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ELLEN'S KITCHEN

Fine Fajita Fiesta for 100
with Fajita Basics and Sample Menus

Read about the popularization of fajitas at the
Kyle Fajita Fiesta.

The origins of fajitas, "rags"; beef is the word

Today, the term fajita has completely lost its original meaning and has come to describe just about anything that is cooked/grilled, tossed with grilled vegetables, and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The original true fajitas, however, were made from marinated, grilled skirt steak.

Fajitas are designed to be served as they are cooked, and do not hold well. If you must hold, consider carne guisada, or a taco bar.

Real authentic fajitas are made from marinated beef skirt steaks, not chicken, round steak, etc. This is the meat of choice for fajitas because its coarse or loose texture allows it to absorb flavors and its bold beefy taste holds up to bold seasonings. That is not what most restaurants serve. If you can't get skirt steak, the beef you select has to be tender enough to eat on its own, such as tri-tip or top sirloin.

The Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras, and its American counterpart is fajitas. There are two skirt steaks on each cow. Outside Skirt steak is a steak made from the diaphragm, very flavorful, but also rather tough. Inside skirt steak is the corresponding flap taken from the flank or bottom sirloin There is a 3-pound inside skirt and a 1.5-pound outside skirt steak on each cow. Both require some skillful trimming to remove their membranes or silver coatings.

Amount to Buy? One trimmed inside skirt steak will weigh about 1 pound and when grilled and sliced correctly makes a terrific steak or fajitas for four happy diners or three ecstatic party-goers.

The Modern Fajita

The current popular way of serving fajitas is similar to the traditional Mexican "taco al carbon", and is created from a variety of meats, or even as a vegetarian entree from sliced grilled portabello mushrooms or grilled tofu.

For mixed meats for large party size servings, you plan on 5 ounces raw beef PLUS 3-4 ounces raw second meat (chicken, shrimp, etc) PER PERSON. For ordinary dinners, you need about 1/4 less.

For results like the popular restaurants, you MUST marinate the meats (except shrimps) at least 4 hours, up to overnight. Shrimps are marinated just 2-4 hours depending on size. This marinade contains lime, not lemon, juice and is DISCARDED when the meat is cooked. Also, you MUST sauce the grilled veggies separately and then add that sauce to the dish as a finishing sauce. This was not original, as the vegetables were simply grilled and mixed with the freshly sliced meat and juice, but it is how most commercial places do it today.

"Tex-mex style" fajitas are usually served on flour tortillas with sour cream, guacamole, cheese, and pico de gallo or salsa. "Mexican style" is a bit more traditional, on corn tortillas with pico de gallo and chopped cilantro. I usually offer both on a fajita buffet. Rice and beans are the traditional accompaniments.

The best way to cook the meat is to grill the pieces, then thin slice them. Second choice is to broil and slice. It just is not the same if you pre-slice and cook like a stir fry, but I have included notes on this method, if you must.

Grilling:

  • Marinating is discussed below. At a minimum, olive oil, Fiesta Fajita Seasoning, and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce are rubbed into the beef. Coat the meat in the mixture and let sit for 30 minutes or so.
  • If you have a smoker on your grill, smoke for about 10 minutes before grilling
  • This is a traditional method of preparation for fajitas.
    When the coals are ready, drain the marinade from the meat and cook it about 3 inches above the coals for approximately 3-6 minutes on each side, for skirt steaks between 1 and 1 1/2 pounds.
    When the meat is cooked to your liking, remove it from the grill and let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes. Cut it across the grain and diagonally into finger-length strips.

Oven Broiling:
Cold and wet weather, or very large parties, can make outdoor grilling impractical. You can prepare them under your broiler.

  • Trim fat from steak, and score a diamond pattern on both sides of steak.
    Trim off all of the silver skin and excessive fat. Do not take off all of the fat, fat has flavor. Mix well, then pour into the bag with the meat. Press out as much air from the bag as possible and zip the top closed. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours (or overnight), turning occasionally to coat all sides.
  • Preheat the broiler and pan.
  • Broil the meat about 4 inches below the broiler flame for 5 to 6 minutes per side; then let the meat rest and slice as for grilled fajitas.

For either method, if marinated, drain and pat meat dry.

Never omit this step: wrap the grilled meat in a double thickness of aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. THIS REST IS IMPORTANT FOR BOTH FLAVOR AND TENDERNESS!!! Be warned: Skirt steak toughens if cooked to more than medium.

Thinly slice across the grain and diagonally and serve.

Pan frying (ouch)

If you must,

  • Drain the meat; then cut it across the grain, diagonally, into finger-length strips.
  • Fry the strips over high heat in a large preheated cast-iron skillet or wok, working in batches if necessary, turning them frequently. They should take no more than 1 1/2 to 2 minutes to cook.

Amounts per person and for 100 people

Two fajitas is the usual estimate per person if you have the usual sides of rice, beans, and salad. For a two fajita serving for 4 people, you need:

Meats 1 pound of lean boneless raw meat per 4 persons. For shrimp for 4, you need 1 1/4 pound head off, shelled.
Vegetables Equal weight of vegetables as meat: 1/3 onion, 1/3 green peppers, 1/3 red/ orange/ yellow peppers
Marinade and finishing sauce, recipes follow

Additional items needed to serve 4:

tortillas- 4 per person, 2 as wraps and 2 as bread. Flour is traditional, but I include corn as well as flour.
Lettuce wrap: nowadays, you can also offer whole romaine or large iceberg lettuce leaves, as carb-conscious folks will make lettuce wraps.
grated cheese- 1/4 cup=1 ounce, per person: For 100, 2 tbsp=3 lb 2 oz= 3 1/4 quarts minimum; I would double
guacamole- 1/4 cup per person
pico de gallo/ salsa- 4 tablespoons per person is 7 pounds or 6 1/2 quarts for 100
tomatoes, diced fresh- 2-4 tablespoons per person; per 100 people, 4 tablespoons is 13 pounds
shredded lettuce- 1 to 2 ounces per person
sour cream- 2 tablespoons per person is 6 1/2 pounds or about 13 cups per 100

It is usual to serve with whole beans such as borracho beans and rice, 8 pounds of each dry per 100..

Here is a pretty good recipe for the marinade:

Meat marinade for 1 pound fajita meat with Finishing Sauce for Grilled Vegetables

Marinade:
1/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup water or beer
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke (DO NOT OMIT , especially if you are cooking inside!)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine lime juice, water, oil, garlic, soy sauce, salt, Liquid Smoke, cayenne pepper, black pepper and either the sirloin or the chicken (don't mix meats in the bags!) in a container or zipper plastic bag, cover and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. Make sure all surfaces of meat are covered.
Remove from marinade and discard marinade. If desired, rub on steak rub or fajita seasoning. Grill meat as described above. Cut meat into thin strips. Set aside and keep warm- save juices

Finishing sauce and vegetables:
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
scant black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, sliced thin
1 green pepper, sliced thin strips after grilling or before frying
1 red pepper, sliced thin strips after grilling or before frying
1 yellow pepper, sliced thin strips after grilling or before frying

Combine the 2 tablespoons water, soy sauce, lime juice, salt, pepper and olive oil. Set aside.
Cook onion and peppers in oil until brown. Remove from heat. Pour reserved finishing sauce mixture over onions and peppers.
Combine meat, meat juices, onions and peppers. Serve with tortillas, grated cheese, guacamole, tomatoes and lettuce. Rice and whole beans are the traditional side dishes.

FAQ's

Yes, it does make a difference if you use lime juice instead of lemon.

Fajitas are designed to be served as they are cooked, and do not hold very well. If you must hold, consider carne guisada, or a taco bar.

Shrimp fajita-style is another option and yes, you DO marinate the shrimp, but only 2 to 4 hours.

Tex Mex Bridal Buffet with Fajitas: Sample Menu

Chicken and Steak Fajitas-Tender Strips of Chicken Breast and Skirt Steak Served with Sautéed Onions and Peppers
Other options could include one or two of the following:
  • Enchiladas
  • Tamales
  • Carne Asada - marinated flank steak
  • Chicken - cumin and citrus marinated breast
  • Al Pastor (pork) - in a spicy anchiote marinade
  • Lamb - Borrego - chile spice rub
  • Shrimp or Rock Shrimp - marinated in lime
  • White fish - grilled or fried with vinegar slaw and poblan oor chimichurri sauce
  • Vegetarian option - portabello mushroom and/or firm tofu, marinated and grilled

Fajita toppings: Shredded Lettuce, Diced Tomato, Fresh Cilantro, Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream, Black Olives, Jalepeno Peppers, Guacamole if not used as an appetizer, and Salsas
Corn and flour tortillas, optional whole romaine leaves for lettuce wraps
Spanish Rice with Minced Vegetables and Spices
Refried Beans Topped with jack Cheese

Appetizers could include:

  • fruit platters with lime and red chile
  • Chunky Salsa with white and Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
  • Fresh Guacamole Dip with white and Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
  • Mexican cheese platter
  • Queso dip or variations
  • Savory empanadas

Optional salads could include:

  • Texas Caviar or Black Bean Salad
  • Mixed green salad with a choice of ranch or vinegarette dressing
  • Fruit platters if not used as appetizers

Specialty beverages might include agua fresca or hibiscus punch

Desserts might include

  • tres leches cake,
  • flan,
  • sopapillas or bunuelos,
  • churros,
  • Mexican wedding cookies
  • sweet empanadas
 
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