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Recipe #46: Steak Fajitas with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Posted Feb 25 2009 12:00am

Just made this recipe tonight, from scratch. And boy, was it tasty!


Yes, this is a photo of tonight's dinner. :) We don't normally eat so much steak in a single week, but I needed to do something interesting with the remaining steak from the other night's dinner (of T'ibs We't ). Unless absolutely necessary, I'd much rather use fresh steak than frozen.

Steak Fajitas with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients (for steak fajitas):

1 Tbsp. (extra virgin) olive oil (used to season pan)
1/2 of a red onion, sliced into tiny crescent slivers
4-6 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 sliced rounds of jalapeño pepper (about 1/4 pepper), sliced & then finely diced
6 oz. flank or skirt cut of steak, sliced into 2-3" long vertical strips
salt & pepper to taste (to season the meat)
Mexican-style chili powder
Adobo seasoning (a mix of black pepper, Mexican oregano, cumin, & Cayenne pepper)
cumin powder (I like to add extra cumin! ;-) )
dried epazote leaves [Note: If you can't find these, it's OK to leave them out. Several (online) stores also carry this spice, including Penzeys Spices , & The Spice House , Spice It Up , Whole Spice , Gourmet Sleuth , Mountain Valley Growers , & Savory Spice Shop , among others.]
ground Cayenne pepper (Go easy on this spice!)

Tomatillo salsa (i.e., salsa verde):
4 whole tomatillos, husked & washed (to remove stickiness)
1/2 of a red onion, sliced into 2 wedges
2-3 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
remainder of jalapeño pepper, whole
lime juice, about 1 tsp.
chopped fresh cilantro, about 1/2 c.
kosher salt, to taste, about 1/2 tsp. or so

Condiments (for steak fajitas):
1 large vine-ripened tomato, diced
1 avocado, sliced into cubes
chopped fresh cilantro, reserve for garnish
flour tortillas

Directions:
1. Chop various ingredients as specified above for main meal, salsa, & condiments, putting each ingredient in a separate area/surface or bowl.
2. Season steak strips lightly with salt & pepper, Mexican-style chili powder, Adobo seasoning, cumin powder, dried epazote leaves, ground Cayenne pepper, & lime juice & put aside. In terms of quantity, be sure to use generous amounts of the Mexican-style chili powder, & cumin, & more moderate amounts of epazote . Be sure to go easy on the ground Cayenne at first; you can always add more later.
3. Turn on stove top range to high heat. Since this is a stir fry, you need to use a wok or a large pan that can withstand/retain high heat.
4. Sauté the red onion slivers (from the 1/2 red onion), the chopped, 4-6 medium-sized garlic cloves, & the 3 sliced-&-then-diced rounds of jalapeño in olive oil until soft. About a minute or two. Watch stove top range carefully to ensure mixture doesn't brown/burn.
5. Add steak strips to skillet, cooking for about a minute on each side (i.e., medium rare). Steak will cook fairly quickly if pan is at optimal temperature. Pan should be very hot & the steak should sizzle when it hits the pan; if you're not hearing that sizzle, then you need to turn up the heat on your stove top range. Otherwise steak will not cook to proper specifications. (IMHO, steak fajitas taste best medium rare. If overcooked, it tastes like shoe leather! ;-) Also, make sure you cook in a large enough pan so ingredients aren't crowded; it's important to allow enough room in the pan so all ingredients cook evenly.
6. For tomatillo sauce, broil/roast whole tomatillos, onion wedges, whole unpeeled garlic, & remainder of whole jalapeño on the rack of a broiler pan, about 1-2 inches from heat, turning until softened & slightly charred. This takes about 8 minutes. (Roasting the main section of a conventional oven takes about twice as long!) (If you have access to a grill, this would be even better!) Purée all salsa ingredients (both roasted & fresh) in a food processor.
7. Heat flour tortillas on high for 1 minute in a microwave. Only heat them if you are ready to serve/eat them immediately; otherwise, they'll harden after sitting around for only a few minutes.
8. Add meat mixture & garnish accordingly with condiments.

Yield: 2 servings.

Alternate Ingredients: You can use chicken instead of steak.

Helpful Tip: It's a lot easier to marinate the meat using a ziploc bag. Keeps your hands clean & saves on the dish-washing. ;-)

Serving suggestions: This dish is rather filling, so if you are only making it for two persons, the main attraction usually suffices as the entire meal. However, if you've got a hearty appetite (or are instead divying this dish up into smaller portions , i.e., for lunch) & would like to include some side dishes, I recommend serving traditional Mexican sides like refried beans (frijoles refritos), quelites (Mexican greens), or perhaps lighter accompaniments like a salad or green vegetable(s). Rice is probably overdoing it, since there are already enough carbs in the flour tortillas.

Chef's Notes: This recipe would be wonderful to make on an outdoor grill. You could toss the marinated steak on the grill & also roast the ingredients for the tomatillo salsa (i.e., whole tomatillos & garlic cloves, onion wedges, & the remainder of jalapeño) there as well.

A word on steak: Flank & skirt cuts of steak are less expensive than tenderloin (which is best used for other dishes anyhow), & works well with stir fry dishes because it has a lot of flavor & won't dry out when cooked under high heat like other cuts of beef. It's not as lean of a cut as London broil (hence its slightly marbled appearance), but the extra little bit of fat in this cut is actually necessary for flavor & moisture. These cuts are often sold in large quantities, 2+ lbs., etc., so just take what you need & either refrigerate or freeze the rest for later.

Adjusting piquancy/heat of the dish: Jalapeños are fairly mild peppers, but if you'd like to decrease their "heat" even further, just scrape out the seeds & discard them. This is where most of the heat from hot peppers originates.

Slicing fruits & veggies: The easiest way to cube an avocado is to halve it, remove pit, then score flesh into crosshatched sections, & remove the cubes.

To peel garlic, gently crush the side of a wide knife on top of the cloves. That should loosen the skin & make removal a lot easier.

Also, be sure to finely dice the cilantro garnish.

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