Lemons Lemons are one of my favorite flavor enhancers but you need to be careful of the white pith. If you cook the pith, it turns very bitter. Cooking the rind or pulp is fine but never use the pith or seeds. I remember discovering this disturbing fact cooking chicken piccata for the first time. I thought I could enhance the flavor by cooking lemon slices in the sauce but instead I got a bitter taste I couldn't correct with sugar.
My Favorite Pan My favorite pan is a twenty dollar cast iron pan. I remember vividly how my step-father coveted his iron pan and warned us about not using soap to clean it. Seasoned and maintained properly, an iron pan can last forever. It is better than any non stick pan and far more durable. It's thick base holds heat better than any pan in my arsenal and prevents food from burning by dispersing the heat.
This is really a marinade for carne asada but we like it so much, we often eat it with grilled onions, peppers, avocado and cheese in a flour tortilla like you would a fajita. I have used the marinade in this recipe for so many dishes like pork ribs, beef ribs and tri-tip. If you like a tangy, lip-smacking flavor on your meats, you'll love this marinade. My wife is Filipina and they use a lot of vinegar in their cooking so this is like an americanized taste of home.
I like to use a blender to combine the ingredients. There are several reasons. First, it combines the ingredients really well. Second, I'm lazy and don't want to grind all that black pepper. Third, grating onions and garlic sounds like less fun the pulverizing it in a blender. Just do a quick chop on the onions but throw the rest of the ingredients in as is. Normally, I would rant about removing the stems from the cilantro but it really won't make a difference in the marinade. Blend for just a minute or less.
It's important to use a cut of meat that has some fat content. Why? It just tastes better! Flap Meat is one of the leaner fatty meats so don't feel too guilty. I also like flap meat because it has a lot of crevices for the marinade to seep into and penetrate the meat further. It's also fairly thin so you can cook it on high heat to get that nice char on the outside but still have it done on the inside. It's a really great cut of meat for marinading and grilling.
Depending on the amount of meat, you may need 2 one gallon size ziploc bags. Not only will the meat not fit into a single bag but you could also get unmarinaded sections on your meat because it is packed too tightly. Carefully place each piece of beef in the bag followed by some marinade, making sure the entire surface area is coated. When the bag is loaded, pour any leftover marinade into the bag, shut tightly and squish. Squishing the bag will help distribute the marinade across the entire piece of meat. Place the meat in the refrigerator overnight and try to flip whenever you think about it.
The next day, take your meat out of the fridge. No need to wipe the marinade off the meat as we'll be grilling these beauties. However, if it's cold outside, you can use an indoor grill like an iron pan with ridges. In this case, you will need to dry the meat off or you will end up boiling the meat in the marinade rather than getting a nice sear.
While your grill is heating, slice the vegetables for the wrap. I've seen a lot of chefs on television clean up peppers by chopping off the top and removing the pith and seeds. I know it's a super quick way to accomplish the task but it wastes so much of the vegetable. I prefer to cut around the stem and then slice in half. It only takes 10 seconds. Not only do you save food but you also get a better looking slice in my humble opinion. Instead of being flat on one end of the slice, both ends are curled. Beauty in food is almost as important as taste. For the onions, just cut in half and slice 4 or 5 times on each half so you get nice thick slices of onion. Don't worry about the slices being all the same size. And make sure you remove the seeds and pith from your jalapeño. The vegetables only need a touch of heat.
Get your pan really hot on medium high. I like to wait till mine starts smoking without any oil in it. If your pan is seasoned well, smoke will appear. That's how you know the pan is hot enough and will caramelize the onions quickly without cooking them to mush. I have started using avocado oil for situations like this because it has the highest cooking temperature of any plant based oil, around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Throw those sliced onions in at the same time as your oil and cook them for about a minute. Add the sliced bell peppers and jalapeño along with some salt, pepper and garlic powder. Stir until cooked but not limp. Remove from the heat and set aside uncovered.
I also like to have some charred jalapeños with my fajitas. One hand holds the jalapeño and the other the wrap :) I like cooking them over an open flame cause they get nicely charred but not mushy. If you want mushy, cook them in a pan. And then there is the cheese. I love cheese, even simple old sharp cheddar cheese. Somehow my dogs know the sound of a cheese wrapper because as soon as I open it they come running. I usually give them a small piece and grate the rest for the fajitas.
Grill your flap meat on high heat till you get a nice char on the outside but don't overcook it or it will taste like sawdust. A nice pink middle is always means juicy. Let your beef sit on a carving platter for ten minutes before you slice it so the juices reabsorb into the meat. Nothing worse than all your flavor spilling out onto the carving board when you cut the meat.
Pull out your sharpest knife and slice your meat thinly against the grain, if you want it to be easier to chew. Garnish with avocado, cheese, sautéed peppers and onions and a little hot sauce if you like. It's a one dish meal essentially. Great for week day nights when you are in a rush.
Combine marinade ingredients into blender and mix well. Should only take 30 seconds.
Place the meat and marinade in one gallon ziploc bags, making sure the marinade can touch all sides of the meat. In other words, don't pack the meat too tightly and squish the meat around inside the bag to distribute the marinade evenly. Place in fridge overnight or longer.
Preheat Grill and Sauté Pan
Preheat your outdoor grill (or indoor grill if you like) and your pan for sautéing the vegetables. The grill should be on high and the pan(s) on medium high.
Slice the red peppers, onions and jalapeño. Medium thick slices are best. Too thin and the vegetables will turn to mush. Looking for a crisp vegetable.
Once the pan is smoking, cook onions for a minute and then add the rest of the vegetables. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Don't overcook the vegetables.
Grill the meat till there is a nice char of both sides. A nice pink center is the best but will be hard to achieve on all parts of the meat given the varying thickness of flap meat. Rest meat for 10 minutes before slicing.
It's a good idea to heat the tortillas on an open gas burner. 10 seconds per side is good. Heating the tortillas makes them warm and more elastic. If you don't have a gas burner, use the microwave or the oven but not for too long. You don't want to dry out the tortillas.
Assemble the Fajita
Place the grated cheese on the tortilla followed by meat, vegetables, avocado and hot sauce.