Serious Eats: Recipes

Butterflied Tri-Tip Fajitas

[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

If you're anything like me, chances are you've never stopped to think about the history of fajitas. This sizzling plate of meat and onions served with flour tortillas has always been a given, just like gravy-drenched enchiladas or the ubiquitous combo plates served in places specializing in Tex-Mex.

But like any iconic food, there's a story behind that platter, and in this case a fascinating one that Robb Walsh has extensively researched for The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook.

I'm not going to get into the details (did you know that fajita means little belt?) but I will say that reading up on the history of fajitas left me with a serious craving. I mixed up Walsh's Tex-Mex Fajita Marinade and set about making a dinner of these Butterflied Tri-Tip Fajitas.

Tri-tip is a cut that's easier to find on the West Coast, but wherever you are, if you can get your hands on some, it's one of the most versatile cuts around. It can be slow-roasted or cooked over high heat, as it is in this fajita recipe, with equally tender and beefy results.

The marinade of soy sauce, pineapple juice, garlic, and lime juice and zest is a potent one, and just an hour or two of contact time does the trick. The meat is grilled to medium then thinly sliced against the grain for the fajitas. Walsh gives a laundry list of possible fajita fixin's but with meat as flavorful as this, overloading your tortillas with a billion toppings isn't really necessary.

I chose grilled onions and jalapeƱo, a bit of chopped onion mixed with cilantro and lime, and some guacamole to dress my fajitas—they were pretty incredible. Even with the charred flavors of the beef the marinade really came though and the heat from the jalapeƱos and onions balanced it all out.

These fajitas make a great summertime meal for a crowd since the only real work is grilling and chopping the meat. Just set out bowls of fajita fixin's and a big pile of flour tortillas and let everyone customize their own fajitas.

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