What’s up all you party people! It’s that time of the month. (No, not that time of the month). It’s time to learn how to cook something new.
This time we’re going back to basics with our recipes with an easy peasy, Level One fajita recipe. With less than 10 ingredients, you’ll be done in 30 minutes. If you’re feelin’ hungry, and want to try something new and simple for dinner, you’ve come to the right place.
When you haven’t cooked in a while or you’re new to cooking, sometimes just one simple, delicious recipe can get you in the game. You start to cook that, maybe a few times within a couple of weeks, and then you find a more adventurous recipe. The effect keeps snowballing, and before you know, you’re regularly cooking a few times a week and have an array of recipes in your arsenal.
Fajitas were that door-opening recipe for me. They were one of the first things that I learned how to cook when I was beginning to fend for myself in the kitchen, and they still make an appearance in my regular dinner rotation. They’re delicious, they make great left-overs, plus they look fairly impressive if you’re having people over. Just look at those colors!
So today you’re going to learn the basics of this classic, go-to recipe for entertaining friends on movie night, game night, or whatever it is you crazy kids do for fun.
Let’s get to it!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 1lb steak – flank or skirt steak works best. If you’re not a fan of beef or you’re on a budget, chicken thighs or breasts work great here too!
- 2 bell peppers – your choice of color
- 1 medium sized onion – I like red, but you can choose your favorite
- 2 tbsp olive oil (split into 1tbsp portions – one for marinade and one for cooking)
- juice from 2 lemons (or 3 limes)
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- butter lettuce (or tortillas if you’re not feelin’ paleo or you have non-paleo guests)
- pico de gallo
- cheese or sour cream (optional)
- cutting board
- mixing bowl
1. Make your sauce – Mix 1 tbsp of your olive oil with your lemon juice, red chile powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a decently sized mixing bowl (you’re gonna put the steak in there too).
2. Slice your steak against the grain -This is probably the MOST IMPORTANT tip in this whole recipe, so listen up! Slicing your steak against the grain will allow the steak to be more tender and tasty. If you slice your steak the wrong way, you’ll end up with long, stringy, chewy, and damn near inedible steak bits. You can still eat the steak, but your jaw will get a hell of a workout, and you’ll be sad.
“I thought there were no grains in Paleo! What do you mean slice against the grain?!”
Take a look at that handsome hunk of beef on your cutting board. You’ll notice that there are a bunch of lines in the meat that are all facing the same direction. This is what is called the “grain”. You’re going to want to slice your meat perpendicular to those lines in the steak. Here’s what that’ll look like:
In addition to slicing the meat against the grain, you’ll also want to slice it pretty thin. This is because we’re cooking this particular meat in a pan. If you slice it thin, you’ll be able to easily see when it’s cooked through, and the meat cooks quickly if it’s cut thin. You’re hungry. I’m hungry. Let’s hurry up and eat already.
I’m not going to get sciencey on you. I’m here to cook. If you want a nerdy, in-depth exploration of meat slicing theory, check out this post from the wonderful Alton Brown.
3. Put those steak slices in the sauce and mix it well to coat. Go ahead and mix it with your hands. Don’t be shy. Just make sure you wash your hands after.
Cover with plastic wrap or a plate or nothing at all and place your bowl of meat in your fridge – if you’re good at thinking ahead and marinading your meat ahead of time, you can leave this marinading for up to 4 hours. If you’re a last minute meal planner like myself, just keep the meat in the marinade while you’re prepping your other ingredients. This is long enough to help tenderize the meat and give it some flavor.
Don’t let recipes that require marinating deter you! Even 15-30 minutes is better than nothing.
4. Wash your knife and cutting board very well or switch them out. This is important! Nobody wants to make themselves sick with cross contamination. Some people even suggest keeping separate cutting boards for veggies and meats. Not a totally crazy idea since you’ll be 100% sure you’re not getting raw meat goo on your veggies!
5. Slice your onions and peppers. Do it like this:
Note: I chose my onion poorly. It was a flat tire/donut shape instead of a round/sphere shape. There wasn’t much for me to hold on to while cutting, which means my fingers and the knife were hanging out pretty close together as I was slicing. Choose a more spherical onion when you’re shopping for this recipe. You’ll have less of a chance of chopping your fingies. (It happens to the best of us – careful with that link if you’re squeamish.)
5. Heat up your skillet.
6. Once it’s hot, toss your veggies on the stove with 1tbsp olive oil. Cook 3-4 minutes until they’re a little bit soft and shiny. Remove from heat and set aside.
7. Let your skillet heat up again, and then toss your meat in. Now, don’t just dump the whole bowl of meat in the skillet. I did this and I ended up having to drain it – not hard, but always makes me go “uuuuugh”. Learn from my mistakes! Use your tongs to place it in there nicely. You’re not going to want to put that extra marinade in the pan or else your meat will sort of boil and take longer to cook.
Cook that for 5-10 minutes or until steak is cooked thoroughly. How do you know it’s cooked? It’ll change color from red/pink to brown.
8. Toss the veggies back in the pan and mix them up with the meat. (I probably should have used a bigger pan).
9. Serve on tortillas or butter lettuce cups with pico de gallo, salsa, guacamole, or whatever else your heart desires.
You made some damn tasty fajitas that look beautiful! Pat yourself on the back. Take a bow. You rock!
If you want your fajitas spicier, try adding red pepper flake or a dash of cayenne pepper into the marinade. Or you can pour on the hot sauce as a topping when you’re assembling.
If you’re a vegetarian, eliminate the meat and use portobello mushrooms or tempeh.
Need more calories or a side dish? Serve with some beans and rice. Or try a Mexican cauliflower rice.
Now I know some of you seasoned cooks might be offended by the fact that I cooked this recipe in a pan. It is summer-time in the northern hemisphere and that’s prime grillin’ season.
But this recipe is intended for all you level 1 folks out there. (Yes, you.) It only takes about 30 minutes and uses a new cook’s most basic skill set (cutting and cooking stuff in a pan). If you want to grill your fajita meat and veggies, be my guest! I know it’s delicious, but unfortunately not all of us have access to a grill. Plus, for beginner chefs: the possibility of under or over cooking increases significantly when cooking over an open flame.
Veterans of the kitchen, what tips did I miss to make this meal tastier for newbies?
- Do you have a secret fajita sauce recipe?
- Do you add an unconventional vegetable to your line-up that’s out of this world?
- Do you use shrimp instead of beef or chicken?
Do you do something different with fajitas, or just have a question about the recipe? See you in the comments!