chicken fajitas with pico de gallo, sour cream & tortillas

Chicken breast is perfect with the traditional fajita marinade. I have always preferred the fresh, pure flavors of lime and garlic to flavors like soy sauce and monosodium glutamate. My favorite way to serve these chicken fajitas is with grilled rather than sautéed vegetables. Select large red onions and the biggest bell peppers you can find.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
2 pounds lean boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Juice of 2 limes
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 large red onions, halved crosswise
1 each large red, green, and yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
Pico de Gallo
Dairy sour cream
Guacamole, optional
6-inch diameter flour tortillas, warmed

Cut each chicken breast in half, following the natural division of the cartilage and removing any fat. Pound between sheets of plastic wrap to a uniform thickness.

To prepare the marinade, combine lime juice, garlic, salt, black pepper, and oil in a bowl. Dip each side of the chicken breast into the mixture and marinate 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Preheat the grill, allowing enough time for it to get hot. Use mesquite wood or chips for an authentic flavor. Lightly brush onion halves and bell pepper strips with oil. Start vegetables 20 to 25 minutes before starting the chicken. When they are done, cut into ½-inch-wide strips and mix together. Keep warm.

Grill chicken about 3 inches from coals for about 4 minutes to the side. Cut into strips approximately 1 inch wide when done.

Serve the grilled chicken over the grilled onions and peppers. Serve with a bowl of Pico de Gallo, sour cream, and guacamole if desired, and pass a napkin-lined basket of hot tortillas.

Variation: Pan-sauté the onions and peppers, cutting them into strips before cooking and using minimal oil, cooking only until slightly crisp.

pico de gallo

This dish’s name literally translates to “as hot as the top of a cock’s comb.” The salsa originated in northern Mexico and was originally made with chipotle chiles. I have found that fresh jalapeño chiles with a pinch of pequin chile substitute quite well, if chipotles are unavailable. This salsa is a staple with fajitas.

Yield: 1½ cups
3 chipotle chiles or fresh jalapeño chiles, finely chopped
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
1 Spanish onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pequin chile or to taste (omit if using chipotle chile)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
¼ cup fresh lime juice

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-size bowl, cover, and marinate at least 1 hour to develop natural juices before serving.

An internationally recognized authority on the regional cooking of the American Southwest, Jane Butel has published 18 cookbooks, including several bestsellers. She operates a full-participation weekend and week-long vacation cooking school; an online school; a mail-order spice, cookbook, and Southwestern product business; and conducts culinary tours and team-building classes. Through her writing, teaching, and television projects, Butel seasons the country’s melting pot with the Southwest’s rich culinary, cultural, and historical heritage. Learn more at