Chicken Fajitas

Ross: The only thing weird would be if someone didn’t like Mexican food, because I’m making fajitas!

Joey: I do like fajitas.

Friends, The One Where Ross Is Fine

This week I didn’t really know what I wanted to cook. I figured I was due for something with chicken, but I wanted to put off chicken parmesan since I made an Italian meal fairly recently. Eventually, I landed on fajitas. My memories of fajitas stem from experiences at a restaurant, long since closed, called Fresnos in my pre-vegetarian days. Waiters would walk to the tables with sizzling skillets of fajita filling, with a cloud of smoke following behind them. When you left Fresnos, you smelled like fajitas.

I used a recipe from my mom’s recipe binder; it was handwritten but not something she invented herself. I have no idea where it originally comes from, so my apologies to whomever is not receiving credit for their recipe. In all fairness, it is a pretty standard chicken fajita recipe. For the vegetarian version, I just followed the same recipe and substituted portobello mushrooms in place of chicken.

As I just mentioned, this recipe was not anything fancy or intricate and should have been a breeze to follow. But I made a lot of mistakes this week—I had issues every step of the way, grocery shopping, cooking, photographing—it was a careless cooking experience on my part.

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Before I began doing any real cooking, I wanted to get all of the tedious work out of the way so I wouldn’t be scrambling later on. I started with the peppers. The recipe only called for one red, green, or yellow pepper (or two, as I doubled the recipe so I had enough for a chicken and mushroom version). But when I went to the grocery store, red, orange, and yellow peppers were on sale for three for five dollars, and I couldn’t pass that up. I also bought a green pepper because I was feeling festive.

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To end up with sliced peppers, I first cut the top off of the red pepper. Then, I pulled out the center chunk of seeds and “ribs.” (Side note: this step would be extra important if I was working with jalapeño peppers because those are the spiciest parts.) I cut the pepper in half and cut the rest of the ribs off. Finally, I sliced the pepper lengthwise because I thought it would give me more uniform slices.

Now imagine that process again but with a yellow, green, and orange pepper.

I put the peppers aside and began on the onions (which I forgot to include in the group picture of the ingredients). Unlike dicing an onion, slicing an onion requires far less steps. I cut the onion in half, through the roots, and cut horizontally until I had a pile of sliced onion.

After the onion, I minced the garlic; it was a pretty standard mincing experience as has been documented in previous recipes.

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Ta-da! A variety of vegetable cut into different shapes and sizes!

Next, I measured out the necessary spices (cumin, dried oregano, salt, and pepper—salt and pepper also didn’t make it into the group photo, but they should really be implied even if they aren’t pictured; every recipe basically needs salt and pepper for seasoning) and the lime juice.

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Cumin and oregano and salt & pepper, oh my!

To extract the lime juice, I used a reamer; it’s a lot easier than just squeezing with my hand.

I only had one pan that was big enough to cook everything so I made the mushroom fajita filling first (because I was more confident in my mushroom cooking abilities and was scared to make the chicken), and then I washed the pan out and repeated the process with the chicken. The portobello mushrooms were a pain from the get-go. I had to go grocery shopping twice because the first time it was really late at night, and there were no portobello mushrooms left. But the first shopping excursion is when I found the sale peppers so it wasn’t a total bust. To get the mushrooms ready for cooking, I had to clean them. I began by wiping the tops down with a damp paper towel. Then, I flipped them over, tore out the stem, and used a spoon to scrape out the “gills.” It was a delicate and messy process, but I did it and eventually had, relatively, clean mushrooms. I sliced the mushrooms into strips, and got my pan ready.

Into the pan went some oil and the spice mixture. Once that had heated up, I threw the mushrooms in. The mushrooms quickly absorbed all of the liquid in the pan, and, to prevent them from sticking, I poured a bunch more oil into the pan. It did prevent them from sticking, but I also ended up with a lot of excess oil in my fajita.

After the mushrooms had sautéed for four minutes (this is what the recipe called for for chicken, and a quick internet search suggested portobello mushrooms cook in approximately that same amount of time), I added the peppers, onion, and lime juice. The recipe called for another four minutes of sautéing, but I was worried that the vegetables wouldn’t be properly cooked because I had used extra pepper, and the pan was so full.

As I was deciding whether to obey the timer and remove the pan from the stove or let it cook a bit longer to ensure that the peppers and onions were done, I realized I forgot to add the garlic when the oil and spices went into the pan. I added the garlic and let everything cook for another minute. Then, I poured the mushroom mixture into a bowl, washed out the pan, and started preparing the chicken.

I used chicken cutlets for this recipe, so they needed to be cut into smaller strips. I’ve heard that a trick for cutting chicken is to put it in the freezer for a bit first, but I didn’t remember that trick until I was struggling to cut through the slimy, gelatinous cutlets. Eventually, I succeeded in slicing all of the chicken. From this point on, I took the exact same steps as I did with the mushroom mixture (with the exception of adding the garlic at the proper time).

When I cooked the mushrooms, I just mixed everything around and trusted them to cook. But with the chicken, I used tongs to make sure all of the pink parts came into contact with the surface of the pan so I didn’t have any raw chicken. After everything had cooked for the instructed amount of time, I removed the pan from the stove and set the chicken mixture aside.

 

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Mushrooms on the left, chicken on the right.

From this point on it was smooth sailing (just kidding, all of my tortillas got stuck together and tore. I had to layer one on top of another to keep everything from falling out, and it still made a huge mess). All the fajitas needed was a little sour cream—salsa was also an option—and a heap of mushroom or chicken filling, and they were ready to eat! Everyone enjoyed the fajitas, no one complained of undercooked or dry chicken, and the portobello mushrooms were a nice addition (better than just having a pepper and onion fajita which I guess is still technically a fajita). Success!

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The fajitas were messy so Sadie helped clean up afterward.

 

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3 thoughts on “Chicken Fajitas”

  1. I can already tell I’m going to have a weird love/hate relationship with your blog: love because of the uniqueness, playfulness, and subject matter, and hate because it’s going to make me hungry every time I read it.

    First of all, I really enjoy how you prevent your blog from becoming a dry compilation of step-by-step recipes by incorporating your own voice into the posts, especially when you mess up or have some trouble at the grocery store. This creates a relatable vibe for your audience, since you are clearly showing that you’re not an expert and things can go awry for you just as they do for others of the same skill level. This is important considering most blogs and how-to sites for cooking don’t really emphasize the fact that cooking is HARD.

    I also like the way the steps come with very clear graphics of what everything is supposed to look like when done correctly. This is super helpful for first-timers to learn proper cooking methods.

    Overall, really great post! I wouldn’t change a thing. Looking forward to reading more! (And potentially trying out some of these recipes!) 🙂

    Like

  2. Hi Sara!

    First of all, I think the idea behind you blog is so creative and unique! I think the best part of this blog is your complete honesty when it comes to your skill level and aptitude for cooking. So many times I google recipes that are “quick and easy” or “only three steps,” but then I come to find that there are almost no cooking instruction details and a laundry list of ingredients. It is so refreshing to see a cooking blog that isn’t a “look at me I’m an expert chef” type of page. I really love your use of images. It first brings a brightness and freshness to your post, but it also helps people like me and tons of other people visually understand how to perform certain kitchen acts like chopping vegetables in specific ways. I also loved that you included your dog (so cute!) as it gives your blog a personal and homey feel.

    Have you thought about doing some sort of kabob (one with vegetables only and one with meat and vegetables? I think it would be a fun and relatively stress-free cooking experience. Anyway, I love your blog and as a college student who knows nothing about cooking, I think there is a lot to learn from your experiences in the kitchen. Awesome post! I look forward to reading your blog over the next several weeks!

    -Rhianna

    Like

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