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Texans would probably like to lay claim to the fajita, but history gives
credit to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas (along the Rio Grande
on the Texas-Mexico border) in the late 1930s or early 1940s. When a steer
was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for
partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make
good use of a tough cut of beef known as skirt steak. In Spanish, fajita is
a form of the word faja which translates to "belt" or "girdle" in
The fajita is truly a Tex-Mex food (a blending of Texas cowboy and
Mexican panchero foods). The Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is
arracheras, and its American counterpart is fajitas. Today, the term
fajita has completely lost its original meaning and has come to describe
just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour
tortilla. The only true fajitas, however, are made from skirt steak.
Sonny Falcon, meat market manager of Guajardo's Cash Grocery, liked to
experiment with ideas for using the tough skirt steak in recipes. According
to the article The Return of the Fajita King in an interview with
Sonny Falcon, by Virginia B. Wood, in the Austin Chronicle, March 4, 1995:
"I looked at that cut of meat and said to
myself, 'It looks jut like a belt,'" he says. "The first fajitas I every
saw, I made myself right here in the 1960s" According to Falcon's
version of fajita history, he figured his new creation would popularize
an affordable cut of meat and attract more business to the family store
- if he could just get people to taste it. "Anytime dad would cook
fajitas in the backyard, all our friends would ask to come over."
recalls son John Falcon. "Dad knew he'd come up with something great."
In 1969, Sonny set up a concession both at a weeklong outdoor event in Kyle,
Texas. He also went to rodeos, fairs, and outdoor festivals on nights and
weekends selling his fajita taco to the crowds of appreciative people. Sonny
became personally identified with the dish by the late 1970s, An Austin
reporter christened him "The Fajita King," and the name stuck. Sonny now
owns the trademark on that term. He also tried to trademark the word
"fajita," but was turned down.
In 1948, Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo, and Mexican-American woman, and her
Italian-American husband, Tommy Laurenzo, open opened a tortilla and pizza
dough factory in Houston. The factory wasn't succeeding, so they borrowed
money and opened a Mexican restaurant called Ninfa's. Because the restaurant
became so popular, they closed down the tortilla factory and concentrated on
Around 1973, Nifa's version of the fajita was created at the
suggestion of a customer who had just returned from a trip to Mexico City
and asked the staff to slice a piece of steak into thin strips so he could
make an upscale taco. Once the accompaniments were added - cilantro, onion,
tomatoes, chilies, sour cream, and cheese - the new fajita dish became a
house specialty. Originally called "tacos al carbon," it was later
trademarked as "tacos a la Ninfa." Later the restaurant begin to use the
In 1982, Chef George Weidmann, chef of the Hyatt Regency in Austin, TX, in 1982, recognized the commercial potential of a popular local
Tex-Mex dish. He put "sizzling fajitas" on the menu of the Hyatt's La Vista restaurant, and soon sales of that
signature dish made it the most profitable restaurant in the Hyatt chain.
Fajitas Recipe - How To Make Fajitas:
Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 5 min
Total time: 30 min
Lime Marinade (see recipe below)
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak or flank steak
1 green or red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
onion, thinly sliced
Shredded cheddar cheese
Prepare Lime Marinade; set aside.
skirt steak on a cutting board and remove the outer membrane
(grab the membrane with one hand and slide the knife beneath it, cutting as you go).
Using a sharp paring knife, make a number of slits in the meat, cutting both
with and against the grain of the meat (this cuts the muscle fiber and
reduces any toughness.)
In a large plastic bag with
the Lime Marinade, add skirt steak; reseal and marinate in the refrigerator at least
1 hour or overnight, turning steak occasionally.
Remove steak from refrigerator
and bring to room temperature before cooking.
Drain steaks, reserving marinade. Place steaks on the hot grill and spoon some of
the reserved marinade over the steak. Close barbecue lid, open any vents, and cook 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare
(120 degrees F. on your
meat thermometer). Remove from grill and transfer to a cutting board; cut on the diagonal into thin strips.
is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers
asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the
Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. Originally designed for professional users, the
Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world. To learn more about this excellent
thermometer and to also purchase one (if you desire), just click on the underlined:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Wrap stacked flour tortillas in aluminum foil and heat in oven 15 minutes or until hot. To microwave, wrap a stack of flour tortillas lightly in paper towels and
warm on high for 6 or 7 seconds per tortilla.
While the shirt steak is cooking, grill the green pepper and onion slices 1 to 2 minutes or until soft; remove
from grill and place on a serving platter. Place cooked steak strips onto the same platter.
For each fajita, fill a warm
flour tortilla with cooked steak strips and desired amounts of green pepper and onion
slices. Add tomatoes, cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa as desired; roll up like a burrito and enjoy.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Juice of 4 to 5 fresh-squeezed limes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon light molasses
1 tablespoon chopped fresh
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
In a large re-sealable plastic
bag, combine lime juice, vinegar, soy sauce, molasses, cilantro, garlic, cumin, and pepper; set aside.