The steak fajita. You can probably taste it already, the sizzling meat and vegetables piled on a tender flour tortilla with guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream. The question now is: how do you make this culinary creation? Well, here’s how.
- The steak.
Fajitas have traditionally been made with skirt steaks. But as more and more restaurants got into the act, different cuts were used – hanger, sirloin flap and flank steak. While any of these cuts work, some chefs prefer the skirt, hanger and flap because they have the kind of texture that is good for soaking up marinade. Of all the cuts, though, skirt is probably the best because it’s the tastiest. It is important, however, that you don’t trim off too much of the fat.
You want to slice the steak into five or six-inch pieces, so they are easier to work with when grilling.
- The marinade.
There are a number of spices you can use in a fajita marinade, such as chilies, cumin, black pepper, and garlic.
But, according to fajita aficionados, there are three key ingredients to any good marinade – oil, acid and salt. Oil is important for several reasons. First, it makes the marinade thicker and stickier so that it attaches better to the meet. Second, other ingredients in the marinade such as garlic and spices dissolve in the oil, making the flavor more evenly distributed. Third, oil helps the meat cook better.
Acid, provided in the form of lime juice, for example, makes the meat more flavorful. The salt ingredient, which could be added in several forms, such as soy sauce, helps to break down the muscle fiber, which enables the meat to better keep in moisture. Soy sauce itself also has several other advantages. It contains glutamates, which help to enhance the flavor. And it has proteases, which help to break down and tenderize the meat.
The ideal amount of time for letting the meat soak in the marinade is between three and 10hours. If you do it any less than three hours, the marinade does not stick to the meat as well. Any more, and the meat gets a little too soggy. A good way to marinate the meat is in a Ziplock®-type plastic bag. Try to squeeze out as much air as possible, so you get the maximum surface of meat in contact with the marinade.
There is an art to grilling skirt steaks because of their texture. You want to cook them on the grill in a very high heat so you can get the outside charred before you overcook the inside. Make them medium rare at a minimum. Pull them off the grill when the interior temperature gets to about 120 degrees F.
Carve the meat at an angle to the grain for greater tenderness – either at a 90 degree or 45 degree angle.
- The veggies.
The most popular veggies used for fajitas are onions and peppers. Save a little of the marinade to mix with them before you cook them. A quick way to cook the veggies is right on the grill. After you have finished with the meat, put a skillet with the veggies over the coals on the grill and give them a quick sear. You can also pour the drippings from the meat into the skillet as well.
By FranksValli (Own work) [GFDL