My roots go back to Texas, and this is hands-down my favorite dish from home. Fajitas originated back in the 1930s on the ranchlands of the west and south Texas when Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) received “throwaway” cuts of beef as pay. One of those discarded cuts was the skirt steak that they grilled over an open flame for what is now known as fajitas.
I love the irony that fajitas come from an undesirable cut of meat out of necessity and have become so popular in American cuisine. I rarely hear of hunters saving the flank, skirt or brisket from their deer. If they do, they likely send it through the grinder.
These are choice cuts, in my opinion. I take pride in making a meal out of unfavorable meat that is both delicious and nostalgic.
When making fajitas, you’ll want to use the flank, skirt or brisket. The flank is the thin flap of meat on the lower abdomen connecting to the back legs. The brisket is on the chest, outside of the ribs. The skirt steak is located on the inside of the ribs and can be very small on a deer. If you have an elk or moose, you can get a sizable portion of meat.
These cuts are thin, lean, and have long grains of fiber running across it. They should be grilled over very high heat for a short amount of time and cut against the grain when ready to serve. If you don’t have any of these cuts saved you can try using the heart or round steak and pound it with a meat mallet to make it thinner. However, you won’t get the long grains typically associated with fajitas.
Part of the fun of eating fajitas is having a smorgasbord of side condiments to build your tacos. The recipe below includes sautéed onions and peppers cooked in a cast iron. Be sure to have plenty of tortillas, guacamole, and cerveza on hand.
Time to make
30 - 45 minutes plus marinating time
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
4 cloves of garlic, smashed in mortar & pestle or minced
1/2 cup neutral oil (avocado, grapeseed, canola)
1 1/2 – 2 1/2 lb. venison flank, brisket or skirt, pounded out thin
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
1-2 jalapenos, sliced
Serving suggestions: guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, sour cream, cheese, lime wedges, etc.
Also works with
- It’s important that all silverskin has been trimmed off the meat before cooking. In addition, it helps to gently pound the meat with a mallet to thin it out to an even layer.
- Make the marinade by combining all the ingredients (except oil) in a large bowl. Slowly drizzle the oil in while constantly whisking until emulsified. Add the venison to the marinade and let it rest for up to 12 hours in the refrigerator. Mix and turn the meat about every 4 hours.
- When ready to grill, remove the meat from the marinade. Try to squeeze out as much liquid as possible and reserve the marinade. Sprinkle the venison on each side with the brown sugar.
- Mix the sliced bell peppers, jalapeños, and onions in a separate bowl. Ladle in a small scoop of the reserved marinade and toss to coat.
- Set a large cast iron skillet or griddle on the grill and heat to medium-high. Once hot, add the peppers and onions and close the lid. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes until they begin to char and caramelize. Remove from grill and keep warm.
- Increase the heat to the highest setting. Add the venison and sear for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked medium-rare to medium (timing will depend on the thickness of venison and cut you chose to use).
- Let the meat rest for 5 minutes. Slice against the grain into thin strips and serve in tortillas with sautéed veggies, and your favorite condiments.