Do you think Audrey Hepburn ever dished on fajitas?
It seems like an inherently unladylike food; then again, would Audrey have eaten anything that could wind up on an Applebee’s menu?
Back to fajitas: the unsung staple of Tex-Mex cuisine which, in today’s era of newborn-sized burritos, snackable taquitos and any-meal appropriate quesadillas, the fajitas receive far too little love.
Sure, fajitas demand a little more attention. With tacos, we can just pop open a bag of shredded lettuce, chop some onions and tomatoes and call it a DIY assembly line. Fajitas need your finesse, your patience, your restraint. And I think that is something Ms. Hepburn could get behind.
If the number one gauge of femininity is the existence of at least one little black dress hanging in the closet, indicator number two is a big black cast iron skillet in the kitchen. It’s a badge of intelligence, resourcefulness and all around ability to get by in the world. If it’s the right one, it’ll last you a lifetime.
With your BCIS in hand, fajitas become a one-pan deal. Simplicity is elegance, even if adobo marinade dripping onto your plate is not. But the juxtaposition of the two is endearing. Work with it.
Next time you throw a soiree in your studio apartment, or the Paul Varjak in your life shows up around mealtime, mix up more than just drinks. Even if it seems a little messy.
Cast Iron Chicken Fajitas
Makes ~4 servings. Some steps adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
For the chicken:
1.25 boneless chicken breast
1 lime, juiced (half if it’s on the large side)
1.5 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp adobo seasoning
1/2 tsp paprika
A few shakes of black pepper
For everything else:
Small flour/corn tortillas
2 large bell peppers (any color combo will do) cut into thin strips
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
Start by slicing the raw chicken breasts into thin strips (halve them lengthwise first if they’re on the thick side). Get those in a bowl with the lime juice, garlic and various seasoning. Remove your rings and bangles and dainty watches and mix this with your hands. If you want total coverage, it’s the only way. Let this marinate for at less half an hour (you could also do this step up to 48 hours in advance.)
With your skillet on the highest heat setting, coat the bottom in a thin layer of olive oil. When smoke starts rising up from the pan, add the peppers and arrange in a single layer. Let them just sit and char for a couple of minutes before you start flipping them around. Once they’re looking brown all around, add in the onions and a little bit of salt. Wait for the onions to get a little golden before putting your spatula to work again. When the onions are soft/sweet and the peppers charred, dump them into a separate bowl.
Heat the skillet again with a thin coat of oil and add the chicken strips (in a single layer, again, if possible.) Let them brown underneath for a few minutes before turning (noticing a pattern here…) Sauté until fully cooked, around 5 minutes.
Add the vegetables back in with the chicken until everything is sizzling. With appropriate hand protection, take the extremely hot pan to the table for a truly action-packed dining ambiance.
Serve with warmed tortillas, salsa and cheese. Without an assembly line.