Steak Fajitas / by Cynthia Raub

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I really love foods that deliver all the textures and all the food groups in one bite. A perfectly loaded chip from a plate of nachos, bi bim bap (a Korean rice dish with an assortment of vegetables and meat), cheeseburgers. Fajitas are also included in this fantastical group of perfect meals, and they may be even more superior because you can customize each bite as you go. I don't usually order fajitas when I am out at a restaurant (because: nachos), but whenever a hot skillet of roasting onions and meat walks across the dining room, I regret my meal choice immediately. Fajitas can vary from the traditional beef to vegan, and all of the iterations are delicious - you just can't go wrong with anything wrapped in a warm tortilla. Here is my ode to fajitas and all of the opportunities I have missed in restaurants of eating them. 

Notes: The cut of beef is paramount when making steak fajitas. Traditionally, buttery and deeply beefy-flavored skirt steak is recommended, but flap and hangar are comparable substitutions that will produce similarly delicious results. This marinade is robust, complex and flavorful; I found it to be an incredibly tasty and different treatment of beef in traditional fajitas. In the directions, I recommend resting the beef on the uncooked bell peppers and onions. This is so 1) you don't have to dirty another dish and 2) to give the vegetables even more flavor. Likewise, when cooking the vegetables, include the residual juices from the rested meat for another re-up in Flavortown.

Time: 45 minutes active cooking, plus 2-6 hours of marinating
Serves: 4-6

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup lime juice (3-6 limes depending on the size)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
2 pounds trimmed flank steak, cut crosswise into 5- to 6-inch pieces
Cilantro stems, if available
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 large yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 white or yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
12 to 16 fresh flour or corn tortillas, hot
Guacamole, for serving (optional - see recipe below)
Pico de Gallo, for serving (optional)
Cheese, hot sauce and salsa (optional)

Combine soy sauce, lime juice, canola oil, brown sugar, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and garlic in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Cut steaks into several 6" pieces. Place steaks in a gallon-sized zipper-lock bag and add marinade and (optional) cilantro stems. Seal bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Massage bag until meat is fully coated in marinade. Lay flat in the refrigerator, turning every so often for at least 2 hours and up to 6. 

Slice bell peppers and onions into 1/2" strips. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Once the meat has marinated, remove steaks from marinade, wipe off excess liquid, and transfer to a large plate. Turn your fan on and heat a grill pan on high for 3-5 minutes. Once the grill pan is smoking, place meat pieces on the grill pan several inches away from each other. Cook meat in multiple batches about 2-4 minutes per side and develop a nice char and grill lines. Your cooking time will depend on the thickness of your steaks, your preferred meat temperature, and the strength of your heat source. Rest the cooked meat on top of the uncooked bell peppers and onions. Allow meat to rest for 5-15 minutes before slicing. 

Carefully wipe your grill pan clean of carbon left from the cooked meat. Bring the grill pan back up to high and add pepper and onion mix and cook, stirring occasionally. Cook the vegetables until they are softened and beginning to char in spots, about 5 minutes. When vegetables are cooked, transfer steaks to a cutting board and pour any accumulated juices from the plate into the skillet with the vegetables. Toss to coat.

Transfer vegetables to a warm serving platter. Thinly slice meat against the grain and transfer to platter with vegetables. Serve immediately with hot tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, and other condiments as desired.

Recipe (adapted) from: Serious Eats

For Guacamole

3 ripe avocados
1 large shallot, finely minced
1 tablespoon jalapeno, finely minced
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1-2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice avocados in half- remove seeds and scoop out flesh into a mixing bowl. Mash the avocado with a fork or whisk into desired guacamole consistency. Finely dice shallot and jalapeno and add to the avocado. Roughly chop cilantro leaves and add it to the bowl. Squeeze juice of 1 lime into the bowl, fold ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust amount of lime at this time, too.