In Milwaukee, you can find dozens of restaurants that serve fajitas, but it’s hard to find great fajitas. Maybe my expectations are too high after a childhood of eating Tex-Mex on a regular basis — in Texas, I should add. In my experience, fajitas are only as good as their ingredients. The meat is especially important, and a charcoal grill is essential. I think this is why so many restaurant fajitas fail — cheap meat and lack of charcoal flavor. There are a few things that made last night’s fajitas good. I made the pico de gallo with tomatoes and onions fresh from Rare Earth Farm. Reuben grilled the Sulzer’s rib-eye steaks to a perfect medium rare on our Weber grill. And last but not least, Whole Foods had fresh baked-in-store whole wheat tortillas in stock. How could we go wrong?
Serves 4 to 6
2 rib-eye steaks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lime
2 onions (red and/or white)
2 bell peppers (any color)
1 tablespoon olive oil
toppings: pico de gallo, avocado, Monterey jack or cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream
Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper and marinate in the lime juice in a shallow dish. Prepare the grill with charcoal banked to one side (you’ll need direct and indirect heat for this meal).
While the grill heats up and the steaks marinate, peel and slice the onion into thin half moons (about 1/4 cm thick). Cut the bell pepper into 1/2‑cm-wide strips. Place the vegetables onto aluminum foil (preferably heavy-duty foil). You’ll need enough foil to completely wrap up the vegetables, about 18 inches or so. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Crimp together the foil over the vegetables, starting with the short sides, then folding over the long sides. You’ll end up with a rectangular-shaped packet. The foil should be secure enough to remain closed throughout the grilling process.
When the grill is hot, place the foil packet of vegetables on the grill and cook over indirect heat for about 10 minutes (cooking time will vary depending on the size of the vegetable slices and the heat of the grill). If the vegetables aren’t tender, reseal the foil packet and cook for a few more minutes. Once tender, transfer the vegetables to a serving dish.
The steak can be cooked at the same time as the vegetables. Grill over a medium-high heat until desired doneness. Remove the steaks from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes. While the meat rests, heat the tortillas on the grill for a few seconds on each side. After the meat has rested, slice it into thin strips against the grain of the meat.
To assemble the fajitas, place some sliced meat on a tortilla and top with onions, peppers, and other toppings (pico de gallo, avocado, cheese, salsa, and/or sour cream), al gusto, to taste.
Pico de Gallo
Makes about 3 cups (720 ml)
1 medium white onion, minced
3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, diced small
1 or 2 jalapenos, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1 lime (or 1 tablespoon white vinegar)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Rinse the onion in a colander under cold water for about 30 seconds. This will sweeten the onion and keep it crispy. Mix the onion and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve with tortilla chips or as an accompaniment to any Mexican meal.