Fajitas - Probably not "real" mexican but I like them but can't reproduce them

Discussion in 'Recipes' started by rutledj, May 23, 2011.

  1. rutledj

    rutledj

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    I really enjoy the fajitas you get at Mexican restaurants.  There may be nothing authentic about them but I do enjoy them. I have tried to reproduce them using many bottled or dry mixes for the marinade but can not come close at all to what they taste like in the restaurant.

    Does anyone have any insight as to how to recreate this dish at home?

    Thanks

    Rut
     
  2. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, if you have a particular restaurant version you like, say so.

    Most commercial fajita marinades/packets have a lot of sugar, some soy. An acidic agent and so on.

    If you used some chopped onion, garlic, some chile powder and then add some oil and a carbonated lemon-lime soda and some soy sauce you'd probably be pleased with the result.

    I think you'd like it better however to mix up a pibil style marinade and used that. You'll need to go to a latin market and find two products

    Naranja Agria, I usually get the Goya brand, looks like this http://www.latinmerchant.com/productdetail.asp?ProductID=SCM0013

    achiote paste http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/images/achiotepaste_300.jpg

    Something along these lines:

    2 cups of bitter orange juice (naranja agria) or substitute (1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup grapefruit juice, 1/2 cup lime juice and 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar)

    2 tablespoons seasoned achiote paste
    5 garlic cloves, charred, broiled or toasted and then peeled
    1 teaspoon oregano
    1/4 teaspoon cumin, ground
    1/2 teaspoon coriander, ground
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
    1 onion, roughly chopped (grilled/roasted preferred)

    Dissolve the achiote in the naranja agria, add the rest of the ingredients it will settle out so you'll need to agitate the meat and marinade occasionally. This is pretty darn acidic so don't marinade too long.
     
  3. supercool

    supercool

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    that sounds really good!!
     
  4. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    To the best of my knowledge, fajitas is TEXican food that was adopted by Mexican restaurants.  I thougth it was invented in South Texas.  No matter, the best fajitas I have ever had were in rural south Texas.

    When I make them at home I use flap meat and Goya Mojo Criollo marinade.  http://www.goya.com/english/recipes/steak-fajitas.html?list=1

    Rather than using adobo for heat, I just add ground chile to the marinade.  Also, I supplement the marinade with a secret ingredient used by the fajita masters in SoTX -- lemon-lime soda.
     
  5. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    p.s.  do NOT use diet soda... only the sugary kind will work well.
     
  6. mavenfoodscater

    mavenfoodscater

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    Thank you, sounds good!

    I'm going to try soon!
     
  7. benrias

    benrias

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    Hey there!  There are a bunch of different ways to make great fajitas at home.  Here are a couple of tips that will help you:

    1)Most importantly to get the right taste, you need to use the proper cooking technique.  To do the technique correctly in your home kitchen, prepare yourself for a smoky house and a slightly splattered stove-top.  So have your vent flowing and/or your windows/doors open--and be ready to fan your smoke alarms with towels if they are sensitive.  Also, use a heavy cast iron pan or skillet so you have the best heat retention possible.  

    Place the pan over high heat until it is very hot (usually when it starts to smoke, it is ready.)  Now take only a few pieces of your chopped meat and veg and throw it into the pan.  Toss the meat and vegetables around until cooked to your desired temperature (medium-rare, for instance.)  Then remove those pieces from the pan and let rest, covered loosely with tin foil, in a separate dish.  Be sure to get as much of the food out of the pan as possible to prevent them from becoming burnt and making their way to your dining table.  While this first batch of meat is resting, repeat the process with another small handful of meat/vegetables.  

    By cooking your fajitas in these very small batches in a very hot pan, you allow any moisture from the meat/veg to cook off quickly.  If you add too much food at one time, the meat won't brown well and instead cook as if you steamed the meat (light brown/gray in color with no dark browning.)  Don't be misled by the fact that restaurants serve you from a small skillet.  That is for presentation only.  Most likely, the meat was cooked on a very hot griddle (meat spread out so moisture is not an issue), or over an indoor grill; then, to serve, the meat is chopped and placed onto the small skillet that has been pre-heating under the broiler to give the dish that sizzle effect as it comes to the table.  In this case, you are simply making the "sizzle" during the cooking process.  

    2) Using the proper meat is also essential.  Refer to my article on Carne Asada for a brief overview on locating flap meat/skirt steak: http://www.cheftalk.com/wiki/mexican-food-recipes-carne-asada  Also, this article describes a basic dry rub marinade that adds a nice flavor without overwhelming the beefiness.  But to give you a baseline flavor to start with, why not start with salt and pepper only?  Then you can add more seasonings as you refine your fajitas.  To adjust the recipe in the article for fajitas, simply cut the meat into 1 to 1 1/2" strips prior to cooking.  If you are fortunate enough to have a quality Mexican grocery store nearby, they will normally have meat that is pre-marinaded and pre-chopped for you.  So just add your desired vegetables at home and you are ready to cook!

    I prefer to not add citrus juices to my fajitas until after the meat is cooked.  I use it more like a seasoning right before eating by adding just a few squeezes across my meat.  The citrus cooking at those temperatures give the meat a slightly odd flavor IMO, probably due to concentrating the acid.  But if you have a great recipe that calls for juices prior to cooking, go for it!  There are bunches of ways to make great fajitas, and finding the one you like best is half the fun!
     
  8. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    One of the better fajita dinners I've had was in a small town in the middle (I think) of south Texas.  They cooked the skirt steak with just salt, pepper, and smoke/char from an open oak fire.  Home-made corn tortillas were served and the accompaniments were nothing more than a decent salsa and lime wedges.  Pinto beans on the side and beer to wash it all down.

    Indeed, there are many varients of fajitas and just plain are really good too.
     
  9. rutledj

    rutledj

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    I finally gave this try tonight. Close to what I'm looking for but not quite there. I'm not real sure what flavor the achiote paste contributed.
    The Goya juice seemed to add the most flavor.  I'll keep tweaking and testing.

    Thanks
     
  10. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    That's some astute tasting there. Achiote is quite bland. Provides a dramatic color though. But it does add a vegetal supporting flavor. I suspect you'd notice the difference without it. You can only get the flavor out of achiote with a fairly strong acid, thus the goya naranja agria.

    You might try pumping up the oregano, cumin and some pure ground chile powder (not the spice mix for chili), something like ground New Mexico chile or California chile.