Do you love soggy fajitas that seem like a mushy Mexican stir-fry?
Yeah, me neither. I do, however, love the taste of slightly charred onions and bell peppers with succulent strips of chicken. I don’t have a grill and I’m not always motivated to turn up the oven in an un-air-conditioned third floor apartment, but I do have a big cast iron skillet that’s perfect for making delicious fajitas indoors.
I absolutely love using my 12″ cast iron skillet whenever possible. I use it for steaks, ‘grilled’ sandwiches, and chicken dishes of all kinds because I’m just not going to go stand in the rain to use a communal charcoal grill in the courtyard. And, yes, it would involve standing in the rain because it’s the rainy season on the windward side of Oahu. One morning about a week and a half ago it was partially cloudy and I thought it was Christmas all over again because Christmas was, incidentally, not rainy.
I love flour tortillas, Papi Chulo prefers the spinach kind (weird, right? Doesn’t that seem backwards?), and there are many other corn and speciality tortillas available. Go ahead and use your favorite tortillas – this isn’t a super-traditional recipe that must be made a certain way. Likewise, go ahead and use your favorite toppings. I happen to enjoy putting cheddar cheese on my fajitas, but something like monetary jack or a white Mexican cheese seems slightly more appropriate. I also like adding extra lime juice and cilantro as toppings, but they’re your fajitas now! Likewise, feel free to add some jalapeño to this recipe. I like it with just the added red pepper flakes, but Papi Chulo enjoys adding about half a minced jalapeño to the marinade.
- 2 chicken breasts or 4 chicken breast fillets
- 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- ½ a teaspoon of cumin
- ½ a teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon of lime juice
- 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil + enough to coat your skillet
- 1 medium onion
- 1 bell pepper
- Freshly grated cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella, etc. or your favorite fajita toppings
- Flour or corn tortillas
- If you're using chicken breasts, place them between two layers of plastic wrap pound them thin with a heavy skillet or mallet, or cut them in half with a knife to form 4 fillets. If you're using pre-cut chicken fillets you're good to go. Cut the chicken into strips, working across the grain of the meat.
- Combine the cilantro, garlic, cumin, lime juice, brown sugar, and vegetable oil in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
- While the chicken is marinating, slice the onion to create large onion rings. Try to make the slices ½" thick or less and do not separate the rings from one another.
- Core the bell pepper to remove seeds and any white membrane, then slice it or cut it into chunks, whichever you prefer.
- Use just enough oil to lightly coat your cast iron skillet's bottom and then heat the skillet on medium high until it is hot but the oil is not quite smoking.
- Place the onion ring slices in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the underside has a charred appearance. Carefully flip the onions and cook for 1-2 additional minutes, or until both sides have a pleasantly charred appearance, and then remove the onions from the skillet.
- Add the bell peppers to the skillet and cook until they are slightly charred on the front and back - about 2 minutes, or less, per side. Then remove the bell peppers from the pan.
- Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the chicken strips from the marinade and place them in the hot skillet. Keep the marinade, though - you'll need it again soon!
- Allow the chicken to cook without stirring for about 2-3 minutes, or until browned. Stir the chicken, reduce heat to medium low, and allow the second side to brown for about 2 minutes.
- Add the reserved marinade and allow the chicken to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until it is tender and no longer pink when cut open. This should take somewhere between 6 - 10 minutes, depending on how big the chicken pieces are.
- While the chicken is cooking, cut the onion rings in half and separate the rings.
- Once the chicken is cooked, add the onions and bell peppers back to the skillet, stir, and allow them to reheat, as needed, or for about a minute.
- Heat your tortillas according to their package's instructions, prepare your toppings, serve, and enjoy!
Just look at those delicious onions! I love having a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have one, you’re trying to make indoor fajitas, and you don’t want to roast vegetables in your oven, my best advice is to use a skillet that does not have a non-stick coating. It won’t be quite the same, but it will be better than nothing. Then, after you’re doing doing the dishes, get yourself a cast iron skillet! Or at least put it on your Amazon wishlist and make sure your list is publicly viewable so family members get the hint. I have a Lodge 12″ – the one pictured below.