I’m a little too fond of writing Olé Miss so it’s Tex-Mex once again for our annual game against the Rebel Black Bear Ack-Landsharks.
It’s my stupid little dad joke and while I may someday tire of it, that day is not today.
In fact, I’m very glad not to have tired of it because after trying the final product in all its South Western inspired glory, I’m looking askance at my long running distrust of marinades, especially ones with a particularly acidic component. Having suffered through one too many pieces of marinated meats that had their exterior mushified by acidity I swore off the whole idea, even of mildly acidic concoctions, opting to apply sauces at the end instead. This chicken has me considering a whole world of recipes I turned my back on.
If you flit about the internet looking at various chicken fajita recipes you’ll find a lot of purists casting shade at the idea of featuring anything but cow. While it’s true that originally fajitas were made with skirt steak exclusively, that bird, so to speak, has flown. Chicken, shrimp, even vegetable fajitas are now available and they aren’t going away because someone has a tiff online. They might as well be arguing that we call them “tacos al carbon,” one of the earlier names from when they were supposedly made only from skirt.
What I made and explained below is an original concoction with a bit gleaned from several different recipes and books. I’ve explained before on these electronic pages that I think authenticity is an odd shibboleth, especially when discussing traditional recipes likely to be made in millions of homes and hundreds or more restaurants. Imagine if you locked fifty grandmothers from Emilia-Romagna in a room and told them they had two hours to agree upon and write down precisely how to make a Bolognese sauce. You’d have chaos.
Traditional recipes share common traits, sure. But there are endless variations. This recipe may be completely original to a hobbyist cook in Birmingham, AL. It may accidentally be an exact recreation of the original chicken fajita. I like to think of it as a Platonic ideal, but I may be biased. In any case, it was made with ingredients that are familiar to Tex-Mex cooking and I thought it turned out pretty well.
- boneless chicken thighs, four medium sized
- green bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
- red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
- yellow bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
- yellow onion, sliced
- salsa or pico de gallo
- sour cream
For the marinade
- handful chopped cilantro
- juice of 2 limes
- 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. oregano
- ½ tsp. cayenne
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
I like to make my own salsa by adding two Roma tomatoes, a tomatillo, three cloves of garlic, a grip of cilantro, the juice of one or two limes, and a deseeded jalapeno to my food processor and turning this:
Of course I salt to taste before giving it a final pulse. But feel free to make or buy any salsa or pico de gallo you like.
Lay the chicken out on a board and one at a time, cover with a plastic bag or a bit of cling wrap and hammer to about one half inch thickness. Next take all the marinade ingredients and mix together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and coat well. Transfer the chicken and marinade to a zip loc bag, press as much air out as possible, seal, and put in the fridge for at least thirty minutes and preferably no longer than an hour.
If you haven’t done it before hand, now would be a good time to prep the peppers and onion.
Pull the meat from the fridge and lightly salt, remembering that there already is a little bit of salt in the marinade.
Cook the chicken at medium high to high heat to encourage a little blackening. At the same time, do the same thing with the peppers and onion with a pinch of salt.
Both should be ready after five to seven minutes. Cut into to the biggest piece of chicken to be sure.
Wrap some tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for twenty seconds.
Serve with Salsa/Pico de gallo, and sour cream and include any number of other traditional toppings - guacamole, shredded cheese - if you like.
Here’s to hoping there are no injuries to our starting center, no absurd bounce of the ball off our helmets into the hand of a free and clear receiver, considerably less than five turnovers allowed by us, and referees that are as well versed in the illegal man down field rule as our defensive backs.
I expect a pleasant evening.
Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.