Friday, September 02, 2011

Chicken fajitas recipe

bell pepper and onion

“Austin made me the best chicken fajitas,” said my grandma. “I have never had chicken taste so good.”

My uncle is more renown for his squash enchiladas, so I was very intrigued. Now, I have to admit, chicken fajitas are not something I’ve ever been too inspired to make. Perhaps it’s because they’re made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which isn’t the most flavorful cut

There’s also the language purist inside of me, that insists calling something chicken fajitas is simply wrong, as the word fajitas originally refers to the cut of meat. Naming the dish chicken fajitas is like saying it’s “chicken sliced steak.”

Of course, this battle was lost long ago and it’s silly for me to not favor a dish because of its inaccurate name. And you have to admit, there’s a thrill when the sizzling chicken arrives on a bed of sautéed peppers and onions, along with the required bowls of pico de gallo, guacamole, and sour cream. A stack of warm flour tortillas makes the meal complete. Fajitas are definitely more than the sum of their parts, and with sweet bell peppers and onions in such abundance these days, I decided to follow my uncle’s lead.

chicken fajitas

“What did he do to the chicken?” I asked my grandma. She said she couldn’t remember everything, but his marinade did contain lime juice and balsamic vinegar. Lime juice is a classic ingredient for a fajita marinade, so that didn’t surprise me. But balsamic vinegar? That seemed like an inspired choice, as it’s both tangy and sweet. I got in touch with Austin to learn more.

He admitted that it was his first time making chicken fajitas and his marinade was completely improvised. He did indeed start with the standard lime juice and olive oil base, and then threw in the balsamic vinegar, a bit of Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, Mexican hot sauce, salt and pepper.

It sounded good, so I decided to play around with his basic ingredient list, omitting the brown sugar, as balsamic vinegar is plenty sweet, and substituting a few cloves of garlic and chiles de arbol for the Mexican hot sauce. The marinade was bright and lively, with a bit of heat from the chiles. I threw in my chicken breasts and let it sit for a few hours before cooking.

Now, Austin had grilled his chicken but since I don’t have a grill I instead quickly cooked the chicken breasts in a cast-iron skillet. Since I wasn’t at the farm the day Austin cooked, I don’t really know how his tasted. But if they were at all like the ones I made, then my grandma was correct—this marinade did indeed make a fine fajita. And once I smothered the chicken with guacamole and folded them into fresh flour tortillas, it made for an excellent, end-of-summer dish.

chicken fajitas

It’s strange to think that this long, hot and dry season is officially ending this weekend. It’s been a rough one for so many and I hope that there is some relief soon. Whether you’re staying inside this holiday or attempting to cook outdoors, may you stay cool and safe. And perhaps make some chicken fajitas.

Chicken fajitas (inspired by Uncle Austin)

For the chicken:
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 dried chiles de arbol, stems removed
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs

For the fajitas:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 bell peppers, seeds and stem removed, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
Salt, to taste
12 flour tortillas
Guacamole
Pico de gallo
Sour cream

Method:
In a blender, mix together the lime juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, cumin, and chiles de arbol. Blend until smooth, and add salt and black pepper to taste. Pour the marinade over the chicken, and marinade refrigerated for at least one hour.

To make the fajitas, drain the chicken from the marinade. In a large, heavy skillet, heat up 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat. Add the chicken, and cook covered for about 5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove the chicken from the skillet, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet, and cook the bell pepper and onion slices on medium heat until tender and soft, about 7-10 minutes. Add salt to taste. While the peppers and onions are cooking, heat up the flour tortillas by either cooking each one over a burner or in a hot, dry skillet for about 15 seconds per side or until they puff.

Slice the chicken and serve with the bell peppers, onions, warm flour tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream, so people can make their own tacos.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Note: If you can't find chiles de arbol just use serrano chiles. The taste will be a little brighter but still fiery.

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51 comments:

soupaddict said...

I can't believe summer is winding down. Although weren't hit with the horrible drought of the mid-South, we were plagued with unusual, ridiculous, never-ending heat. So, there was lots of grilling going on this summer, with simple meals like assemble-it-yourself fajitas. I never thought to add balsamic to the marinade. Me likey!

kristine said...

I always add a bit of balsamic to a Mexican-style marinade. It supplements the tang of the lime and adds sweetness without the need for sugar. It's really good on beef fajitas, too.

Inspired by eRecipeCards said...

oh boy... one of my favorite ways to use up leftovers. Not sure if I have ever actually made the dish from raw chicken, it just works so well with leftovers. I just cook for two people most of the time, so using up leftovers in a new way is important to me.

And thank the gods that this summer is over... 75 and low humidity forecast for Monday, first time in two months. Hope all those folks in Vermont and New Jersey that seem to have gotten the brunt of the last storm of the century have a peaceful few weeks to clean up and get normal...

And great post and recipe!

Dave

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a very similar recipe from Cooks Illustrated that our family loves. The leftovers are even great cold on a salad the next day.
http://www.crumblycookie.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/chicken-fajitas.pdf

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Soupaddict--It has definitely been one hot summer. Looking forward to fall.

Kristine--Thanks for the tip! I can't wait to try this on beef fajitas.

Dave--Yep, our friends upstate and in Vermont are definitely in my thoughts.

Anon--Thanks for the link!

amysue said...

I have never been a huge fan of chicken fajitas using chicken breasts, mainly because I find it difficult to cook chicken breasts in general. A number of years ago, I purchased pre-marinated fajita chicken thighs at an HEB. I've been using the thighs ever since to make my own!

Gretchen said...

This marinade looks really interesting. I might follow Kristine's lead and try it on beef fajitas too!

Farmer Jen said...

Sounds delicious!

Melissa from the Blue House said...

Yummy, that sounds GREAT... and I'm intrigued by the squash recipe you linked to. Clicking on that next!

Frank Smith said...

Why, oh why do I read your blog early in the morning when I can't wake anyone up with the sounds and smells of onions, peppers and chicken sizzling.....Lisa, you make me TOO hungry!!!!

Julie said...

Thank you Lisa and Uncle Austin. I know what we're having for dinner.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Amysue--I'll have to try it with thighs. Great idea!

Gretchen--It does sound terrific on beef.

Farmer Jen--Thanks!

Melissa--The squash enchiladas are terrific and a wonderful way to use up a lot of squash at one time.

Frank--Just doing my job!

Julie--Enjoy!

Cat--There's a chile primer in my book! For chiles de arbol, substitute serranos (as that's what a chile de arbol is, a dried serrano), and Hatch just substitute regular Anaheims. Hope that helps!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Amysue--I'll have to try it with thighs. Great idea!

Gretchen--It does sound terrific on beef.

Farmer Jen--Thanks!

Melissa--The squash enchiladas are terrific and a wonderful way to use up a lot of squash at one time.

Frank--Just doing my job!

Julie--Enjoy!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Cat--There's a chile primer in my book! For chiles de arbol, substitute serranos (as that's what a chile de arbol is, a dried serrano), and Hatch just substitute regular Anaheims. Hope that helps!

Guppy said...

We just returned from two weeks in what my husband refers to as the "Mother Country" and are already having Tex-Mex withdrawals! I will have to give these a try. What do you think about leaving the skin on the chicken? 15-20 years ago on my early visits to Texas, I remember that many of the restaurants that my husband brought me to did this.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Guppy--I think it would be wonderful to leave the skin on!

Guppy said...

I will give it a try and report back!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Guppy--Look forward to hearing your report!

jerrie lee said...

sound fabulous amd I will make these tomorrow as the end of summer is here in oregon and i am feeling very homesick myself wishing my garden had more time to produce food. FYI - preordered 10 cookbooks today. so excited to give them away at xmas. thanks again lisa.....

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

jerrie lee--My friends up in Bend told me it's already starting to get below freezing there at night. Wow! And thank you so much for purchasing my book. Hope you and your recipients enjoy it!

Jen said...

My husband is from Texas, though he was born in Ohio and we now live in Cincinnati so I consider him a dual-citizen of OH/TX. He loves Tex-Mex food, and I really think he would love this dish. He always tells me about fresh tortillas--how they make anything taste better. Do you think the marinade would go well with steak also?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Jen--I haven't tried it with steak, but a former commenter says she always uses balsamic vinegar in her steak marinade, so I bet it will be terrific.

jerrie lee said...

lisa - my friends up here are all grateful for your recipes because i invite them to eat the finished product!!!!!!!!!! i am hoping they start cooking for me too!

Fredericka said...

From a fellow 'Roo & language purist. Eons ago we lived in the R.G. Valley before anybody north of Alice knew the word "fajitas". We were told by the Mex-Am butcher that it was the beef belt. I could understand that, but have had a hard time imagining a belt on any chicken I've ever cut up, much less a belt on a fish. But, I know that language evolves, so I am trying. This recipe sounds wonderful, no matter what it is called & I'm going to try it. Now, if we could just get a recipe for envueltos like the ones served at the Echo Hotel in Edinburg, TX.

Anonymous said...

The next day I skipped the tortillas and added chicken to a green salad with mango and avocado, seasoned with Newman's low fat sesame ginger dressing. And Austin had brought homemade wholewheat tortillas, then roasted poblano peppers and garlic. The house smelled like a Mexican restaurant. Love the reviews of book. Grandma J.

Anonymous said...

We never had one danged day of summer now here in Vancouver, Washington it is suppose to be blue skies, sunny and over 90 go figure and the whole danged week hotter than you know what, people working and summer over, schools open, what gives..Love fajitas, make the beef ones with a variety of stuff, will make the one you put in your blog with chicken thighs boneless, should be great, chicken breasts seem a waste in fajitas, they are not too flavorful, the thighs work better..Hoping your cookbook takes off like a rocket, you write well, recipes are easy to understand and the results yummmeeee..congrats upon the release of your cookbook..luv your blog, happy labor day, keep cool in NYC right?

Misplaced Texan said...

I, too, am a homesick Texan. I moved from TX to OH on a whim and for a man. (yikes!)

I miss Texas more than I ever thought I would.

Thank you for this blog, at least I won't miss the food :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Jerrie Lee--Hope they start cooking for you, too!

Fredericka--Let me see what I can do!

Grandma--That salad sounds amazing! And I love it when the house smells like a Mexican restaurant. Love you!

Anon--Thank you! And yes, I think it would be great with chicken thighs!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Misplaced Texan--Cooking definitely helps you feel closer to home.

Shelley said...

Is there anything that isn't better with balsamic vinegar??

Some use it on ice cream....

Elizabeth Stelling said...

I never really crave fajitas, as much as I do the cheese enchiladas you mention in your article, eating them with my father...but I do make flank, hanger, and skirt steak at least once a week in tacos, a Texas through and through, love my meat!

Chef E
Elizabeth
http://cookappeal.blogspot.com/
http://tmi-chef.blogspot.com/

Kathryn | Dramatic Pancake said...

These look really good- there is nothing better than garlic, onion and pepper sizzling on a hot plate, and the marinade sounds delicious. Just the kind of thing I want to make now that the weather around here is feeling like fall!

HLEure said...

Thanks for the great recipe! We had our first bit of relief from the heat in Austin yesterday. I made these last night, and we enjoyed them on our patio! Fabulous!

Season with Reason (Rebecca) said...

What are your feelings on corn vs. flour tortillas. Do certain recipes require one or the other? This is a matter of some debate in our household and I'd love to get your expert opinion.

Christine's Pantry said...

Looks wonderful. Yum!

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

So, I have never made fajitas, but I always order them from the little cantina I go to in Park City.

I am totally intrigued with the balsamic vinegar idea, so I guess it's time for fajitas in the Rocky Mountains!!!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Shelley--I agree! Though I've never tried it on ice cream.

Elizabeth--Yep, steak happens in my house at least once a week, too.

Kathryn--These are perfect for cooler days.

HLEure--Glad you enjoyed them!

Season with Reason--It just depends on the recipe. Enchiladas I always use corn, tacos I can go either way.

Christine's Pantry--Thank you!

Rocky Mountain Woman--It is time indeed!

Gaby said...

sometimes, and by sometimes I mean all the time, I'm really sad that we aren't next door neighbors. Because I would gladly taste test everything that comes out of your kitchen. Chicken Fajitas are my fav! (right next to your carnitas and guacamole!!)

Danielle said...

Your Uncle Austin is a genius! These look wonderful, I have to work these into my recipe book soon.

Celina said...

Lisa,

It was with great pleasure (and surprise!) that I saw you featured in my Texas Monthly magazine this month. As a homesick texan living in Chicago for graduate school I've been following your blog and have really enjoyed your recipes. congrats!

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

I first tried Mexican food in Arizona when I was 17...it changed my life forever!

Jennifer said...

I've never heard of envueltos (bad Texan, bad!), but I look forward to your recipe.

mmk said...

Chile de Arbol is NOT a dried Serrano. They are two completely different peppers, both available fresh and dried.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Gaby--I wish you lived next door, too!

Danielle--He is indeed a genius!

Celina--Thank you! That was a lot of fun!

Scott--Mexican food is very life changing!

Jennifer--Can't wait to make them.

MMK--Thank you, clearly I was misinformed!

Curt said...

It's been way too long since I've made fajitas. These sound great!

Suzette Rothlisberger said...

Just made this recipe for two Texas boys...they loved it. Thanks for sharing and we'll make it again in October at a group campout in Moab, Utah!

Suzette

pam said...

I made the chicken marinade earlier this week and it was fantastic! it's my new "go-to" marinade. Thanks! :-)

mytwocentsworth said...

I'm dying to try the Frito pie. Last year, I experienced the Friday night lights and the roar of the crowd as I was strolling at dusk through the historic district of Bastrop. Great reminder of my earlier days growing up in Appalachia. Very sorry to hear of all the fire destruction in Bastrop County. I was touring Texas in search of some fantastic barbecue (which I found) and I'm always ready to go back again.

Anonymous said...

I have to say its a very nice recipe. My husband and I both have latino roots (he being mexican and i being filipino) and anything with seared or grilled chicken is a staple in our family. I noticed how you and your uncle kept it authentic, as most cooks often try to over-europeanize most latin dishes. Some Latino culture may be from spain, however mexican food differs greatly from spanish food altogether. Its good to experiment and find new flavors though. P.S.-- both from deep southern Texas

Barbara said...

I love lime-soy sauce-red wine vinegar marinated chicken in my fajitas, and I'll try it with Balsamic vinegar next time. I always use Balsamic in my pico de gallo! It gives it an incredible brightness!

Greg Miller said...

Hi. I don't know if you read old comments but this has been the base of my go-to chicken fajita recipe for almost two years now and it's a staple in our household, maybe even our favorite dish of all. So thank you for that.

Having made it close to two dozen times, I've got some suggestions that improved it, at least for us. First, a combo of dried and fresh chilis in the marinade really livens it up. Second, use more salt than you want in the final dish in the marinade. It acts as a brine and improves the quality of the chicken. Finally, slice the chicken before you brine it. The brine penetrates more quickly, more surface area of the cooked chicken gets browned through the delicious Maillard reaction (if your skillet is hot enough -- make sure it's blazing! -- and you're chicken has been pat-dried), it cooks more quickly and doesn't need as much of a rest. But be careful not to dry out the strips.

If you don't mind, I'll probably sing the praises of your blog and this recipe in particular on my little (unread) blog within the next week or two.

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