Twice Cooked Fajitas

For Cinco de Mayo I am making fajitas: spicy from two kinds of chili,  fragrant with lime, and tipsy on beer.  This recipe was inspired by my late brother-in-law and Texas barbecue master, Larry Luna. The juicy and flavorful chicken is twice cooked, first on the grill, then braised in the oven with its marinade.  I made  chicken fajitas  here, but you can also make them with skirt steak. Marinade the steak for at least 3 hours, grill it whole, then cut across the grain into strips before braising it in the marinade.


Serves 4

¼ cup boiling water

3 dried chilies such as Chile California, stems removed

2 jalapeños

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1 cup light-colored beer such as Tecate

2 limes, juiced; zest peeled in long strips

1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast fat trimmed and sliced,  or  2-3 lb skirt steak.

1 small onion, sliced

4 bell peppers (1 red and 3 green), seeded and cut into strips

2 Tb olive oil

If using skirt steak, slice against the grain and cut into strips. Trim off the fat. Using a tenderizing mallet, pound each strip so that the tenderizing marks show. This is a good way to work out your frustrations and aggressions.

Add chilies to boiling water and let soak for at least 15 minutes. Peel lime zest with vegetable peeler into a long strip, then juice limes. Pour beer, 1 Tb olive oil, and lime juice in blender. Add chilies, jalapeños, soaking water and other seasonings to beer mixture. Whir in blender. Trim fat off of breast, cut into strips, and marinate for an hour or more.


Place chicken on grill, reserving marinade. Put bell peppers and onion in a grill wok and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Grill over medium heat until chicken and onions and bell peppers begin to char. (You can also use a wok or heavy pan over the stove).

Heat oven to 300’ Pour marinade into a casserole or clay pot. Add cooked chicken, peppers and onions and lime zest. Bake for 20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves and avocado slices. Serve with tortillas, Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans) and  Sonia’s guacamole.

Tinga de Pollo: Spicy Stewed Chicken for tostadas or tacos



It’s Sept 16 – the 200th anniversary of Padre Hidalgo’s Grito de Dolores “¡Viva Mexico!”

To celebrate I’m making a big pot of  Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

and serving it with Chicken Tostadas

Add tinga de pollo to  tortilla soup to give it extra flavor.

In my tostada recipe I specified leftover chicken, but today there are no leftovers, so I’m making the chicken from scratch. This is a pretty easy recipe. Tinga de Pollo means spicy stewed chicken. I marinade it first for added tenderness and flavor, then stew it in the marinade.The marinade uses the green and red colors of the Mexican flag.

If you cook it and leave it in the sauce overnight, it is even better since the flavors have developed and soaked into the chicken.

Tacos are excellent served with cilantro, lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and avocado in a fresh tortilla that is bent and heated on a comal until it holds it shape.

Makes enough chicken for 10 tacos or tostadas

3 chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat and chopped

juice of 1 lime

1 cup cilantro

¼ tsp olive oil

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chipotle powder

1 tsp salt

7-oz can salsa (I use Herdez salsa ranchera)

1 cup diced tomatoes with green chile (use fresh Roma tomatoes and a jalapeño OR a can of diced tomatoes with green chile)

Mix all ingredients and let marinate for several hours.

Add 1/4 cup water. Cook chicken in marinade in a skillet until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Discard cooked cilantro. Serve in tacos or tostadas.I also tried this recipe without cutting up the chicken, just marinating it for several hours with slits cut in the breast, then barbecuing it. It came out juicy and spicy flavorful! Even better, I briefly stewed shredded leftover barbecued chicken in the marinade and made tacos de tinga de pollo asada from them.


Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

¡Frijoles! Mexican Pinto Beans

These beans are a favorite of my friends and family. This recipe evolved from my mother-in-law’s frijoles al charro. She made hers with bacon to flavor the beans. I usually omit the bacon, but it’s good either way. The chipotle and smoked paprika give it a nice smokiness. You can either use powdered chipotle or a whole one. Discard the seeds and ribs, unless you want super spicy beans.

There are many opinions  in this family about cooking beans. My husband is  insistent about not soaking the beans first, as he swears that takes away the flavor. I boil the beans with all the flavorings on the theory that they will soak up the flavors. My mother-in-law says the garlic will help eliminate the gas from the beans. She told me never to put salt in until the end because it will toughen the beans. And I add cocoa powder to bring out the flavor of the chilies, just as the ancient Aztecs did.

epazoteI sometimes add epazote leaves, which are popular in southern Mexican cooking. My mother in-law, who came from northern Mexico, didn’t use them. They have a sharp smell, akin to turpentine, but they adds wonderful flavor to the beans.

Ingredients

1 Tb olive oil

1 chopped onion

1 diced bell pepper (green and/or red) or 1 cup frozen diced bell peppers

4 minced garlic cloves

8 cups of water

1/2 – 1 tsp. chipotle powder (to taste) or 1 dried chipotle pepper

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)

1 tsp. cumin powder (comino)

1 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. dried oregano

1 diced Roma (plum) tomato

1 bunch of chopped epazote leaves, stems discarded

3 cups dry pinto beans

2-3 tsp. salt to taste

Wash beans thoroughly, checking that there are no stones.

onions peppers and garlicHeat oil in large pot. Add chopped onion and peppers and stir over medium high heat until onion is translucent. Stir in garlic until it is fragrant.

beans with epazote stirred in

Add water and seasonings (except salt) and bring it to boil. Add beans and chopped tomato and boil for 5 minutes.

Pour into a crock pot. Cook on low until very tender, usually 5 hours. You can make it in the evening and let it cook overnight or make it in the morning and it will be ready for dinner. (If you are short on time you can cook it on high.)

Add 2-3 tsp salt to taste when cooked. Serve with fresh cilantro, either queso cotija, queso fresco, cheddar or jack cheese, and chopped onion if desired.  Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Excellent for making tostadas. Simply mash well-cooked beans with the pot liquor, no frying necessary.

Vegetarian/ Vegan tacos: Fill a warmed tortilla with beans, fresh tomato, avocado and cilantro. Top with salsa and a shake of sea salt.

Store beans in small containers in the freezer. Sure beats opening a can!