I'll have to go scoop that out this weekend.

Texana--It's definitely a must-go for me as well. And than you for the vote!

Andrea said...

Lisa, thank you so much for clarifying the whole fajita vs. tacos al carbon issue. The word fajita, as you stated is in fact in reference to a cut of beef. But, in the U.S. we have grown accustomed to calling every type of grilled meat, stuffed into a flour tortilla, a fajita when in fact they are simply tacos. So, I appreciate your clarification.
I am not sure why, but I associate tacos al carbon with beef, as well. Can tacos al carbon also refer to other types of meat?
Thank you for the time you spend on your blog. I truly appreciate not only your recipes, which by the way are always spectacular, but also because of the food history and lessons you share alongside the featured dish. I always know when a recipe is a success when my native, Mexican-born husband approves. He has approved many of recipes, by the way. :)
Keep up the good work...I look forward to trying your version of tacos al carbon! We are slated for nice weather here in Chicago this weekend, so maybe I’ll fire up the grill and give it a whirl. I have yet to try your queso fresco recipe...maybe this is the perfect time to push through my cheese making fears and give that one a go, too. It would be great on these tacos, I am sure.
¡Muchísimas gracias! Keep up the good work!!

Amy said...

I read your post at work yesterday and went straight to the grocery store the minute I was off. We had these for dinner and they were a complete success. I will be adding these to my weeknight dinner line up for the foreseeable future. I also whipped up your guacamole. Thank for the terrific recipes and good luck over at Saveur.com.

Lea Ann said...

I'm already preferring tacos al carbon over fajitas and I've never had it. Thanks for this recipe, will be giving it a try soon. I saw a few days ago about your Saveur nomination and have already voted for you! Very cool! Well deserved nomination. Love your blog.

heather @ chiknpastry said...

i never understand the difference between tacos al carbon and fajitas. someone made fajitas with grilled chicken at an iron chef party last week, but they looked like tacos to me! either way, you're look super yum, and i'd eat them no matter what they were called!

Stephanie Manley said...

I think it was sad the Ninfa's sold out. But El Tiempo on Richmond is one of her new restaurants. The green sauce is there, along with many other favorites. I highly recommend going there. From what I understand she isn't associated with any of those "Ninfa's" restaurants anymore. Mama Ninfa, was asked to stop dining and hanging out at El Tiempo because the folks that bought her out, told her they bought her image as well.

Big Brother is Watching said...

I haven't lived in Houston since 1985 but I have such very fond memories of Ninfa's--the tacos al carbon, the green sauce...and the pitchers of margaritas.

Now if you could only come up with a recipe for that green sauce...

I will try this recipe, though, looks dead easy.

Linda www.mykindofcooking.com said...

I love the photos on your blog. I have recipe blog and now have a new appreciation for pictures of food!

www.mykindofcooking.com

Kimberly said...

I stop by to review your recipe for Ninfas green sauce, and find this post! Oh, how I loved tacos al carbon. I grew up in Houston, and still remember having my first tacos al carbon on Navigation around 1975. When a branch opened in Memorial a couple of miles from our house, it became a default location for family dinners out. For years, I went back to Navigation whenever I was in Houston, but since the Laurenzos sold, it's not the same.

Congrats on the well-deserved nomination!

Jenny said...

This looks awesome! Thanks for the recipe, you crazy talented gal.

Congrats on the Saveur nom!

Richard said...

Lisa -

Thanks again for another great post. I must ask a question now that you've brought up Ninfa's.

I went to college in Houston but am now living without Tex Mex in NYC. The thing I miss the most though is the red salsa at El Tiempo on Richmond. It is the one with almost a tomato sauce-like flavor to it. I know El Tiempo is run by the Lorenzo's, who I believe used to run the original Ninfa's.

I've only been to the Ninfa's on Navigation once, so I don't remember if these are the same salsas or not. BUT, I was hoping you've had that amazing El Tiempo red salsa before, and had some idea as to how to recreate it.

Thanks again and please keep up with the great blog!

Gavin said...

I worked on a film shoot with Ninfa herself. Surprisingly shy in front of camera, but it was a good cause (PSA for the MD Anderson kids' ward) and she soldiered on.

I chiefly remember hanging lights at the Kirby Ninfa's one morning in 1980 while the kitchen was getting ready for lunch, and being SO HUNGRY.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Oh my word. I actually have a tear in my eye. Thank you, Lisa!

Groetjes from a Homesick Texan in the Netherlands who had her first bite of Tacos al Carbon at Nifa's Navigation ages and ages ago.

Anonymous said...

I've always preferred flank steak for my tacos al carbon. Marinated and grilled hot and fast, sliced on the bias, and topped with your favs. I grew up about a mile and a half from the original Ninfa's on Navigation and ate there for years before leaving the Houston area. Unlike many others I went south, not north, so I don't have the problems getting certain ingredients and/or cravings for the dishes I've always loved. For those of you doing the apartment/fire code thing, look into the George Foreman Outdoor electric grill. With a little practice/trial/error, you can really grill some decent meats.

mikefromtexas

Beth said...

Thanks so much for clearing this up! Tex-Mex is very familiar since I live in Austin. But sometimes having so many dishes that are varied approaches to combining meats and tortillas makes it confusing to keep all the names straight. Chalupas and sopes are just one example of two very similar, but also entirely separate, foods. Then just when you think you've got it all straight, menus list "chicken fajitas"!

Susan S. said...

Yum, yum....who DOESN'T love Ninfas...I have the recipe for both marindes from Ninfa (green sauce too) but it's always more fun to GO there. I just discovered a van that picks downtown Houston workers up in front of the Chase Building and takes them back and for to lunch for free. They bring a menu for you to study AND they call ahead and reserve a table for you in the busiest of downtown lunch times. GREAT DEAL!

paige said...

this recipe fixed my fear of grilling inside. it also fixed my taco craving. these tacos tasted amazing and were easy to make. yummy!! i live in toronto and they have no good mexican here so i have been forced to learn to cook it. your blog has the greatest recipes. thanks for sharing!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Thanks for sort-of clearing up my confusion about fajitas and tacos al carbon. I hope to have the real thing in Texas next time I visit.

Kelly Fisher said...

I loved the green sauce and hot & spicy carrots at Ninfa's.

Steff said...

As someone who is accident prone in the kitchen, I can sympathize with the tacos al carbon preference vs. fajitas. And thanks for translating the recipe for those of us who similarly lack the ability to cook over coal. =)

Dixie Gypsy said...

I've lived in Texas twice, and most recently for nearly 6 years, splitting my time between DFW and Austin. I'm in Austin now. But I've never made it to Houston. My husband and I have been thinking about a trip to check it out. Thanks for mentioning Ninfa's and this dish!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Andrea--Yes, tacos al carbon can be any cut of meat not just beef. And happy to hear your husband approves! That makes my day!

Amy--Excellent news! I'm so happy y'all enjoyed them!

Lea Ann--Thank you! And I prefer tacos al carbon as well.

Heather--Thank you!

Stephanie--I've never been to El Tiempo but look forward to trying it next time I'm home.

Big Brother--From the Houston Chronicle, here's the recipe for Ninfa's green sauce.

Linda--Thank you!

Kimberly--Green sauce and tacos al carbon are a perfect combination!

Jenny--Muchas gracias!

Richard--I haven't been to El Tiempo but I think in my files I have Ninfa's red salsa recipe. Let me see if I can find it.

Gavin--What a great memory! She was quite the presence, wasn't she? I rode in an elevator with her once and was completely star struck.

Just a Plane Ride Away--Aww, thank you!

Mike--I'll definitely have to look into a George Foreman grill.

Beth--Yes, the language of Tex-Mex and Mexican food has many variations for similar dishes. It is hard to keep up with it!

Susan--I love that there's a van!

Paige--Yay! I'm so happy y'all enjoyed them!

Lydia--When are you headed to Texas?

Kelly--Yes! Those hot and spicy carrots are addictive!

Steff--You're very welcome!

Dixie Gypsy--Houston is a wonderful town!

Anonymous said...

Looks like there are a lot of "Ninfa-maniacs" on this blog! I've been to Ninfas in Houston, Austin and Dallas; they did have great tacos and fajitas. I remember one night in Houston the line was way out the door so someone in our group went up to the front and told them we were in the Bush party. Bush as in president. We had heard that Ninfa's was 41's favorite. We had to come clean and confessed we weren't really with the Bushes. But it was worth the wait anyway. Love your blog.

Meridith said...

I live for the tacos al carbon at Guadalajara in Houston. They are always the highlight of my trips to my husband's hometown. I have tried to replicate them at home with help from my sister-in-law's creamy cilantro sauce, which supposedly came from the folks at the Guad. Gonna have to give this recipe a try. There is nothing as good as perfectly cooked, succulent beef wrapped in a tortilla with a little yum-yum to set it off.

beemshake said...

They were called "Tacos a al Ninfa" back when I was a kid, in the 80s. My sister and I got them everytime, along with that little puffed, fried corn tortilla with queso poured over it. Mmm, Ninfa's...

Weekend Cowgirl said...

My all time favorite food. I could it them every night for dinner and never tire of them!People who have never had them DO NOT know what they are missing.

Joycee said...

Congrats on the nomination, I'll definately send a vote! This along with Ninfas green sauce will be heaven on a plate. I love your blog so much! This week we had the cheese enchiladas with chili gravy and they were restaurant good! I'm doing a a blog about Homesick Texan on the 19th, next Friday on GrannyMountain to sing your praises!

Twizzle said...

I commented on your tortilla post... but I will elaborate more on this recipe I made..

Ohhh yummm, these were so good! I don't know what they call skirt steak over here in UAE--they do not use the same terms as in the US so I just got some New York strips instead. The marinade smelled so delicious :)

It only marinated for 2 hours but the flavors definitely permeatedthe meat.

And you are right, I could eat just the fresh tortillas and beef by itself!

The only thing is I could not make the green sauce because I have never seen tomatillos sold here so I just served it with a regular ol' salsa and sour cream. Everyone loved it!

again, if you'd like to see the photos:
http://diatodxb.blogspot.com/2010/03/newest-member-of-crew-plus-more-food-d.html

its a bad photo of the wrapped steak though..you can't even see the filling properly--and before I decided to take a new photo it was all gone!!

yumm yumm!

Kathleen said...

I was just dreaming about Ninfa's and the good old days of the warm tortillas, perfect green sauce, getting full before the food even showed up. Oh, my. If there are any other Houstonians in Manhattan who'd like to stage a 1970's-style Ninfa's party -- let me know!

Debra said...

I've been wanting to try these for awhile, well, tonight was the night! Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh, the Tacos al Carbon were fantastic! I have tried making "fajitas" numerous times and was disappointed each time. Nevermore, will that happen now that I have this recipe in my cooking arsenal. I made it tonight for my husband and I, and can hardly wait to make it for the next family gathering. Thanks for all the great recipes and your wonderful blog!

Michael said...

Fantastic! This brings back fond memories of growing in Houston, especially during my formative years in the 80s. My parents took us to Casa Elena on FM 1960 at least once a week.

Tacos al carbon was my favorite dish and I'd usually order them covered in queso (to go along with the fabulous queso puff, of course).

Thanks so much for your efforts Lisa, I'm a fan!

Carol said...

I adore Tacos al Carbon...at Ninfa's or anywhere. I do like to get a little queso on the side and pour on top..YUM!

jilkat25 said...

Hi, Lisa and all! I've lived in Dallas my whole life and haven't been to Houston in years. I went to the old Ninfa's when it was briefly in Dallas, but only once or twice. My husband and I have always loved a restaurant here called Mario and Alberto's which has been around almost as long as Ninfa's, and their family goes back a century or something in the restaurant business here. My husband always orders Tacos al Carbon there, and it was my understanding that the difference was that Tacos al Carbon was made with a whole steak like a rib-eye or a New York strip, and cooked on a charcoal grill then cut by the diner, while fajitas were made with marinated skirt steak or really thin flank steak cooked on the flat-top and sliced in the kitchen and brought to the table on a one-person cast-iron griddle with grilled peppers, onions, and other meats like chicken or shrimp as a "combo" plate. A lot of Mexican restaurants in Dallas serve fajitas for two, with all the go-alongs shared by both people. I rarely go out for Tex-Mex anymore since I cook it so often at home. I recently got a George Foreman 288 inch indoor/outdoor grill, and it's literally standing in the middle of my kitchen (permanently, I'm sure)! It is fantastic, gets really hot (500) on high, and is the closest thing I have found to grilling indoors when I don't feel like messing with charcoal outside. Last night I made colorful grilled baby bell peppers stuffed with ground turkey, soft chorizo, and sharp cheddar, a sort of Mexican risotto (arborio rice) with veal shanks and a packet of Picadillo seasoning I got on Amazon and cooked in the pressure cooker-20 minutes (yum!), pan-fried albondigas from the extra turkey/chorizo mix (with extra spices and fresh cilantro) and simmered green tomatillo sauce (I just spiced up a bottle of "green taco sauce" I had in my cupboard), and a pot of tortilla soup with lots of veggies including roasted fresh cob-corn and fried strips of corn tortillas. We just polished off the leftovers a few minutes ago. I mean, it wasn't like "hand-crafted" gourmet Mex, it was just dinner, but it was really tasty and easy to throw together!-Jilkat25

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