(photo courtesy of the Sonny Falcon family)
Nose-to-tail cookery has been around since the very first animal was butchered. The last thing anyone wanted to do was waste precious protein.
Few understood this better than the vaqueros of North America. These horsemen were also cattle herders from Spanish Mexico (originally the Iberian Peninsula) who first came to the Southwest region in the late 1600-1700’s. Their traditions remain to this day and were the original foundation for the modern cowboy.
It should come as no surprise then, that a popular Southwestern entrée (technically from Texas to Arizona) was born from these very roots. Originally known along the Rio Grande River Valley as arracheras (grilled skirt steak) the tough but tasty skirt steak was considered trimmings to be giving to the ranch hands or other day laborers after butcher and slaughter, while the better cuts were kept for sale.
Because of their typically tougher nature, fresh squeezed lime juice was used as a natural tenderizer and other flavors like onion, garlic, chile peppers (ancho, guajillo, jalapeno, serrano, etc.) and salt were added to season the beef. After allowing the skirt steak to rest for an hour or two (basically enough time for the fire to die down a bit), the long, thin skirt steaks were cooked over the hot coals (not open flame) of the vaquero’s campfire.
This dish is the undisputed precursor to the modern fajita that skyrocketed in popularity in the 1990’s throughout North America. But, why the name change?
“Arrachera” is the Spanish name for the cut of meat that we refer to in as “skirt steak”. It’s the cut of meat that comes from the diaphragm area of the animal, the muscle that separates the heart and abdominal cavities of the cow.
“Fajita” on the other hand is more of a slang term. It’s descriptive of the look of that cut of beef. Fajita is the diminutive form of the spanish word “faja” which translates to “belt” or “girdle” in English. So “little girdle” (think of a mariachi’s cumberbund/ belt here) seemed an appropriate description of the one inch thick by almost eighteen inch long skirt steak being served to those without an in-depth knowledge of butchery.
Enter Juan Antonio “Sonny” Falcon. He offered his first fajitas for sale in a concession booth in September 1969 (pictured above) and never looked back. Though he currently holds the USPTO trademark “Fajita King”, and started that empire way back in the 1960’s, we know by the anecdotal evidence that he wasn’t the first person to serve “fajitas”. He simply started the commercialization of it.
[As an aside, “Sizzling Fajitas” (skirt steak served on the blisteringly hot, single-serve, cast iron griddle) were first served in a HYATT hotel restaurant in 1983 and are still a staple menu item at HYATT properties around the country. A few years later Applebee’s and Chili’s introduced “fajitas” to the casual dining masses and we embraced them with open hearts and stomachs. Frankly, this is perhaps the only instance where describing a dish as having “Tex-Mex” origins isn’t an insult, but rather a nod to the earliest native settlers of a geographical region.]
Let’s face it, well-seasoned fajita’s aren’t easy to make as they are to eat. You want the meat to be well seasoned, to taste just right, even representative of that original arracheras recipe. But, that’s no simple task.
Have no fear, we’ve got you covered! Enter our newest offering – simple seasonings™ fajita seasoning. It’s a beautiful, well-balanced, chemical-free, gluten-free and organic blend of the basic herb, spice and chile notes that have embodied traditional arracheras/ fajitas ever since the vaqueros first sank their teeth into those delicious, juicy camp-seasoned skirt steaks.
If you’ve been craving the flavor of great fajitas, it’s time to feed that hunger! Tasty, authentic fajitas have never been easier to make at home. Order your fajita seasoning today and impress your friends this weekend…for the DIY fajita griller it doesn’t get any easier!