Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sweet Chile Colorado On Beef Fajitas Over Rice

Because JB came to my house the other day and basically made me pick all the peppers in my garden, I had a plethora of late-season peppers, mostly Nardello, though with several beautiful orange and green bells, and I had to do something with them. This was my almost inspired use of the little beauties.
Secretly, I'm not a big fan of fajitas, although I think essentially everyone else in the world loves them. Honestly, it's not that I don't like them as much as it's that there are a lot of other things in the Mexican restaurants that I'd rather eat than fajitas. If they did fajitas with chile colorado like I did last night, then I might be inclined to change my mind on that.

I started with a recipe for "New Mexico Chile" and made my plan from there, intending to use the Nardellos instead of the dried red New Mexico chiles that usually make up the dish. I cut up about fifteen of them and did a reasonable, though imperfect, job of seeding them. I also smashed two cloves of garlic and roughly chopped them into the pile, and for a little kick, I chopped up a single, rather small (red) cayenne pepper as well. With just a little chopped onion, a little freshly picked and chopped oregano, a heavy pinch of cumin seeds, and a little bit of chopped garlic chives, I was set to make the sauce.
With a little oil in the pan, I added all of those peppers, onions, garlic, and whatnot and started to let it sizzle for a while. After it did its thing for about ten minutes or so, stirring it occasionally, of course, I added a bit of water and some red wine vinegar along with some salt and pepper. After that bubbled for a bit, I added the herbs, and that's what this picture shows, steam-blur and all. It was starting to smell mighty nice in the kitchen right about then.

While the sauce cooked down, half covered over medium heat, I cleaned and sliced two green bell peppers and half an onion into some healthy-sized pieces. I also took two bottom-round steaks, which I got for a great price, and sliced them thinly across the grain, cutting them into approximately two-inch-long strips. Not shown in the photo is the lime that I cut into quarters.

After I got everything all cut up and decided that the peppers had stewed for long enough, I poured all of that mess into the blender and let it run for a while. When it came out, it was thick, almost like paste, so I had to add some water. Immediately, I put it back on the cook, and here's a photo of the smoothed-out version bubbling away.

Meanwhile, I started some oil in a large skillet, which I put over high heat and let get very hot. Not having made fajitas before, I screwed the next part up and put the meat in first. I should have done the veggies ahead of the steak so they'd kind of caramelize. In any case, I put in the steak and let it cook for a few minutes, stirring it around to cook it fairly evenly, added the onions and peppers, and let it all cook like that over vigorous heat until the meat was just short of done, which didn't take long. Once the meat was just barely short of being done, as in the picture, I added the red-pepper sauce to the pan and let it stew the meat and veggies the rest of the way. When I turned it off, I added the juice of half of that lime and stirred it through. It was brilliant.

As you can see in the picture at the top of the post, I served this delicious stuff over lightly cumin-scented brown rice, although it would have been absolutely incredible over wet polenta (meaning without doing the baking business) heavily loaded with colby-jack cheese. I also intended to add some black beans to the entire mix, adding them to the skillet with the sauce or serving them on the side, but as I wasn't feeding as many people as usual last night, I held off on those. They would have been great, though, as would have been a little dollop of sour cream off to the side.

Also, had I left out the cumin from the sauce recipe, replacing it instead with a pinch of fennel seeds and adding a bit of rosemary and basil (and perhaps a tomato or two for character), this sauce would have been mind-blowing over pasta (and easily vegetarian-friendly in that case). In fact, it would have been absolutely incredible with pasta, some sauteed veggies, and, if you're into getting some protein veg-style, dry, fluffy scrambled eggs. Peppers play very well with eggs. If we have another Nardello harvest still out there on our little bushes, then I'll try that soon and let you know. Otherwise, it will have to wait until next year!

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