Fajitas, that sizzling grilled seasoned meat served with salsa, tortillas and guacamole, is the result of the creativity of Mexican vaqueros who back in the early 1930s were given a tough, stringy cut of beef typically thrown away as part of the their salary for their hard work on the range. In a last laugh sort of way, these vaqueros took this tough cut known as skirt steaks and by cooking it over an open fire or on a grill and slicing it against the grain created created fajitas, a best seller now in restaurants throughout the country.
This success was propelled by Sonny Falcon,a meat market manager of Guajardo’s Cash Grocery, who in the late 1960s began selling fajitas at fairs and other popular events, ultimately becoming known as the Fajita King.
Now fajitas have their own holiday. Let’s raise a margarita in thanks to the vaqueros and to Sonny for a great job.
What’s Cooking America offers this version of Sonny’s Fajita Recipe.
- 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak or flank steak
- 1 green or red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 3 to tomatoes, chopped
- Cheddar cheese, shredded
- Sour cream
- Tomato Salsa
- Flour Tortillas
- Juice of 4 to 5 fresh-squeezed limes
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon light molasses
- 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Prepare Lime Marinade (see below); set aside.
- Lay the skirt steak on a cutting board and remove the outer membrane (grab the membrane with one hand and slide the knife beneath it, cutting as you go). Using a sharp paring knife, make a number of slits in the meat, cutting both with and against the grain of the meat (this cuts the muscle fiber and reduces any toughness.)
- In a large plastic bag with the Lime Marinade, add skirt steak; reseal and marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or overnight, turning steak occasionally.
- Remove steak from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before cooking.
- Preheat barbecue.
- Drain steaks, reserving marinade. Place steaks on the hot grill and spoon some of the reserved marinade over the steak. Close barbecue lid, open any vents, and cook 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare (120 degrees F. on your meat thermometer). Remove from grill and transfer to a cutting board; cut on the diagonal into thin strips.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap stacked flour tortillas in aluminum foil and heat in oven 15 minutes or until hot. To microwave, wrap a stack of flour tortillas lightly in paper towels and warm on high for 6 or 7 seconds per tortilla.
- While the shirt steak is cooking, grill the green pepper and onion slices 1 to 2 minutes or until soft; remove from grill and place on a serving platter. Place cooked steak strips onto the same platter.
- For each fajita, fill a warm flour tortilla with cooked steak strips and desired amounts of green pepper and onion slices. Add tomatoes, cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa as desired; roll up like a burrito and enjoy.
- Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Lime Marinade Instructions:
- In a large re-sealable plastic bag, combine lime juice, vinegar, soy sauce, molasses, cilantro, garlic, cumin, and pepper; set aside.
Fascinating Facts About Fajitas
1. ‘Fajita’ Translates to ‘Little Band’
In Spanish, fajita is a diminutive for “faja”, which translates to “belt” or “girdle”.
2. It’s a humble dish
Workers were given the least desirable parts of butchered steers and made fajitas from skirt steaks.
3. The term “Fajita King” is trademarked.
Sonny Falcon trademarked the term after gaining popularity from the dish in the 1970s
4. McDonald’s Tried it.
In 1991, McDonald’s attempted to introduce their own Chicken Fajitas into the market.
5. The original is called something different in Mexico
While in the U.S we know them as fajitas, the Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras.