Fajita is a TexMex word meaning "a little strap" or quirt.
The food item "The Fajita" originated from the "strap muscle" that covers the belly of a cow, not the "skirt steak". (Some may call the strap muscle skirt steak but it is not.) In the middle 1950's many "Vagueros" or Mexican Cowboys worked on the ranches along the border between Texas and Mexico. They were paid on average $5 per day with room and board. They were fed the most inexpensive food in order to keep the cost down. That was generally ground meat and stew meat which they used to make "Carne Quisada" and "Chili con Carne". In the 1960's beef prices began to rise dramatically. Ground meat that had cost .29 to .39 cents a lb. suddenly jumped to .59 to .69 cents a lb. The head Vaquero on the Chapparosa Ranch just outside Del Rio noticed that the butcher would cut the strap muscle off the cow and either throw it in with the scraps to be sold to dog food companies or sell it to a customer for theirs dogs at .10 cents a lb. They would not use it for ground meat because of the large amount of tendon associated with the strap muscle. He asked the butcher if he could buy the strap muscle for his men and the butcher agreed to save it for him each week. Over the next few years this became the main source of beef for the Vaqueros on the ranch. They experimented various ways of cooking and preparing the meat and discovered the best way was to grill it over an open mesquite flame and seer it so the tendon would draw up. Then cutting it across the grain into small strips thereby creating a "little strap". The Fajita!
In 1969 the cook for the vaqueros began visiting county fairs and festivals and preparing this dish which he called "Tacos al Carbon". When he applied to the Boerne Bergesfest committee in Boerne, Texas for a food booth in their annual festival, he was denied because they had a rule that no one could sell an item that was already being sold by one of their members. The Mexican social group in Boerne was already selling tacos.
The next year he returned and applied for a booth and stated that he was going to sell "Fajitas". No one with the Mexican social group knew what they were and stated that they did not sell them. That was the public unveiling of the "Fajita". It out sold every other food item on the midway and after two years at the Bergesfest, a local business man who owned an old, vacant, Dairy Queen, drive thru, building on the corner of San Pedro and Hildebrand in San Antonio, made the little man an offer. He would use the old Dairy Queen and sell the "Fajitas" along with beer to the local students at Trinity University. Since he couldn't sell beer "to go" by law, he installed a canvas top cabana in front of the building and had tables and benches set up for the students to eat and drink beer on premises. Before long the students demanded the Fajitas on a 24 hr. basis and the business remained open for them. After 3 years the little joint, that was named "Taco Cabana", was so successful that it was expanded and grew into the chain of restuarants by that name.
I know this because I was one of the directors on the Bergesfest Committee in 1970 and witnessed the public birth of the "Fajita"
Before that, you could not find strap muscle in the meat counter of your grocery. When they started showing up they were priced just under ground meat at about .59 to .69 cents a lb. The explosion of "Taco Cabana" and the "Fajita" has brought the price of strap muscle to a level competitive with Sirloin and causes this old man to long for the old times.
I thought this true trivia about the Fajita should be shared because I have heard so many different origins that are just full of "bull". My test has always been: "Do you know the definition of the word Fajita?" If they start out defining it as a piece of meat then they don't know!"
Information supplied by Frank Patterson - 14/10/03
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Most people associate "fajita" with the strips of meat described below and the beef version is best made using well marinaded skirt. Beef skirt steak comes from the outer covering of the breast near where the brisket comes from. There are only 2 skirts per cow, a highly flavorful cut of meat as a result of the fat membrane that ‘burns’ off when cooked.
Fajitas are made from marinaded meat which is char-grilled or barbequed, oven broiled or roast, or fried. The cooked meat is then cut into strips which are rolled in a tortilla usually with the addition of other ingredients.
Marinades for beef fajitas rely on acid ingredients like lime juice not just for flavor, but to tenderize the meat. So that the marinade will have time to work, beef fajitas should be marinated up to 24 hours.
Putting together your marinade can be a creative experience.
Grill or Barbeque:
This is the traditional method of preparation for fajitas.
Drain the marinade from the meat and cook it about 3 inches above the coals for approximately 6 minutes on each side. When the meat is cooked to your liking, remove it from the grill and let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes. Cut it across the grain and diagonally into finger-length strips.
Oven Broil or Roast:
Broil the meat about 4 inches below the broiler flame for 5 to 6 minutes per side; Or raost in a pan with marinade covered for the forst two thirds of cooking. Finish uncovered for last ten minutes or so. let the meat rest and slice as for grilled fajitas.
Drain the meat; then cut it across the grain, diagonally, into finger-length strips. Fry the strips over high heat in a large cast-iron skillet or wok, working in batches if necessary, turning them frequently.
They should take no more than 1-12 to 2 minutes to cook.
Roll the meat in a flour tortilla along with, grilled or fried onions and bell peppers (red and/or green), pico de gallo, guacamole and maybe a little sour cream and fresh coriander.
Onions and Peppers:
Heat your frying pan or wok and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add 1 large (or 2 medium) onions, separated into rings, and 2 green bell peppers (or 1 green and 1 red), cut into strips.
When the oil is heated, add the onion rings and pepper strips and stir-fry them just until they start to get soft and brown 3 or 4 minutes.
Make or buy tortillas select the thickest ones you can find, 6 or 7 inches in diameter. Warm them up in foil packages, six or eight at a time, and placing them in a 325°F oven for about 20 minutes. Wrap them in a cloth napkin to bring them to the table. Better yet, use one of a tortilla keepers.
Pico de gallo:
Preferably use Haas variety of Avocado and it's okay to buy them rock hard if you won't be using them right away.
Beef Fajita Marinade
Chicken Fajita Marinade
Pico de Gallo: