Fajitas are such a quick dinner… a lot of nights when hubby works a late night, this is what we do for dinner. I can cut everything ahead of time and set it aside and wait for that text that says “Home in 15! Muah!” Then I can make a quick dinner of it…
First I start with my veggies… and fajitas are a “whatever you like on them” type of dish. Some people don’t like bell peppers, some people don’t like red onion… so feel free to “make it your own”.
This is what we like… red onion, red/green bell pepper and just a few cloves of garlic.
Take apart those peppers (remove the ribs/seeds/stem) and cut them into long strips (but not too thin). And do the same with half a large red onion.
In a pan over medium-high heat (use cast iron, all-clad or a wok… but not a “non stick” pan) throw the veggies right in. No need for oil… if you add oil it will keep the veggies from charring (“non-stick” pans won’t allow for char either)… and we like a little char on our veggies for fajitas.
You’re going to hear some loud sizzling – this is OK.
This is what you want.
Give the veggies a few minutes without moving them. This will help in the char process. Then toss them… are they charring like you want? Mine did! This step will take 5-8 minutes … every few minutes move the veggies around.
You will want to take the veggies out when they are partially charred but softened to the touch. We like our veggies semi-crispy for our fajitas. The semi-crispy veg makes for a real fresh tasting fajita.
Then I remove the pan from the heat and the veggies get set aside until I’m ready to re-warm them with the cooked chicken.
Next? I prep the chicken tenders by patting them dry…
Adding some kosher salt and ground cumin…
And a good amount of chili powder… all on one side. (I season the other side of the chicken once it’s in the pan.)
Then I cut the chicken into bite size pieces… good big bite size pieces… (I like cutting them before cooking as they cook just a lil’ faster).
But before I put the chicken in the pan I want to take advantage of all of the flavor that’s been left in the bottom of that pan from the veggies. So I put the pan back over the heat and add some chicken stock. This will help to pull up the “flavor bits” (aka “charred goodness”) off the bottom of the pan. Believe me, you don’t want to get rid of this stuff or wash out the pan at this point – you want to use it to your benefit (the benefit of your taste buds).
So pour in the chicken stock, and let it do it’s magic. There will once again be a lot of sizzling and some steam. So, careful…
With a wooden spoon you can easily pull the flavor bits up off the bottom of that pan. Some of the chicken stock will evaporate while you are doing this but it helps to loosen up all that flavor.
Once the bits have been “freed”, add your chicken to the pan (seasoned side down) – and don’t touch.
Step away from the hot pan…
Well, ok… the only thing I recommend doing at this point is adding a tiny bit more kosher salt and some black pepper to this side of the chicken. But don’t move ’em. We can get all technical at this point… but just take my word for it, don’t move ’em… yet.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening in this pan. See how the sides of the chicken bits are turning white… we’re getting closer to be able to turn the chicken over. See, there is some time involved in allowing the meat to come up to temp so that it cooks, so that the coagulation of the proteins takes place. Once this happens then the chicken can be easily moved around the pan without sticking and shredding apart.
(You know what I’m talking about… we’ve all moved a protein around before it was ready to move, haven’t we?!)
So, once the coloring on the side of the chicken looks similar to the picture above, it’s probably close to being able to move. (On these small pieces of chicken that’s about 2-3 minutes.)
Turn over your beautiful bits of chicken with a set of tongs.
And look at all that color you just produced! (This is going to be so yummy!)
Cooking on the second side won’t take as long. (On these small pieces of chicken that’s only about a minute or two.) So it’s time to bring the veggies back to temp. Throw them in with the almost-done chicken… it’s at this point that I throw in the diced garlic. It doesn’t need much time (and with the high heat we’re using on these fajitas – had we thrown them in with the veggies in the first step they would have just burnt).
Once the chicken/veg mix has come together and you’ve given the garlic a minute or two, place a lid/cover partially over the pan just to keep things warm.
Oh… and you DO have tortillas warming up, don’t you?! We use our cast iron tortilla warmers (that my hero-of-a-hubby bought me for our first Christmas together, back in the day).
And right about now is when he’s walking in the back door and says “Mmmm… smells great babe! Fajitas?!” He gives me a kiss, un-blings (wallet, watch, etc is removed and placed somewhere that will annoy me later – but at least he’s home now), he pours our drinks and …
…and then we serve up. He adds sour cream and cheese to his fajitas. I just want some sour cream and fresh cilantro.
Tonight we’re enjoying our fajitas alongside Creamy Poblano Rice. Oh, and I opted against a second fajita so I could have a bigger serving of the rice. Yummy…
enjoy your time in the kitchen…