Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fajitas ファヒタス

When we had the landscaping done for our new house in California many years ago, all the workers, except for the boss, were from Mexico. They asked if they could use our Weber grill which was kept outside to cook some meals. We said it was OK with us as long as they cleaned up afterward. We assumed they were using it occasionally to cook burgers for their lunch. One weekday evening when we came home from work, they were still there working. They asked if we would like to try "carne asada" with them. We felt a bit funny about this (being invited to dinner at our own house using our own grill). Nonetheless we were curious and accepted the invitation. They quickly and expertly made a fire in the Weber. They produced a skirt steak from the enormous cooler they had with them, seasoned it simply with salt then grilled it over the hot coals. They also warmed up tortillas and served the carne asada, thinly sliced, with a store bought but very tasty and spicy salsa on it. Obviously, they knew the best salsa and tortillas to buy. We all ended up companionably standing around the grill on the concrete slab patio amid the chaos of the on-going landscaping eating our fill. We learned something from that meal. It was very simple yet sophisticated--much more than the burgers we had imagined they were eating. It was also nutritiously well-balanced (meat, starch and vegetables). The best part was how it smelled as it cooked. I still remember how it made my mouth water.

A Tex-Mex version of similar dish is called "fajitas" which is extremely popular in the U.S.. Since I had a package of skirt steak in our refrigerator, I made my version of "fajitas" on Sunday. I was too lazy to fire up the grill outside and made "fajitas" in a skillet (which is the usual way to cook fajitas anyway). 

I first rubbed ground cumin, salt and black pepper on the surface of the skirt steak and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. The marinade is lime juice (2 tbs or one lime), olive oil (2 tbs), ground cumin (1 tbs, but use your judgement, we like cumin a lot but it is strong spice), jalapeno pepper (two, seeded and deveined and finely chopped), garlic (3 fat cloves, finely chopped), and fresh cilantro (2-3 tbs, finely chopped including the stem). I also sliced one large onion (halved and then thinly sliced). I placed everything in a Ziploc bag including the meat and let it marinate for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. 

To cook, I took out the steak and if the surface is too wet, I blot it with a paper towel and season it with salt and pepper again (lightly). I use a "grill" pan which has ridges on the bottom to make char marks, and cook the steak for 1 minute on each side for medium (or to your desired doneness) on high flame with a small amount of olive oil. I set the steak aside on a plate and loosely cover it with an aluminum foil. I then cook the onion with all the marinade for 5 minutes on high flame stirring often or until the onion becomes soft and partially browned. I served the steak sliced across the grain, onion, guacamole (homemade), and salsa (store bought, this was not the best. I did not have good tomatoes to make salsa myself).

To eat, we warmed small flour tortilla, placed onion, steak, guacamole, salsa on the tortilla and top the whole thing with plain yogurt (or sour cream). We like yogurt, which cuts the heat (spice).

Roll it up and serve it with black bean corn salad, which was made by my wife a few days ago. We have not had this for a long time and it tasted very good--reminiscent of  the one we had in so long ago in California.

No comments: