Thursday, January 26, 2012

Awesomely Easy Chicken Fajitas

At the Hacienda de Hammondos Mexican night is always greeted with enthusiasm and happiness especially when the menu features my nearly famous Chicken Fajitas. I have to be honest, there really isn’t anything that special about my fajitas, after all, fajitas are pretty basic Mexican fare, other than they taste so fresh and so home-made and I use much larger chunks of chicken than what you would find when ordering fajitas at your favorite Mexican cantina.

I believe that great dishes always begin with great ingredients, so I am a little picky about the fixings for my fajitas. I start with boneless skinless chicken breasts and fresh bell peppers, red chills, Spanish onion, and a sweet onion.

First off, I chunk the onions, cut the green peppers into strips and dice the chili peppers. Next I cut the chicken breasts into bite size chunks about the size of a sea scallop.

The second step of prep work on the fajitas is where the magic takes place. I place the chicken chunks into a large bowl and season them with sea salt, black pepper, chili powder, cumin and an Old El Paso cheesy taco seasoning packet. This process mimics a dry rub and I let the seasoned chicken rest for an hour or two in the refrigerator, absorbing the spices.

I go ahead and sauté the vegetables in a wok, until the onions just become translucent and the pepper strips are crisp-tender, then I remove the vegetables from the Wok and place them in a warming bowl and lightly season them with chili powder, cumin and black pepper. This is a crucial step because it is important that the vegetables maintain a bit of a crisp texture, yet be sautéed enough to be tender. I set the vegetables aside and right before serving the fajitas I reheat them in the microwave.

The chicken chunks are then fried over medium-high heat in a wok or iron skillet and the cooking process along with the cheesy taco seasoning dry rub tends to create what I will describe as a “gravy” and it is this “gravy” that makes my fajitas so unique. To finish the dish, I warm the tortillas on a griddle and accompany the vegetables and the chicken with sour cream, four-cheese Mexican cheese, salsa verde and hot sauce.

My family probably enjoys Mexican food almost as much as Italian food, although Italian still wins in a close race, which actually reminds me of another nice thing about this fajita recipe. If you have enough chicken, peppers and onion left over it makes an excellent base for a killer chicken cacciatore the next day. It’s a creative and delicious use of your left over fajita fixings indeed, and thrifty as well. I usually start by stirring a cup or two of red wine into the left over veggies and chicken and heat just until it starts to simmer, then I add my favorite spaghetti sauce and simmer for about 20 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, prepare your angel hair pasta. Plate the pasta after draining and use a slotted spoon to top the pasta with the cacciatore ragout, that way the pasta sauce is heavy on the peppers and chicken. It’s yummy and resourceful.

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