Flank Steak Fajitas

Mmmmm…it’s Mexicali Monday, everybody!!  Right now in Ontario we’re experiencing typical early September weather.  There are the sweaty golden sunny days of Indian summer, followed by frigid evenings which are sneaking up on us earlier every day.  To harness that last bit of summer that we have, I thought we would turn to the grill at least a few more times.  What better to stretch those last lazy days of summer than a delectable feast from south of the border?    

PS – we grill until there is snow on the ground.  Well, and even AFTER there is snow on the ground.  If you haven’t heard the joke yet, people say that Canada only has 2 seasons:  patio season and winter.  As soon as the ice breaks and the snow is almost melted from the ground, it is patio season.  Well into the fall, when any sane people would be curled up inside by a fire, it is STILL patio season.  

This is the first of several posts on Mexican cuisine, so grab a cerveza and let’s rock and roll.  Posted recipes after this one include Chayote, Corn and Black Bean Salad, Amped Up Re-fried Beans (possibly the tastiest re-fried beans I have ever eaten, let alone made), Discount Salsa del Sol, and  Mango Margaritas…ooh, I’m just trembling with anticipation!!

Flank Steak Fajitas

Serves:  4 – 6

For the flank steak:

  • 1 flank steak (2-3 lbs) *
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin 
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 – 3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the fajitas:

  • 1 package of 12 medium (8″) soft flour tortillas

All other toppings are optional, but I highly recommend:

  • Sour cream
  • Shredded Monterey Jack
  • Sauteed peppers *
  • Salsa
  • Re-fried beans

*  We don’t need a recipe for sauteed peppers, right?  Just choose a variety of bell peppers in any combination of colours and saute them with a bit of olive oil until they’re cooked through.

My completely flawed theory is that all flank steaks are roughly the same size.  This is not true, and they can vary by up to 100% in size.  That’s okay though, if you see a size range then go for a medium or large.  If your flank steak selection is pretty weak, go for 2 small one’s.  Let’s not split hairs, we don’t all have an (affordable) available personal butcher.

And so what if steak isn’t your thing?  I have a lot of friends that aren’t vegetarian, but they don’t eat red meat.  This spice blend is just as delicious on chicken, and chicken fajitas are nothing to scoff at.

Combine your spices in a small bowl, and press or grate in the garlic cloves.

Pull about 3 peppers out of the can or jar.  This will be roughly 3 tbsp, depending on the size of the peppers.  Generally I make most of my condiments, but there are somethings that I am quite happy buying and this is one of them.

Chop these up finely, and then continue until they are fully minced.

Pour in the olive oil…

…and give it a stir.  It should be a paste but still quite spreadable after the oil thins it out.  Because flank steaks are so lean, the olive oil will also help out when you throw it on the grill.

Time to slather the steak!  You can do this on a rimmed platter or plate, but I have seen the light through the joys of freezer bags.  Dollop half the mixture on one side.

Massage it all over that side of the meat.  Let no nook and cranny go without chipotle love.  Flip the steak over, and repeat on the other side.

When your meat is nicely coated, seal the bag and throw it in the fridge to absorb all that wonderful flavour.  This should be for a minimum of 1 hour, and up to 4 hours.  If you only have an hour, leave it on the counter (unless your kitchen is steamy hot) to speed the flavor absorption process.

Barbecue the steak on fairly high heat until it reaches your desired doneness.  “Doneness”, of course, is my highly technical term.  Yup – take note, kids.  You don’t learn that stuff in school.  We like our meat rare or medium rare, so it will be about 3-4 minutes per side.  If you like your steak a bit less pink, keep it on a bit longer but remember that flank steak cooks up FAST because it’s so thin.  Also, there is very little fat on a flank steak and it is really best suited to being cooked rare, medium rare, or medium if absolutely necessary.  If you like your steak well done, try using the spice paste on a striploin instead.

When the meat is done to your liking, take it off the grill and tent it with tin foil for at least 10 minutes.  This lets the juices settle and circulate.  If you cut in now, the juice will run right out and you’ll be left with hard, chewy and dry slices of jerky-steak.  Has the meat rested?  Then you’re ready to slice.  Using a very sharp knife slice thinly, across the grain.  It also helps to do this on an angle of about 45 degrees.  This is where Mike is a viking, so he takes over The Slicing of the Meat.

Are you saying to yourself, “She SAID she doesn’t like her meat well done, but just LOOK AT IT!  Barely a blush of pink to be found!”  Fear not.  After you slice it, the juice will start to come out a bit and you’ll see the colour start to change within minutes.  As well, the ends are usually thinner so they tend to be more well done.  There is no need to panic (yet) that you’ve overcooked the steak and your guests are about to eat shoe leather.

Ah, see?  That’s what I’m talking about.  You know that I wouldn’t lie to you.

I should also mention that I spent a fair bit of time as an apartment dweller, where barbecues were naught but a dream crushed by the force of an interminable bylaw.  I would find it so frustrating to read delicious looking recipes and know that I couldn’t make them.  But…I did anyway.  If you are of the no barbecue breed, you can cook the flank steak in a very hot pan or skillet for the same amount of time.  You don’t get gorgeous grill marks or that slightly smoky-charred flavor, but it’s delicious none the less.

And now let’s move into a room full of candlelight to plate it all up and enjoy the fiesta.  Oooh, flank steak. My mouth waters at the site…

Assemble the fajitas!  I used a layer of re-fried beans, 2 good size slices of flank steak, a few sauteed peppers, a generous sprinkling of pepper jack, a dollop of sour cream, and a hearty topping of Discount Salsa Del Sol. 

Wrap and enjoy!

Here is what Mexican night looks like at our little hacienda.  The re-fried beans might be hiding behind the tortilla chips, but don’t forget that they’re there!

I would tend to pair this with either an icy cold beer (like Corona or Brava) or a tart margarita.  However, if you’re in the mood for wine, try something rich and peppery like the Argentinian Del Fin Del Mundo Newen Pinot Noir(2006) by Bodega Del Fin Del Mundo.

Chill to the late summer sounds of Susanna by Art Company.

  • Tara

    This sounds great!

  • Pingback: Roasted Corn, Chayote and Black Bean Salad()

  • Pingback: Discount Salsa Del Sol()

  • Pingback: Amped Up Refried Beans()

  • http://www.ambitiousdeliciousness.com Ambitious

    These flank steaks look SO yummy! I am afraid to cook steak because I’m afraid of messing it up. Can you grill this in a regular frying pan?

    Thanks for visiting, tina! And if you try making something Korean, let me know how it goes!!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Hi Ambitious!
    You can’t really ‘grill’ this in a frying pan, but before I had access to a BBQ I used to sear it in a pan at home. Make sure that your frying pan is big enough to comfortably fit the whole steak (without overlap or having part going up the sides). Get the pan piping/searing/HOHOMAMA hot and drizzle in a bit of oil because otherwise the marinade on the meat will cause it to stick a bit and/or burn. Go easy on the oil though, unless you like your steak deep-fried.

    I was terrified of cooking steak for the first time too, and going by ‘3-5 minutes’ never really cuts it. So, I’ll share with you the rule of thumb (literally) that I was taught by a French chef many moons ago.

    RARE:
    – Lay your hand on the table, palm up. Let it relax.
    – Press the spongy pad of your palm underneath the thumb. You should be pressing between the life-line and your wrist.
    – This is close to what your meat will feel like when it is rare.

    MEDIUM:
    – When your hand is relaxed the palm sticks out away from the hand. Draw it in so that your thumb is touching the side of your hand, parallel to your index finger.
    – Feel the pad at the base of your thumb again. See how it is firmer? This is close to what medium feels like.

    WELL DONE:
    – Bring your thumb across your palm so that the thumbnail is almost at the base of your pinky.
    – This will look like the ASL letter ‘B’
    – Feel the pad again – now it is really quite firm, and this is what well done feels like.

    DON’T FORGET TO LET THE MEAT REST! This allows all the juice to circulate back in, and it’s a step that you never want to miss – no matter what kind of meat you’re making.

    Good luck!!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Wow, that’s almost as long as my post. One more quick note: The only way that you will learn is to try, which is why experimenting with cheaper cuts like Flank steak is the way to go. If you over cook it, well, we all do from time to time. That’s okay, you can shred it or cut it and use it in sandwiches or stews with lots of acid to break the fibers down a bit more.Oh, or you can slice it REALLY thinly, dry it in the oven on low heat for a long time, and you have DELICIOUS Tex-Mex jerky.

    I like to salvage whenever possible….