Simple Art Of Cooking: Fire Up the Grill for Memorial Day Tex-Mex

It’s time for backyard chefs to roll out the barbecue grillMemorial Day Weekend is here!

Through the years I have enjoyed all manner of food cooked on the grill. I’ve had a love affair with grilled fish and vegetables for more than 30 years, as I have joyously written about in my cookbooks, cooking columns and documented in various cooking classes. There is a time and a place, most carnivores agree, to boast about a fine steak, such as a porterhouse, shell or sirloin, cooked to perfection on the grill. Cuts, such as skirt steak or hangar, may sound ordinary, but they are cuts that I particularly enjoy.

Quick-cooking fajitas, a Tex-Mex import, can be prepared with beef (preferably skirt or hangar steak), chicken or even steak-like Portobello mushrooms. Guests can take their turn at the grill to choose their “thing.”  And unapologetic beef lovers and vegetarians alike will be happy campers when they help themselves to one or a variety of fajitas, rolled up in a tortilla with sautéed onions, peppers and a dollop of tangy salsa. The distinct smoky aromas rising from the grill this summer will surely tantalize anyone’s tastebuds.

Whip up a favorite salad or two and finish with a bowl full of fresh fruit – and voila, a memorable Memorial Day feast!

SOUTHWESTERN-STYLE FAJITAS

The name fajitas came from the Spanish word “faja,” meaning little girdle. Skirt or hangar steak, a cut shaped like a belt, is preferred for fajitas.

Serves 6 to 8

 

3 to 4 pounds skirt or hangar steak

For the marinade

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

1/3 to 1/2 cup lime juice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

 

For serving

Sautéed peppers and onions

Salsa, your own or store bought

Tortillas

 

1. Trim meat of excess fat and discard fat. Place steaks in a non- dish such as Pyrex.

2. Combine marinade ingredients and pour mixture over steaks. Allow to marinate for several hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Refrigerate covered.

3. While steak returns to room temperature build a hot fire until coals are ashen hot or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. Remove meat from marinade and reserve; pat meat dry with paper towels and place on oiled rack of preheated grill. Cook steaks, basting occasionally with reserved marinade until well seared on the outside and medium rare within, about 2 to 4 minutes each side, depending on the thickness of the steaks. Skirt and hangar steaks do not take well to overcooking. Meat should be springy to the touch.

To serve: Remove meat to a carving board and slice thinly on the diagonal. If desired, sandwich with peppers, onions, and salsa on warm tortillas.

 

FOR CHICKEN FAJITAS

 Use 3 to 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and proceed as above for marinade. Grill about 3 minutes on each side or until springy to the touch. Boneless chicken breasts have little or no fat, any of which can be trimmed away, and are thinner than skirt steak so be careful not to overcook. Serve as above.

FOR PORTOBELLO FAJITAS

Select 3 to 4 large and smooth, Portobello mushrooms with nicely rounded caps. Cut off stems flush with the gills (use stems for stock or discard). Rinse quickly under running water and wipe dry with paper towel. Score the caps and the stubby cut surface of the stems and place in a large bowl. Prepare marinade as above and pour over the mushrooms. Let marinate for an hour or so. Place mushrooms gill side down on oiled grill over hot coals and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until tender. Press down occasionally with a flat spatula, as mushrooms grill to hold in the juices. Mushrooms can be served at room temperature. Slice for serving as above.

 

SAUTEED PEPPERS AND ONIONS

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 red bell peppers, cored, deseeded and thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Warm oil in a large skillet and add the onions and peppers. Toss to coat in the oil and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover the skillet and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to redistribute the vegetables, for 5 to 6 minutes longer or until tender. Keep warm for serving.

Recipes from Silvia Lehrer’s Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End (Running Press, 2011).

Visit Silvia’s website at www.savoringthehamptons.com to see her blog and more recipes.

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