Who hasn't gone to his favorite Mexican restaurant and heard that telltale sizzle of fajitas being brought out to a lucky diner? Fajitas, which can be made from chicken, pork, shrimp, scallops or practically any meat protein, are generally made from beef skirt steak. The skirt steak is from the plate section of the cow, just below the ribs and between the brisket and the flank. Skirt steak is flavorful but can be tough. It is usually marinated to reduce toughness, but a proper cutting technique will help make the meat tenderer.
Marinate the skirt steak for at least two hours prior to cooking (beef can be marinated one day before cooking). Cook skirt steak whole, either grilled or sauteed in a large skillet, with the appropriate spice rubbed on the meat (typical seasonings include, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and cayenne pepper). Skirt steak can also be simmered slowly in a flavorful broth. The steak should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant read thermometer. Let the steak rest for five minutes before cutting. On a cutting board, slice the steak diagonally across the grain to reduce toughness. The grain may not remain in the same direction, so alter slices accordingly.
Use either breast or thigh meat for chicken fajitas. Grill or saute the chicken with the appropriate spices until an instant read thermometer reads 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the chicken rest for five minutes -- there will be some carryover cooking. Unlike the skirt steak, chicken is tender any way you slice it, so slice into uniform pieces.
Use at least jumbo-sized shrimp for fajitas, which have 16 to 20 shrimp per pound. Shrimp are best if grilled after coating with vegetable oil and fajita spices. Shrimp do not need to be cut, but you can slice them in half lengthwise to make them fit easier in a tortilla.
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