My Favorite Fajitas

Recipe courtesy Christopher Styler, Smokin', HarperCollins, 2004
TOTAL TIME: 4 hr 55 min
Prep: 15 min
Inactive Prep: 4 hr
Cook: 40 min
YIELD: 4 servings
LEVEL: Difficult

ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Smoked Skirt Steak, recipe follows
  • MARINADE:
    ACCOMPANIMENTS:
    • Kosher salt
    • 8 flour tortillas
    • Smoky-Spicy Salsa, recipe follows, or your own favorite homemade or store-bought salsa, for serving
    • Sour cream, for serving
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    • Print Recipe

    Directions

    Smoke the skirt steak according to the directions below.

    To make the marinade: while the steak is cooling, toast the cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the constantly so they don't burn or stick, just until they are fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let them cool, Squeeze the juice from the limes into 1-gallon heavy plastic resealable bag. Add the cumin seeds, garlic, salt, and the pepper flakes and swish the marinade around to dissolve the salt. Slip the cooled steaks into the marinade, press out most of the air from the bag, and seal the bag very tightly. Refrigerate the beef for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day, turning the bag several times.

    To prepare the accompaniments, heat the vegetable oil in a large, deep, skillet over medium heat. Stir in the red onions and cook, stirring often, until they are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the green peppers and cook until they are wilted enough t make room for the red peppers. Add the red peppers, season the vegetables lightly with salt and adjust the heat to low. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 20 minutes. The vegetables can be prepared several hours in advance. Reheat them over low heat just before serving.

    To prepare the fajitas indoors: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil. Reheat the vegetables if necessary. Drain the steak well and discard the marinade. Heat a lightly oiled large grill pan or heavy skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Cook the steak, turning once, just until seared on both sides, about 5 minutes. At this point the steak will be about medium-rare. Turn off the heat and continue cook in the hot pan for a more well-done steak. Remove the steak from the skillet to a carving board and let it rest about 5 minutes. Pop the tortillas into the oven and let them warm while the steak is resting.

    To prepare the fajitas on a charcoal or gas grill: Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil. Reheat the vegetables if necessary, using a corner of the grill if there is room. Drain the steak well and discard the marinade. Cook the steak on the hottest part of the grill until both sides are well browned, about 6 minutes. The steak at this point will be about medium-rare, move the steak to a cooler part of the grill and continue to cook it for a more well-done steak. Remove the steak to a carving board and let it rest about 5 minutes. Set the tortilla on a moderately hot part of the grill and let them warm, turning once or twice, while the steak rests.

    To serve: Cut the steak crosswise into thin slices and pile the slices on a serving plate. Serve the vegetables directly from the skillet or scoop them into a serving bowl. Pass the tortillas, salsa, sour cream, steak, and vegetables around the table and let everyone dress their own fajitas as they like.

    Smoked Skirt Steak:
    1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons hickory, alder or oak wood chips, soaked
    1 (1 to 1 1/4-pound) skirt steak, halved crosswise
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper or 2 teaspoons Southwestern Rub, recipe follows

    Prepare stovetop smoker with soaked wood chips according to manufacturers’ instructions.
    Trim any excess fat from the surface of the steak and cut the steak in half crosswise.
    Season the skirt steak with a generous rubbing of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper or Southwestern rub.
    One end of the steak will be considerably thinner and cook faster than the other half. If you would like to cook both halves to the same doneness, add the thinner pieces to the smoker after the thicker pieces have been smoking for about 8 minutes. If you are not planning to finish the steak on the grill as described above, smoke the halves until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each half registers 125 degrees F. for a medium-rare steak, about 24 minutes after closing the smoker lid, longer for more well done steaks. (Skirt steaks are a little tricky to check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer. Poke the thickest part of the steak with the thermometer in a few places, aiming for the center of the steak.) If you do plan to grill the steak after smoking, cook the steaks to a temperature of 100 to 105 degrees F, which will take about 18 minutes. The steaks can be smoked up to 2 days before grilling them.
    Yield: 4 servings

    Smoky-Spicy Salsa:
    8 smoked Plum Tomatoes, recipe follows
    1 large poblano or 3 jalapenos, stemmed and finely diced
    1/2 small red onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
    3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    Kosher salt

    Smoke the tomatoes according to the directions below. Cool them to room temperature.
    Peel off as much of the skins as will come off easily. Chop the tomatoes coarsely and toss them together with the chiles, red onion and cilantro in a bowl. Season with salt to taste. The salsa improves if it stands at room temperature for about half an hour before serving. You can refrigerate the salsa for up to one day. Bring it to room temperature and drain off any liquid before serving.
    Yield: 3 cups

    Smoked Plum Tomatoes:
    2 tablespoons hickory or mesquite wood chips, soaked
    8 plum tomatoes
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Prepare stovetop smoker with soaked wood chips according to manufacturers’ instructions.
    Cut the cored from the tomatoes with a paring knife then cut the tomatoes in half through the core end. Squeeze out the seeds and juice. Line the tomato halves side by side and cut side up on the smoking rack.
    Season the cut side of the tomatoes with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.

    Smoke until the tomatoes are softened, but not mushy; 10 minutes over the heat after closing the smoker lid and about 20 minutes off the heat with the smoker lid closed.
    Check the tomatoes for doneness after they've been standing off the heat for 10 minutes.
    Serve smoked tomatoes as a side dish with just about any grilled or roasted meat, or seafood dish.
    Yield: 4 servings

    Southwestern Rub:
    3 whole dried cayenne chiles or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    2 tablespoons coriander seeds
    4 tablespoons cumin seeds
    2 teaspoons kosher salt

    Snap the stems off the dried peppers, if using them. For a milder rub, tap out and discard the seeds. Crumble all the peppers into a small saucepan and add the coriander and cumin seeds. Toast the mix over low heat, stirring constantly, until the seeds are lightly browned and little wisps of smoke rise from the pan. Pour the spices onto a plate and cool them to room temperature. Grind them to a powder in a spice mill. Store the rub in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place for up to two weeks.
    Yield: 4 tablespoons

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