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Cooking on deadline: steak fajitas

 

Steak fajitas area easy to make. Use different color peppers for visual appeal.

Steak fajitas area easy to make. Use different color peppers for visual appeal. Photo by: Sarah E. Crowder via AP

 

Katie Workman/The Associated Press

 

 

This year I'm looking to shake up the Super Bowl gathering a bit. Normally, a pot of chili anchors our party, but this year I'm thinking fajitas. They are customizable, have lots of visual appeal, and will definitely fuel the armchair athletes as they offer their unsolicited advice to the television. 

 

Fajitas are surprisingly easy to make, especially if you use a pre-made fajita seasoning or some other Mexican seasoning blend. I use red onions because I like the way they add even more color to the dish, but if you have yellow or white onions, no problem, use them. For more color, use two different color peppers. And don't shy away from a tiny bit of sugar, which just enhances the caramelization of the vegetables. If you want a little more heat, you could either use two jalapenos or stick with one but leave some of the seeds in (that's where almost all of the heat is in a hot pepper). 

 

Tempting though it might be, don't skip the part where you warm your tortillas in the pan. This adds flavor, those nice brown spots bringing out a toasty wheat taste, and also makes the tortillas more pliable. It takes only a few minutes, and I think it makes the meal. If you want to toast them before cooking the meat, that's also a fine order of events -- then you might want to heat them for about 20 seconds in the microwave once the meat is cooked up. 

 

Multiply the recipe as needed, but don't crowd the pan when cooking the vegetables and meat -- especially the meat, which needs to brown as it cooks. Cook the meat in batches. 

 

If you want to make this meal just that much more special and restaurant-like, pick up more than one kind of salsa -- maybe a green tomatillo version and a tomato-based red-style jar. And go to town with the rest of the toppings; assembling the perfect fajita is part of the pleasure of this meal. 

 

 

 

STEAK FAJITAS 

 

Start to finish: 45 minutes 

 

Serves 4 

 

 

 

2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided 

 

2 red onions, halved and sliced 

 

2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced 

 

1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped 

 

1 teaspoon sugar 

 

1 pound fajita-sliced beef strips 

 

1 tablespoon taco, fajita or Mexican seasoning blend 

 

1 lime, halved 

 

10 6-inch flour tortillas 

 

 

 

To serve (pick and choose): 

 

Salsa (maybe more than one) 

 

Crumbled queso fresco, or another white, crumbly Mexican cheese (feta works too, in a pinch), or shredded Mexican-blend cheese 

 

Sour cream 

 

Lime wedges 

 

Fresh cilantro leaves 

 

Avocado slices or guacamole 

 

 

 

  • In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers and jalapeno, sprinkle the sugar over them, season with salt and pepper, and saute for 8 to 10 minutes until fairly tender. Remove all the cooked vegetables to one half of a serving platter. 

     

  • Return pan to medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add beef strips, sprinkle with the seasoning, and saute for 5 minutes, until beef is cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer beef to the other half of the serving platter. Tent with foil to keep warm. 

     

  • Carefully clean the hot pan and return it to medium-high heat. Make sure pan is clean and dry before warming the tortillas, one at a time, for 15 to 20 seconds on each side until browned in spots and slightly fragrant. Transfer tortillas to a plate as they are warmed, and keep them covered with a clean dishtowel to keep them warm. 

     

  • Remove foil and dishtowel, and squeeze the juice of the lime halves over the meat and vegetables. Serve beef and vegetables with tortillas and assorted toppings, and let everyone fill their own fajitas.

     

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