Mesquite Lime Fajitas
In the hierarchy of Tex-Mex meals, fajitas just may be king. Tex-Mex is a fusion of traditional Mexican foods with Texan and Spanish fare, so it’s got a lot of latitude as to what constitutes this cuisine. Fajitas embrace this kind of latitude. They’re inherently playful, with a mix-and-match sensibility that allows the diner to choose their favorite meat or vegetable, and then enhance it with a vast array of toppings. Want guacamole? Put some in your tortilla! Salsa? Drizzle it on there! Prefer wheat tortillas over corn? Use them! And season them with whatever seasoning you feel is right for you. We decided to use Mesquite Lime seasoning in our current recipe because we love the bright snaps of lime, herbs, and salt and the smoky flavor of mesquite, chiles and white pepper.
When fajitas originally came into being they were thin slices of a throwaway cut of meat—the outside skirt steak, or faja, which means “belt”—from cattle. These little strips, affectionately called fajitas, were given to the vaqueros of South and West Texas to grill and eat during cattle roundups, starting in the 1930s. Skirt steaks weren’t an in-demand commodity back then, primarily known to vaqueros and butchers. Fajitas remained a quiet part of the Tex-Mex culture for more than 30 years, but 1969 changed everything. Austin meat market manager Sonny Falcon opened up a fajita and taco stand at a festival in Kyle, Texas, and brought them into the public eye. Later that year Otilia Garza, owner of the Round-Up Restaurant in Pharr, Texas, put fajitas on a smoking-hot platter to make them sizzle on their way to the table and thus put fajitas on the path to culinary fame.
Since fajitas became part of the culinary landscape they have been adapted to meet changing public tastes. Originally strictly a beef dish, they can now be made with chicken or shrimp, or any preferred protein. The dish can have a vegetarian option, too, with a pantry full of whatever vegetables one has on hand grilled and steaming, supplemented by the wealth of peppers and onions that often accompany meat fajitas. We chose to make our fajitas with mild, white meat chicken, to let the flavors of the seasoning really shine, but we bulked up the umami with some rich and meaty portobello mushrooms. Chicken—or turkey!—thighs are also an option, if you want the more savory flavor that dark meat would bring. Make sure you rub all areas of the chicken to envelop it with flavor, even under the skin, and leave the skin on during grilling to help keep the chicken moist and tender. You could make this dish with shrimp, fish, or pork, seasoning it in exactly the same manner as the chicken.
Put the chicken on the grill and then toss the portobello mushrooms, and some onions and poblano peppers, in Mesquite Lime. Then place them in a grilling basket and get that on the grill, too. If you don’t have a grill, you can cook everything on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet; the pro tip here is to open your windows for ventilation and prepare for lots of smoke. Pull items off the heat as soon as they’re done and put them on a plate, under foil to help keep them warm, and then toast the tortillas just before you’re ready to serve them. Serve family-style with big bowls of guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa, cilantro, beans, and rice, and dig in to the hearty flavors of Tex-Mex cooking.
4 pounds boneless skin-on chicken breast
8 Tablespoons Mesquite Lime seasoning, divided
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 large portobello mushroom caps
1 bunch green onion
3 poblano peppers
24 corn or flour tortillas
1. Prepare a charcoal fire or gas grill.
2. Combine 6 Tablespoons of Mesquite Lime rub with the vegetable oil and thoroughly coat the chicken breasts, including under the skin.
3. Toss the portobello mushrooms and vegetables with the remaining Mesquite Lime rub.
4. Grill the chicken, mushrooms, and vegetables over medium-low heat.
5. Remove items from the grill as they cook to doneness; put them on a tray and cover with foil to keep food warm. Once everything is cooked, quickly heat the tortillas on the grill, flipping once after 20 seconds or so.