Grilled Tequila Fajitas

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I've been hankering for fajitas for a couple of weeks now, and with the long weekend (plus the official start of Grilling Season), I figured it was time. Fajitas are another thing that have their roots from the vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) that worked the ranches in the Southwest and the Southern half of California. Back in the day, part of their pay was some of the less desirable bits of cow like skirt steak (and surprisingly) tri-tip. So, they had to get creative and find ways to make that stuff edible, and hopefully flavorful. It also means it's time to break out the ol' Weber, which is just fine by me. In fact, we're going to cook all of the main dish on the grill, not counting any beans and/or rice you might want. I didn't think about the latter until it was too late, but ultimately they're just stretching the meal for more people anyway.

 

Minus any sides, we're going to say this serves six, but anywhere from 6-8 if you have teenagers.  More if you include sides – refried beans and Spanish rice are the most appropriate

Fajitas

Note the completely inappropriately-sized tortillas.

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Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 268
Servings Per Container 8

Amount Per Serving
Calories 353 Calories from Fat 110.7
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12.3g 19%
Saturated Fat 2.9g 15%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 102mg 34%
Sodium 77mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 6.8g 2%
Dietary Fiber 8.6g 34%
Sugars 1.4g
Protein 42.4g 85%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

First, nutritional information for this recipe is based on 2lbs of tri-tip.  If you're using a different cut, values may vary, especially based on the fat content of the steak.  I'm also not accounting for any toppings, or side-dishes.  So, your mileage may vary.

Fajitas are actually pretty crazy easy, but the secrets lie in how you marinade the meat, and how you cook it.  I'm going to split up the cooking part into two methods, but the marinade is common so let's start there.

First, though, I should mention that not all marinades start out as "oh, hells yeah", so sometimes a little faith is in order.  This one, for example, starts out life smelling like one of those hole-in-the-wall bars full of same locals you'll see every time you go.

It smells like tequila and angst.  But unlike that bar, it gets better with age.

 Also unlike that bar, you probably want to drown your sorrows, er, steak, in a decent tequila.  I used Sauza Commemorativo Anejo.  Granted, that's a little posh, but we're talking about a 1/2 cup of agave juice – which means there's plenty left for some kick-ass margaritas.  Plus, I don't go through a lot of tequila (long story, but the short version is that I spent too many weekends in Tijuana from ages 18-21) so I only keep one bottle around.

And with that warning, here we go:  Take your 1/2 cup of tequila and put that in a bowl.  Add worchestershire sauce, the squezins of half a lime, chili flakes, pepper, garlic, and cumin.  Then slowly add your olive oil while whisking vigorously.  Mixing in the oil last will help make a more homogeneous.  Why?  I dunno.  I'm sure Alton Brown can tell you.  Anyway… put in a few drops of Cholula sauce (or equivalent) if you like too.  Give it all a little extra whisking for good measure.

  • 1/2 cup decent tequila
  • 1/2 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 5-6 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a couple of drops Cholula or other hot sauce (optional)

And…like I said: tequila and angst. But a little bit of that dangerous spice you might find on a "Saturday night special" thrown in, too.  Again, trust me.  It'll all mellow out.

About the same time, get some oak chips and soak them in water.  You'll want them for the grill later.

Once the marinade is done. well…it's time to marinade the meat.  I finally got around to having Kat show me how to use the vacuum sealer, so that's my favorite toy right now.  Ziploc bags work well too.  Poke some holes in your meat, bag it, and squish everything around before stuffing it in the fridge for a couple of hours.  Squish the bag around once in a while too, if you think about it.

marinaded meatOnce the time is up, you'll have a bunch of meat covered in garlicy goodness.  There'll still be some of that booze smell, but that'll cook off.  Do try and save a little of that marinade 

I'm also using a tri-tip, so if you're not, try and imagine several steaks sitting in the pan.  I would highly suggest you don't try and put a skirt steak on a rotisserie.  I mean, you can, but you shouldn't.

Before we go any further, it's time to address the veg.  If you're using skirt steak especially, you'll want to have them ready before you start cooking since you'll be busy.

Traditional veg is peppers, onions, and tomatoes, and there's really no reason to change that. And, you can use all green peppers if you like, but mixing them up adds a nice color interest, and each kind of bell pepper has a slightly different flavor, which you'd notice if you tried the dishes side-by-side.  Today, I used one each: green, yellow, orange, and red.  It made for a nice color (and flavor) balance, so I'll say do that.  Cut the peppers in half, de-seed and de-vein, and then slice into ~1/4" strips.  Half the strips so they're a bit more manageable when you're trying to eat them. Tomatoes, likewise slice lengthwise (but there's no reason to halve them). Your onion – normally you'd slice against the grain so you get small pieces, but today, cut with the grain so it's nice and chunky. I'll post a pic of the veg in a bit so you can see what I mean.  Put all that in a bowl, and add a little of the marinade that you saved earlier.

Now set up the grill.  Yay, fire!  While the coals are getting hot, take all your veg and wrap it in aluminum foil.  I buy 18" (vs 12") foil for this sort of thing, and also because it covers my casserole in one piece.  Anyway, Wrap it up good so the foil burrito won't fall apart. When the coals are ready, add your wood chips, drop the grate and cook.  If you're doing rotisserie, also drop the grate, since you'll need it later.


Rotisserie: let it spin right round, baby right round until it hits about 100-110 degrees.  Put the veg burrito on the grate, and turn it over when the steak hits about 120 – and take the steak off at this point since it wants to rest and the internal temp will continue to rise.  Flip the veg a couple times while the meat rests.


Steaks:  It depends on the steak: you may want to put the veg on the grill along with the steak, and flip the veg when you flip the steak.


In both cases, watch the veg for hot and cold spots, and flip accordingly.

Steak will look like steak, and veg will look something like this:

Grilled fajita veggies

Slice the steak into strips against the grain.  If you're using tri-tip, consider slicing those strips long-wise as well.  Serve with components separately, along with tortillas, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.  Let everyone assemble their own.  Also, don't be an idiot like me, and use 6" tortillas.  Refried beans and Spanish rice make good sides.

Aaaand the shopping list:

  • ~2 pounds steak
  • 1/2 cup decent tequila
  • 1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a few drops hot sauce (optional)
  • green pepper
  • red pepper
  • yellow pepper
  • orange pepper (or some combination of the above)
  • 2-3 roma tomatoes
  • large onion
  • big aluminum foil
  • bbq wood chips