Fajitas are the mainstay of every mid-market Mexican joint in America. And they’re not really even Mexican. They’re Tex-Mex, as my father liked to remind us almost every Friday night. He was a big fan of telling us “there were no Fajitas when I was growing up in southern Arizona!” all while scarfing down substantial portions of any sizzling platter of thin cut meat, peppers, and onions that was brought to the table. He had a lot of opinions about Tex-Mex food versus the Sonoran he grew up with, but those opinions never stopped him from enjoying a plate of anything covered with melted cheese.
Eventually, beef fajitas made it to the table in my family’s house as well. Marinated, grilled skirt steak, sliced out, and then seared off in a hot pan. They weren’t in regular rotation in the fall or winter, but in the heat of summer, dad would lord over the grill for a few minutes before delivering a piece of well charred meat and thus turning over all remaining responsibility to my mother.
Eventually, especially as Americans got more health conscious (and the price of beef went up), we’d have “chicken fajitas” as well – which were essentially the same thing, but made with chicken breast meat. The thing is, chicken breast isn’t really great when it’s been marinated in an acidic dressing and twice cooked. It’s crumbly, dry, and despite the bath in marinade and being kissed by the hot fire … it just doesn’t taste that great.
Enter the not-so-humble by my measure Chicken Thigh. The combination of increased collagen, additional fat, and dark meat mean that chicken thighs make really great fajitas. Sure, they’re a little smaller – which technically means a little more work – but you can buy boneless thighs in any market in America. Which means any night can be fajita night.
I generally serve fajitas with homemade flour tortillas. They’re extra work, but the work is worth it. Good store bought tortillas are fine. Homemade tortillas are exceptional. You can find a recipe and instructions in the January 5th edition of my newsletter (which you should totally sign up for anyway.)
Chicken Thigh FajitasCourse: MainCuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Medium
Tex-Mex Style Fajitas with Chicken Thighs
- Chicken and Marinade
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp mesquite flavored liquid smoke (optional)
- Finish and Garnish
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 large onion
8 soft taco sized flour tortillas
Mexican hot sauce
- Mix all ingredients except chicken in a non reactive bowl.
- Immerse chicken in the marinade, turning to make sure each piece is evenly coated.
- Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and no more than 4 hours.
- Heat a broiler on high.
- Broil until the chicken is well browned and just cooked through, turning once during cooking.
- Set chicken aside to rest and cool.
- Trim and julienne the peppers.
- Peel, trim, and slice the onion from end to end.
- Slice the chicken.
- Add 1 tsp of canola oil to a cast iron comal, griddle, or pan over high heat
- Add chicken, peppers, and onions. Cook until the onions are beginning to char, chicken is warmed through, and crisp edges are forming.
- Serve with warmed flour tortillas, beans, rice, sour cream, avocado and a scattering of cilantro leaves.