No matter where you happen to live today the odds are pretty good that there is a Chili’s restaurant somewhere near you. They seem to get more popular all the time and there are always plenty of commercials on TV telling you about what you can get there. We have one that is about 2 miles from our home and ever since Sean was little he has been a Chili’s fan. In fact, whenever Michelle goes away on business, Sean and I have a ritual that we have done for years where we go to Chili’s one night to have dinner while she is away. The menu has changed quite a bit over the years but one thing that has remained constant are the fajitas. Chili’s became quite popular thanks to this signature dish, serving it in a sizzling cast iron dish or skillet with all of the fixings to go along with it. While I do like the fajitas there and some other things on the menu, the fajitas themselves are not that hard to make on your own. However, I wanted to duplicate the flavor that they have with the fajitas so I had to do some searching on the Internet. I found several different copycat recipes to try, and I combined a few of them to make the recipe I tried out, taking he bulk of the idea from Todd Wilbur.
Not-Quite Chili’s Chicken Fajitas
For the Pico de Gallo:
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup diced onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh cilantro
For the Chicken Marinade:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash onion powder
2 boneless, skinless chicken halves
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Dash ground black pepper
1/2 cup pico de gallo, for serving
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, for serving
1/2 cup guacamole, for serving
1/2 cup sour cream, for serving
1 cup shredded lettuce, for serving
6 to 8 6-inch flour tortillas, for serving
Salsa, for serving
For the pico de gallo, combine the diced tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and salt together in a small bowl until they are blended. Cover and chill the bowl.
For the marinade, combine the lime juice, water, vegetable oil, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, liquid smoke, salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper and onion powder together in a large bowl. Place the chicken halves in the marinade and toss the chicken to coat it with the marinade. Cover the bowl and chill, allowing the chicken to marinade for 2 hours.
Pre-heat a grill pan to high heat. Pre-heat a separate large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and saute the onion for about 5 minutes until it is softened. Combine the soy sauce, water and lime juice together in a small bowl and pour the mixture over the onions. Add the black pepper and continue to saute the onions until they are translucent and dark on the edges, about 4 to 5 minutes longer. Salt the onions to taste.
While the onions are sauteing, grill the chicken in the grill pan until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. When the chicken is done, remove it from the grill pan and slice it into thin strips. Add the chicken strips into the pan with the onions and toss the two together. Serve the chicken with the pico de gallo, shredded cheese, guacamole and sour cream arranged on a separate plate on top of a bed of the shredded lettuce. Serve the salsa on the side, if desired. Steam the tortillas in a moist towel in the microwave for about 30 seconds to heat them through and serve them on the side as well.
I also added some yellow, orange and red peppers to the onions and sautéed them together as Chili’s often does, but if you are not a fan of the peppers feel free to leave them out. Also, you could easily substitute beef or shrimp for the chicken if you prefer. The beef can hold up to marinating overnight if you wanted to make it while the shrimp could follow the standard recipe. Also, if you want to get really fancy and serve it all in a sizzling pan like Chili’s does, you could always heat up a separate cast iron skillet or pan in the oven while you are cooking and dump the chicken and onions into it when you are done so you get he nice sizzle to go along with the meal. Overall, I think the flavors of the fajitas were pretty close to what you get in the restaurant. The soy sauce and liquid smoke seem to make a difference in the flavor of the chicken over other fajitas I have made in the past. Other than those two ingredients I didn’t see anything that was different from what I have done before so I think they must be the key to the taste. Sean really enjoyed them and said they tasted great, so you can save yourself a trip to the restaurant and some money and make them cheaper on your own. I would try this one again as a good alternative to the standard way I make fajitas.
That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!