Fajitas…one of the great discoveries from south of the border.
Also known as skirt steak.
Skirt steak is a thin, long cut of beef from the diaphragm muscles of the cow.
I have no frickin’ idea where grocery stores came up with “chicken fajitas”…there is no such thing on a chicken. Made up bullshit by greedy grocery chains to get in on the hot sales of beef fajitas…It’s like selling beef gizzards or wings.
Fajitas done right are a joy unbounded to the palate.
The ways to prepare fajitas vary as many as those who eat them.
Fajitas got really big in the seventies, and then the price went up. Before then, butchers just ground up the skirt steak, or practically gave it away, as it by itself, requires some work to make them edible.
I will not profess myself as a fajita expert, as any of us who prepare them, claim that status.
A couple of preparations are necessary for delicious, tender fajitas.
First of all, in my more youthful days, I was told by a butcher that there are two types of beef skirts; inside and outside. One is more meaty than the other, and I am still unclear as to which is which. We will assume that we buy the more meaty version at our butcher or grocer.
All fajitas need to be trimmed, except those that come pre-marinated. They are usually somewhat trimmed, marinated, and ready for the grill.
Plain Jane fajitas are a flat cut of meat, that can be very long, and usually no more than 12 inches wide. If your fajitas are fresh out of butcher shop, they will need to be trimmed.
The fat will need to come off, and on one side, there is a thin membrane that must be removed to attain the desired tenderness.
It’s tricky, and takes some diligence, but your patience will be rewarded. The membrane can be peeled off, if we are lucky. If not, which is usually the case, the membrane must be carefully cut off, removing as little of the meat as possible. Sometimes, if one can get under the membrane on the end of the cut, one can peel and cut it off the entire hunk of meat.
If the membrane is not removed, when you take a bit of your fajita taco, the entire piece will likely come out of your taco. That would be bad.
Once the membrane is removed, then cut off all the fat that is around the edges. The less fat, the less chance of a flare up on your grill, like any other cut of beef.
If your cut is thick enough, you can slice the meat, making two thin fajita steaks. It’s difficult and kinda dangerous. You will need a very sharp knife, and careful cutting to make it as even as possible.
This thin fajita is what the best Mexican restaurants use for their botana platters.
If you buy the pre marinated fajitas, you take what you get; thick or thin, and just cook them as is. The pre marinated fajitas sold here have excellent flavor, but frequently still have a lot of fat and the membrane on.
Your butcher will gladly run your fresh fajitas through a tenderizer (like a cube steak); perhaps for a small fee or not. This definitely helps with the trimming as well.
This brings us to the bazillion fajita marinade recipes…we all have one, and whatever works, that’s what we use.
It’s important in your marinade to add something that contains papain; a naturally occurring enzyme that eats protein. It comes from the papaya fruit.
Pure papaya juice looks like a jar of snot.
Adolph’s meat tenderizer contains papain, which is a derivative of the fruit. It does not, however, dissolve the membrane.
Also, fresh squeezed lime juice has some tenderizing properties that will help tenderize your meat.
Beer is frequently used in the marinade; not for tenderizing purposes, but as a carrier for other flavors added in the marinade…beer can also add its own flavor…don’t over do the beer.
A certain employer for whom I used to work, used to allow bbq at the office after work on Fridays. A group of us would collect donations from those wanting to participate in these festive weekend send off gatherings. Sometimes two grills would be used to cook the meat.
In those days, we experimented on many concoctions of marinades to make our bbq tender and flavorful.
I used to have a Tupperware cake server, which probably held 2 gallons, and we would prepare our meat on Wednesday, and soak it for two days.
Store bought bbq sauce, a beer, fresh squeezed lime were common; Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, orange juice were also attempted in search of the best marinade.
I have learned that simple is better.
BBQ sauce will burn on a hot grill; no way around it. If you use it, dilute it with beer.
The most important tenderizing ingredient is the papain.
I have put so much papain in fajita marinades that the fajitas literally fell apart while turning them on the grill.
One can over do anything.
Pure papaya juice is hard to find at a run-of-the-mill grocery store. I bought some off Ebay a couple years ago…it’s over rated. You may find papaya juice with pineapple juice; pineapple also has some enzyme in it that will aid in tenderizing…don’t over do it as pineapple juice also contains a lot of sugar.
I stay with Adolph’s(unseasoned), and apply it to both sides of the meat, and rub it in. Then I let it sit at room temp for 30 minutes or so, to get it working.
Certainly, it can be frozen and grilled later. I believe it still benefits from sitting in the fridge a day or two, letting the enzymes do their work.
One can drown the fajitas with multiple additions of various flavors, then drain it all before grilling; hoping that the marinade did its job, and that’s what it’s for.
Pour a beer into a container with some bbq sauce, and brush on before removing from grill.
X does not use pepper in any marinade as it will burn. Lemon pepper is an exception to that rule for the Italian dressing chicken recipe.
X avoids salt in the marinade, as well as garlic for beef marinades; pork is different, and thus requires extensive added spices to make it palatable.
X never uses any “bottled” marinades or store bought dry rubs…make your own.
A Food Saver is an excellent tool to force marinade beef, as it removes the oxygen, and squishes said marinade into the meat. Not my invention, but will capitalize on the idea.
The really good botana platters, will have an abundance of char broiled thin sliced fajitas, tostadas with refried beans, melted cheddar cheese, sliced jalepenos, tortilla chips, envueltos, entomadas, flautas, guacamole, and a side of hot flour tortillas, and couple types of various temperature salsas.
I have seen 24″ serving platters piled high with such goodies, but the beef fajitas are the key.
My newly discovered local grocery store had a cry-o-vac of beef fajitas for $5/lb.
This pic shows part of the membrane that must be removed
This is all of what I bought before trimming
The first piece trimmed
All the rest trimmed
I saved a couple of smaller pieces, and froze them for later.
I rubbed Adolph’s original on both sides, and rubbed it in.
I then squeezed a fresh lime on both sides, and rubbed it in.
I placed them in a 2 gallon ziploc bag, and then added a can of papaya pineapple juice, then stuck in fridge.
We have guests coming for dinner tomorrow, and we’ll be serving a botana.
Hopefully, I’ll remember to get a pic before we chow down.