The Secret to Killer Veggie Fajitas

Categories: Homebrew
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John Linn
If there's one thing I love about Tex-Mex-style fajitas, it's the veggies. That sizzling mix of onions and peppers is about my favorite part of the whole fajita entourage. To me, it's all about the caramelization. When the vegetables are rendered down, they become the sweet and luscious backbone behind the whole dish. Make 'em right and they're so good, you don't even need the meat.

The real secret to getting deeply caramelized veggies is all in the skillet. Or iron skillet, that is -- the one essential tool you're going to need if you want to make restaurant-style fajitas at home.

Start by prepping your vegetables ahead of time. The trick here is to go wild, selecting as many fresh, multicolored vegetables as you can fit in a 12-inch skillet. For me, that's more than just onions and peppers. It's also broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, jalapeños, and even squash. Generally I find the more colors, the better.

It's important to cut your vegetables into equal-sized pieces so they cook evenly. For broccoli, that means nothing larger than a single floret. Zucchini pieces should be a quarter-inch thick and cut into half-moons. I like to quarter mushrooms rather than slice them so they maintain a nice, squeaky bite, and julienne jalapeños into strips with the seeds out. Of course, you'll also want onions and peppers -- preferably bright-red, orange, or yellow bell peppers cut into fat strips and at least one whole onion sliced similarly.

Next, get your skillet hot, but not so hot that it starts to smoke. I find that normal electric ranges don't quite do the trick, so I use the burner attached to my propane grill, set over a medium-high flame.

Once it's nice and hot, add about 1/4 cup of olive or vegetable oil, then toss in your veggies. Don't worry if you fill up the skillet -- as they cook, they render down a bit and lose their juice. Season with salt and pepper, and, if you like, some mild chili powder like ancho or arbol.

Here's another tip: As the veggies cook, don't overstir. They need time to really caramelize, and constant stirring will only muck that up. At the same time, you don't want to let them burn.

Once the onions are translucent and the peppers have rendered a bit, add about 2 TBS of soy sauce to deglaze the skillet. That will really pull up the flavors and make them shine.

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Once finished, serve hot and sizzling with guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, and plenty of warm flour tortillas. Who needs the meat?

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