Nonfiction Monday: Pork Fajitas
I don’t know why, but I never really considered pork as a fajita meat until recently (something about being engaged to a person who really likes pork). Cooking with pork’s always been a challenge for me. See, I get in trouble when I eat overcooked meat–it has a tendency to get stuck on the way to my stomach (and let’s not discuss that further), and everybody knows pork has to be cooked to well done or you’ll get the eeeevil trichinosis! (dramatic music)
Except, well, no.
Still, pink in pork is scary to most Americans and it’s not good presentation to open your meal with a lecture on why your diners are wrong and dumb. So I try to cook pork until it looks safe, which means it’s overdone and causes me trouble unless I’m very careful with it. Care like I took in the preparation of this fajita recipe, which came out tender and flavorful.
Pork Fajita #1
Thaw pork, cut into strips. Rub with salt, pepper, chili powder, and ground cumin. (I’m not going to give you specific amounts for the seasonings because there are too many variables, but I will say I usually have about equal parts of these things, and the pork winds up looking noticeably darker but not yet saturated.) Lay these out with as little intra-pork contact as possible, cover and let them rest in the fridge for at least an hour (more if you can swing it–up to about a day).
French the onion and bell pepper (i.e. cut them into thin, uniform strips–a mandolin is great for this if you have one, otherwise it’s time to work on your knife skills). Peel and crush the garlic (I use the flat side of a chef’s knife on a cutting board, but please don’t slice off your hand doing this). Put the onions and peppers in the lidded skillet over medium heat with 2tbsp chili oil and 1tsp salt. After about a minute or when the onions are visibly softening, add the garlic along with 1tsp chili powder, 1tbsp ground cumin and 1tbsp dried parsley. Cover this and leave it on medium heat until the lid starts to rattle. When that happens turn the heat to low (or on an electric range just turn it off–the residual heat in the burner will do what needs doing) and leave covered.
Put a little chili oil, just enough to skim the bottom, in the other skillet and heat it to medium-high. When it’s hot add the pork strips and sear them for about two minutes. This will not cook them through, you’re just adding texture and flavor.
Add the par-seared pork strips to the veggie skillet and bring it back to medium heat. Cover and wait for the lid to rattle again. When it does, lower the heat as before and wait five minutes. Check the pork’s temperature then and every five minutes after that until it’s where you want it. Serve with warm tortillas.
As always, remember that the science in cooking is all in the technique, not the ingredients, so feel free to change up the proportions of any of the software in this recipe, or substitute other similar flavors. Want veggie fajitas? Use slices of portabello mushrooms instead of pork. Want less heat? Use olive oil or safflower oil instead of chili oil. More garlic, less onion, cilantro instead of parsley, whatever you want, just have fun with it.