Fajitas (grilled skirt steak) were introduced in 1973 at Ninfa’s in Houston as tacos al carbon (charbroiled tacos). The history of the name is not exactly clear, but make no mistake — fajitas are about as Mexican as spaghetti and meatballs.
The dish was originally concocted to please eager customers at Ninfa’s downtown Houston location. When big names like John Travolta, Rock Hudson and members of ZZ Top began frequenting the place, the secret was out. Ninfa’s eventually became a chain and the rest is history.
Want fajitas on the cheap? Order tacos al carbon. While many chains have eliminated tacos al carbon from the menu, they can still be found on the menus of some mom & pop operations. Same meat. Same tortillas. Fewer pesos out of your pocket. Besides, ‘tacos al carbon’ just sounds cool.
Tacos al Carbon
About 2 lbs – Skirt steak
1 cup – Salsa Quemada, or your favorite red salsa
Juice of 3 Limes
Combine salsa and lime juice. Pour over steak (I use a gallon-size zip bag), and let marinate at least 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Cooking in cast iron
Preheat large cast iron skillet to medium-high. Cook steak for about 3-4 minutes per side. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes on a cutting board before slicing. Though this produces tasty results, make certain your stove vent is working because of the smoke you’ll create.
Cooking on a gas grill
Preheat the grill to medium high. My grill has a cast iron grate and cooks this steak to a nice medium to medium rare-doneness at about 5 minutes her side. If your grill has stainless grates, allow a couple extra minutes per side.
Cooking on charcoal or wood coals
If you’re not a regular charcoal cook, this can be a little tricky. First, don’t skimp on cheap charcoal. Saving a couple of dollars is not worth messing up a meal. Also, use plenty of briquettes. If your pile of charcoal looks like you’ve used to much, chances are, it’s the perfect amount. Prepare your charcoal (or wood coals) as you usually would — lighting and allowing to burn until white hot and ashy in appearance. Most grates sit about 4-5 inches from the coals. At this distance, a medium-rare skirt steak is accomplished in about 4 minutes per side. This is the most delicious way of preparing skirt steaks for Tacos al Carbon.
Serve in warmed flour tortillas. A 2 lb. skirt steak makes about 10-12 Tacos al Carbon.
Traditional Tacos al Carbon toppers
- Grilled onions
- Grilled sweet peppers
- Pickled Jalapenos
- Avocado slices
- Fresh Cilantro
- Salsa verde or Salsa roja