09 May 2011

Chicken Fajita Salad

Cinco de Mayo was this past Thursday, and I had a final the following morning.  I was bummed.  I really like margaritas, and I LOVE Mexican/Tex-Mex/Spanish food.  So I decided that even if I couldn't go out and have a good time, I would at least make some Cinco de Mayo-inspired food.

I found a fajita recipe online that had a marinade very similar to the tequila lime chicken that I make occasionally.  On a side note, the thing I don't like about my tequila lime chicken is that it takes 12 hours to marinate, so I have to decide the night before that I am going to be making it.  The base recipe I have also serves 8 people, which is approximately 7 more than I am usually cooking for.  So I don't make this as much as I would like.

The recipe that inspired this meal was for a chicken and steak fajita, and was supposed to be served with a homemade salsa.  It also wasn't as spicy as I typically like.  Now, I expected this, since the recipe was written/posted by an Italian chef (ahem: Giada) on the food network, so we aren't talking about the queen of spicy food.  But that's an easy adjustment to make - I just added some extra heat to the marinade.

In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I also made myself a margarita.  I tried something a little bit different than I usually make, adding some grapefruit into the drink.  I've seen several authentic Mexican drinks that had flavor profiles featuring grapefruit.  And it absolutely makes sense!  Grapefruit grows really well in the Southwest, and I would assume they would also grow well in northern Mexico.  I would make these slightly differently if I made this in the future - and that is the recipe I have posted below.  Particularly for a recipe like this, I prefer gold tequila

Fajita Salad
serves 4
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
1 lb chicken breast, chicken thigh, skirt steak, or a combination of the three
2 oranges
4 limes
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c agave nectar
4 cloves garlic
1 T dried oregano
1 T chili powder
4 ears corn
2 heads romaine lettuce
4 baby cucumbers
4-8 pineapple spears or rings (depending on size)

Zest and juice citrus fruits into a medium mixing bowl.  Add the oregano, chili powder, garlic, agave, and olive oil, and mix together.  Set aside about 1/3 of the marinade.  Add the meat to the marinade and let sit for 2-4 hours.  For the last 30 minutes, add the pineapple to the marinade.

Preheat the grill.  Grill corn, chicken, and pineapple until cooked through (chicken will take about 12 minutes, corn will take about 20 minutes, and pineapple will take 4-6 minutes).  Allow chicken to rest at least 5 minutes.

While food on the grill is cooking, chop the romaine and cucumber, and divide between 4 plates.  Do the same for the grilled pineapple and corn.  While chicken is resting, place reserved marinade in a sautee pan and simmer for about 5 minutes until slightly thickened.  Chop chicken into bite sized pieces and divide between the plates.  Top each salad with the reserved thickened marinade.  This was enough dressing for me, but you can add a drizzle of olive oil and lime juice if you want a little more.

If you use skirt steak, it will only take about 6 minutes to cook to medium rare.  You still need to let it rest for 5-10 minutes.  When you slice it to serve, slice it in thin strips against the grain so it doesn't get tough.  Of course you can serve the meat as a traditional fajita with flour tortillas, salsa, veggies, rice, etc, although you might want to up the meat a little bit if you are doing this.

Grapefruit Margarita
makes 1 strong drink
1 grapefruit
2 limes
3 oz tequila
1 oz triple sec
1 t agave nectar
margarita salt
chili powder
grapefruit soda (Ting, Izze, Jarritos, etc)

Zest 1 lime, and combine zest with a pinch of chili powder and enough margarita salt to rim the glass(es).  After you juice your limes, rub one of the rim of each glass.  Dip the glasses into the salt mixture and fill each with ice.  This step is only necessary if you are like salt on your margarita.  But I think its good.

Half and juice the limes and grapefruit into a shaker.  Drop one or two pieces of lime and grapefruit into the shaker and muddle.  Add ice, tequila, triple sec, and agave nectar to the shaker.  Shake to combine, then strain into the prepared glass.  Top with a splash of grapefruit soda.

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