Click to enlarge - A Southwest favorite, sizzling hot fajitas in their signature pan.

Chicken Fajitas

From Scratch

In the heyday of the Texas open range, cowboys and vaqueros herded the cattle for the ranchers. Part of the pay to some vaqueros was the less desirable parts of butchered steers. Notably, the skirt steak, tough and fibrous meat from low on the flank, was called faja by the vaqueros. Cut thin, marinated and then grilled, the fajitas (little fajas, if you will) were delicious but remained in the kitchens of the ranch hands - sort of vaquero soul food. In the 1970s, Ninfas Restaurant in Houston, Texas started offering an updated fajita dish on the menu. Its popularity spread rapidly and soon was a staple of TexMex menus all over the United States. Southwestern food hadnt been the same since. Original fajitas were beef, of course. But the fajita style has come to include chicken and seafood with excellent taste results.

This recipe is a nice variation on the flavor theme of fajitas. In the original fajitas, marinated meat is grilled over coals. The cooking gives a smoky, outdoor flavor to the other Southwestern flavors imparted by the marinade. In this recipe, it is assumed that the meat is cooked in a pan and the Liquid Smoke is added to make up for the lack of real smoke. If you are going to grill the meat and vegetables, omit the Liquid Smoke .

Preparation Time :1 hour 30 minutes

Serves 3 to 4 persons

Life Experience Recipe

  • 1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breast halves, cut in strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pat's Southwestern Blend Chili Powder*
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 green Bell pepper, seeded and cut in strips
  • 1 large onion, cut in strips
  • 12 large flour tortillas, warmed
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke, optional as noted above
  • 1 red Bell pepper, seeded and cut in strips
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • Prepared Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  1. In a small bowl, mix coriander, oregano, cumin, salt, chili powder and garlic. In a closeable plastic bag, mix lime juice and 2 tablespoons oil (and Liquid Smoke, if used).
  2. Dredge chicken strips in the spice mixture and then place in bag with lime juice. After all the chicken pieces have been dredged, add remaining spice to marinade liquid. Close bag almost all the way so air is pushed out and liquid surrounds the chicken pieces, Add additional lime juice, if necessary. Turn frequently. Marinate for at leqst 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator,
  3. In a hot, well seasoned cast-iron frying pan or griddle, add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Fry chicken strips, turning frequently to avoid sticking, until cooke through, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan to plate.
  4. Add onions and Bell peppers to the pan (additional oil may be needed) and cook until peppers and onions are tender, about 4 minutes. Return chicken strips to the pan and heat through, about 1 minute longer.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in diced tomato.
  6. You can make the dish up at the stove but the hot, sizzlig frying pan placed on a trivot in the center of the table, lets everyone make their own fajita burritos. Don't forget to squeeze a fresh cut lemon over the hot dish just as you set it on the table.
  7. Place about 1/2 cup of the chicken and pepper mixture in the center of a warmed tortilla. Add dollops of guacamole and sour cream to taste. Warap tortilla to make a burrito.

Serve with red or yellow Spanish rice and refried beans to make a complete Southwestern dinner just like at the downtown restaurant.

Pat's Southwestern Blend Chili Powder is a special blend made by my sister, Pattie Knapp. It adds jalapeo flavor to the more prosaic red chili powder blends. Replace with an equal amount of your favorite chili powder blend.

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Latest revision done July 2009
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