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8 & $20: Steak Fajitas

Matched with a red Rioja, this sizzling Tex-Mex meal is fun and easy
Photo by: iStock
A supple red or a fresh rosé can enhance the flavors in these colorful steak fajitas.

Samantha Falewée
Posted: March 13, 2018

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.

A major appeal of fajitas is the sizzling presentation. But even if you can't serve them at the table in cast-iron pans, they're just as appealing for their combination of textures, flavors and temperatures, as smoking peppers and juicy steak strips are rolled up in warm tortillas along with your favorite toppings: soft cheese, fresh pico de gallo and cool sour cream.

A friend and I made steak fajitas recently in my Brooklyn apartment, and it was a breeze, with minimal cleanup. This recipe makes for a filling meal with the potential for leftovers, which can be revived with a quick sear on a pan with a dash of olive oil or repurposed into new dishes like quesadillas.

For steak, skirt steak is the typical choice, although flank steak works well too. Ideally, you want to let the meat sit in the marinade, sealed tightly in a plastic bag, for around five to 10 hours, so prepare this in advance if you can. (If not, do this step first and let the meat sit while you do the rest of the prep.) In the marinade, the cumin contributes a distinctive smoky flavor, while the red pepper flakes add an underlying, mild heat. Sauté the peppers and steak in a pan that’s very hot, and keep moving the food so it doesn’t stick to the pan.

For the wine, we chose a red Rioja with aromas of cherry, raspberry and licorice that folded into a supple, medium body, showing a hint of spice. The wine’s fruit-forward character and low-profile tannins elevated the smokiness and umami flavors of the dish. For contrast, we also tried a well-balanced rosé, which worked well with the fajitas too. The lighter fruit notes picked up the sweetness of the peppers and brought out the cumin.

Steak Fajitas

Pair with a polished red Rioja like Bodegas Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva 2011 (86 points, $17). For similar pairings, try the 2012 and 2013 vintages.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Approximate food costs: $25

  • 3/4 pound skirt steak
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 tortillas
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 bell peppers (green, yellow or red)
  • Cilantro, optional, as garnish
  • Optional toppings: soft shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole or pico de gallo

1. Mix 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the lime juice, garlic, cumin, hot pepper flakes, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slice the steak into thin strips, cutting against the grain, and add to the bowl, coating the meat in the marinade. Transfer the meat and marinade to a tightly sealed plastic bag and let sit. (Ideally, make the marinade 5 to 10 hours in advance of meal time. If you are making the fajitas the same evening, don't worry; doing this step first, before slicing the vegetables, will allow sufficient time for the marinade to add flavor.)

2. Preheat the oven to 350° F and begin cutting the onion and peppers into thin strips. When the oven is ready, wrap the tortillas in foil and place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes to warm them.

3. Heat the remaining olive oil in a very large non-stick or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Cook the vegetables in the pan until softened and lightly seared, about 5 minutes. Set these aside in a bowl.

4. Add a touch more olive oil to the hot pan, letting it warm, then add the steak slices and cook for 3 minutes. Add the peppers and onions back in and cook, stirring, for another minute or so. Serve with toppings like cheese, guacamole, sour cream or pico de gallo. Garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serves 4.

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