Friday, January 19, 2007

Family and Fajitas

Okay, just three more posts about my trip to California. I told you we ate a lot. Oh, and about that posting every day thing? Well, I aimed for "every day," but I landed on "a lot more often." So that's something, right?

On day two, we made our own fajitas. Dave has a huge charcoal grill on his large balcony, and any trip to visit him must include what he calls "smoky meats." Dave and I share a huge love of fajitas, and this dish, with its accompanying massive trip to the grocery store, pretty much happens automatically. And I think we get better at it each time.

With us, cooking usually includes a little bickering, as well. What kind of meat do we remember Dad using in his sauce? Does lettuce wilt in the presence, or absence of liquid? Is is easier to skim the fat off the broth when it is hot, or cold? We are both Alpha Cooks, which means we are equally hard to convince that our way isn't the best way. And we are territorial about our kitchens. See, when you come to our house, it is understood that we are cooking for you. So I think that having me hovering over David telling him "how I would do it" is just about the limit of what he can stand. And what's more, it is his kitchen. His rules. Me and my hours of Food TV and my fancy laws of physics can just about kiss his ass.

But considering that our model for "cooking together" is either A) my father pushing my mother clear out of the kitchen, or B) our father and his sister screaming at one another at the top of their lungs, I think we do pretty well. In the end, he lets me do things my way quite a lot. And what we make together is inevitably tasty. The entertainment for our guests is just a bonus!

In this instance, he allowed me to convince him to pick up some flank steak for the fajitas. All the stuff he'd had was sort of stringy and tough. But I told him that my friend Katherine showed me how to cut it properly -- across the bias, or perpendicular to the direction that the fibers run in. This gives it lots more elasticity and tenderness. And thanks to my friend Pen, I use a very simple and tasty marinade that works for any red meat: olive oil and soy sauce. (If you have a little sesame or chili oil to toss in for flavor, that's great too.) You can add garlic, salt, and pepper. I also added a little of David's Tapatio sauce to it.

It came out really tender, and Dave cooked it and sliced it perfectly. It melted in your mouth. (Even if you don't like your meat quite this pink, I would recommend it. The beef gets tossed into the fajita sauce at the last moment, so it cooks just a bit more at that time. You don't want it well-done when you toss it in.)

On day two of the Guacamole Bender. I made what I think was the best guac we had out there. I was really just imitating what I've seen them do in our favorite Mexican restaurants in the mortar and pestle. I used very finely diced jalepeno, red onion, cilantro, fresh garlic (Dave has the coolest garlic press...), salt and pepper, and plenty of lime juice. We ate 3/4 of it before I remembered to take a picture, shown atop Dave's work-in-progress mosaic table.

Dave likes the combo fajitas, so we cooked chicken, too. The marinade for this was just margarita salt, pepper, olive oil, lime juice and chopped cilantro. We sliced it after grilling and put it atop the peppers and onions that we added butter, chicken stock, and Worcheshire sauce to at the very end. Then we added the sliced beef, and chowed down with all the fajita fixings. Juicy!

I really miss my brother. The ones you bicker with are the ones who understand you best!

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