Fajitas rule. They’re devilishly simple — it’s just bell peppers, onions, and a protein or two — while still very much feeling like a luxury splurge off an otherwise standard Tex-Mex menu. Part of that comes from the fact that you can build your own taco using as much guacamole, sour cream, salsa, meat, cheese, and fried veg as you want. There’s something freeing about that approach.
Then there’s the sizzle. The famed fajita sizzle — that hiss and crackle of meat and oil on cast iron — is one of the most satisfying pieces of ASMR in existence and a surefire “get the attention of everyone in a 20-foot radius” order.
when someone at the next table orders fajitas pic.twitter.com/ubeQMAVXR9
— Brian Grubb (@briancgrubb) June 12, 2018
But fajitas don’t have to be relegated to the restaurant setting — they’re relatively easy to cook. So I thought I’d share a riff on Surf ‘N Turf Fajitas that I made with a nice hanger steak and some large red prawns. I didn’t go overboard with the sides. I’m just using guacamole and crema. You can add your own salsa, pico de gallo, and/or shredded cheese if you want.
Overall, the whole recipe is all pretty straightforward Tex-Mex, which is easily sourceable at any U.S. supermarket. I’ve also done this recipe with skirt steak and strip steak but I just happened to have hangers on hand. Anyway, let’s dive in because, again, fajitas rule. Just ask our own Brian Grubb, whose Twitter handle is veering dangerously close to becoming a fajita-themed account.
Surf ‘N Turf Fajitas — DIY Recipe
Steak and Marinade:
- 8-oz. Hanger Steak
- 1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro
- 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
- 1/4 cup Lime Juice
- 1/4 cup Sesame Oil
- 1/4 cup Resposado Tequila
- 1/4 cup Sugar
- 4 Garlic Cloves
- Large tablespoon Cumin
- Black Pepper
Prawns and Marinade:
- 6 Red Prawns
- 1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro
- 1/2 Chili Pepper
- 1/4 cup Lime Juice
- 1/4 cup Resposado Tequila
- Black Pepper
- 1/2 Red Bell Pepper
- 1/2 Green Bell Pepper
- 1 medium Yellow Onion
- 2 Avocados
- 1/2 Red Onion
- 1/2 Tomato
- Sour Cream
- Neutral Oil
This is the most labor-intensive part of the process. The first thing you need to do is get the steak marinating. Now, do you need to really marinate your steak? Yes. Yes, you absolutely do. To get that real Tex-Mex restaurant vibe to the fajita steak, you need to get some marinade in there.
This marinade is easy. Combine 1/2-cup soy sauce with 1/4 cup of each lime juice, sesame oil, tequila, and sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then add in the garlic, cilantro, cumin, and a generous pinch of salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
Stir to combine. Done.
I pour that over the steaks in a fridge safe dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. I let my steaks marinate for four hours. You can let these rest overnight but I didn’t think ahead enough for that.
In the meantime, I get my prawns shelled and deveined. This process is a lot easier than it sounds.
- Step one, twist the head off.
- Step two, gently pull the shell from the meat starting from the top, where the head was. It should slide right off.
- Step three, devein the prawns by running a sharp pairing knife down the back of the prawn, about 1/8-inch deep, revealing the intestine. Remove and discard.
That’s it. It may take a little practice, but it’s easy to master cleaning raw shrimp like this. Also, save the heads and shells to make shrimp stock later. It’s the only way to make grits for shrimp and grits but that’s a story for another day.
I then add the lime juice, tequila, chilis, cilantro, and prawns to another bowl to get them marinating. I hit that with a very big pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper. I cover and let refrigerate until we’re ready to cook (about an hour).
Next, I make some really fast guacamole. Into a bowl goes: two avocadoes, half a red onion finely diced, a handful of chopped cilantro, the juice of two limes, the other half of that chili pepper used with the prawns, a large pinch of salt, and a heaping teaspoon of cumin. I mash that together until it’s semi-smooth. I then stir in half a tomato that’s roughly chopped. I cover that with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge. I then make a quick crema with about half a cup of sour cream and the juice of half a lime. Stir. Done.
Lastly, I cut up my bell peppers and yellow onion. As you can see in the photo up top, you don’t have to go too crazy here. A pole-to-pole chop does the trick.
The first thing I do is get my serving skillet in the oven on high. This has to get super hot to get that iconic sizzle when you serve your fajitas.
I fetch my hanger steaks from the fridge and remove them from their marinade. That’s when I realize that I forgot to trim the exess fat and sinew off. So I trim a bit off while I heat a cast iron skillet on high with a thin layer of canola oil.
Once the skillet is ripping hot, I lay in the steak. I want to get a deep sear on the thing. It’s about one-inch thick, so I leave it on one side for about 3 minutes before I flip it. I let it sear for another minute and then I turn the heat down to a medium flame. I let the steak sit for another two minutes before I flip it one last time to cook for another two minutes on the first side that touched the skillet.
I place the steak on a wooden board and let to rest for ten solid minutes.
In the meantime, I add the peppers and onion to the skillet, hit them with a pinch of salt, and toss them around with a wooden spoon, bringing up all that steaky fond from the bottom of the skillet.
You don’t want to overcook the veg here. The onion should be going just translucent and the peppers should be brighter and softening with a crunch still in them. Once I hit that mark, I set the peppers and onions aside.
Lastly, I add the prawns to the skillet for about 30 seconds on each side. I just want to give them some color and heat — they’re already cooked from the lime juice.
I grab my pipping hot skillet from the oven and I’m ready to serve. I quickly slice into my steak, making about half-inch thick slices across the grain of the steak.
I hit the peppers and onion with a little Canola oil and drop them into the skillet first and they smoke and sizzle brilliantly. I place the steak on top and arrange the six prawns around.
And … I wish you could smell and hear this sizzling skillet. The smells and sounds transport you straight to your favorite Tex-Mex joint.
I serve these with some warmed flour tortillas, a little sour cream cut with lime juice, and the guacamole. These fajitas were a big hit at my dinner table and not a morsel was left. The steak was cooked just right (on the rarer side, as you can see) with a nice umami depth thanks to the marinade. The prawns popped with a hint of spice, lime, and tequila. The veg was a nice balance with just the right amount of crunch.
Seriously, take a crack at these. You’ve made more than enough sourdough.