Recipe courtesy of Adrian Davila

Beef Fajitas

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What we know as beef fajitas today is a cousin of beef arrachera, a dish that some believe originated with the vaqueros driving their herds to South Texas in the 1930s. The American counterpart frequently has a plethora of ingredients used to break down this typically tough cut of meat. This version contains few ingredients and is meant to be fully cooked, but not well done. It is ideal at medium (with a little pink). Using beer as part of the marinade indicates up front what this dish is tailored and made for -- parties, weddings, graduations and beyond.
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr (plus marinating, fire preparation and resting times)
  • Active: 2 hr
  • Yield: 15 to 20 servings (30 tacos)
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Pico de Gallo:

Fire-Roasted Tomato, Onion and Serrano Salsa:


Special equipment:
a wood or charcoal burning grill; a molcajete or blender
  1. Combine the beer, lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper, salt and garlic powder in a mixing bowl using a whisk and transfer to a resealable plastic bag that can fit all of the meat. Reserve 1 cup of the liquid for basting later on. Put the steak in the bag with the marinade. Seal, refrigerate and allow to marinate for 2 hours.
  2. Two hours before you'd like to start cooking, prepare the fire asado style. The cooking should be over medium-heat coals.
  3. Char the bell peppers over the open flame, turning until blackened on all sides. Put the charred peppers in a resealable plastic bag and allow them to steam for 10 minutes. Peel off the skin and remove the stems and seeds. Cut into thick strips or "rajas" about 1/2-wide and set aside.
  4. Take the meat out of the refrigerator and remove it from the marinade. Allow the meat to come to room temperature on a sheet tray or plate for about 30 minutes.
  5. Put the meat on the grill. Turn every 3 to 5 minutes and baste with the reserved marinade each time you turn. Continue this process until cooked to medium or 40 to 45 minutes, turning about 8 times. Be careful to control flare-ups. Remove the meat from the fire and allow it to rest for 10 to 12 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, grill the green onions, jalapenos, tomatoes and onion until they have a blackened edge, 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the steak from the grill and slice into thin strips across the grain in 3/4-inch-wide strips.
  8. Warm the tortillas in on a griddle or pan with a bit of lard over medium heat for 15 to 20 seconds on each side.
  9. Serve the steak with grilled onions, roasted pepper strips, sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced jalapenos and pillowy, freshly made, warmed tortillas. Top with avocado, Pico de Gallo and Fire-Roasted Tomato, Onion and Serrano Salsa.

Pico de Gallo:

Yield: 2 cups
  1. Combine the tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onions and lime juice in a medium bowl just before serving as this recipe is best when freshly prepared. Not intended for use the next day.

Fire-Roasted Tomato, Onion and Serrano Salsa:

Yield: 1 pint
  1. Prepare the fire: A coal fire is ready when burning with red coals; wood fires are ready when burning with red and white coals. (If it's white to ashes, you've burned too long.) Alternatively, you can use a broiler to approximate this recipe, turning the vegetables frequently until all sides are charred.
  2. Place each vegetable individually, whole, uncut and unpeeled, on the red coals. Turn the vegetables as needed when the skin blackens and caramelizes. Remove from the fire when all sides are blackened but before they are crisped or fully charred and burned, 3 to 6 minutes total, depending on the vegetable. Watch closely -- the smaller the vegetable, the less time it will take to cook. Remove the vegetables from the coals and set aside to cool. Do not refrigerate.
  3. Remove the charred skin of using a terry cloth. Working one at a time, place each vegetable in the middle of the cloth and gently rub the skin off. It is important that you do not rinse the vegetables, as rinsing will eliminate flavor. An alternative method is to cover the vegetables with plastic wrap and allow them to cool in the steam, and then peel by hand. Remove the stems from the peppers and from the tomatoes if needed. If you'd like a less spicy sauce, you can also remove some or all of the seeds from the peppers at this point.
  4. Put the vegetables in a molcajete (or blender, if you must) and mash until the vegetables are the desired salsa consistency (chunky or smooth.) If using the blender, pulse to the desired consistency.
  5. Season with cilantro and salt and serve.

Cook’s Note

If you can get your hands on one, the use of a molcajete lends a unique, slightly chunky texture that a blender or any other mechanized kitchen tool just can't deliver. Fire-Roasted Tomato, Onion and Serrano Salsa: This recipe exudes simplicity, because it's all about the method, which is practically primal, but requires a certain amount of finesse. Cooking directly on the coals imparts a different layer of flavor than straight grilling. You'll find it brings the sugars forward while caramelizing the onions and tomatoes, yet it also intensifies the spiciness of the serranos. "Se amargan si se queman," as my abuelo would always say -- "they're bitter if they burn," so watch carefully as you cook to blacken and caramelize the vegetables, but not fully char or burn them. I like to serve this dish with fajitas so that I can cook all the ingredients on the same fire, but it's great simply served with chips or as a topping for a favorite dish. Pico de Gallo: There are countless interpretations and variations of this condiment. From habaneros to mangoes, the ingredients can be from one's region or given a twist with types of fruit. This version is great with fajitas or for any grilled item because it is sweet, sour and spicy.

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