Monday, April 2, 2018

Southwestern Night At Our Place

We had a couple of friends over for supper and since I have been wanting to make Tex-Mex we offered them that option and they readily agreed with a menu of fajitas.  My thought was this would be simple as all we needed to do was grill some meat and vegetables but boy was I wrong and in hindsight I wish we had gone with a pan of enchiladas or similar one pan dish.

Bev and table before any arrivals - note the amaryllis on the table.  The wooden holders are for the cast iron plates

We began the evening in the sun room with some Lays Tostitos Cantina Thin & Crispy chips (note story at the blog end), salsa from a local Mexican restaurant, homemade guacamole, margaritas, and conversation to catch up as it had been quite a while since our last visit.  These are my new favorite tortilla chips as they are tasty, crispy, and light which worked well with the runny salsa – they were too thin to use with the guac if scooping was to be done, but a spoon fixed the problem.

Our menu for the main event was:

- Sirloin steak using a fajita seasoning recipe from Chris on his Nibble Me This Blog
- Chicken thighs and breasts using the marinade recipe from Chris.
- Sautéed Royal Red Shrimp (just so they could try them) using butter, a squeeze of lime juice and a good pinch of the fajita seasoning.
- Sauteed marinated onions and sweet peppers marinated in oil with the fajita seasoning.
- Six inch flour tortillas heated in the microwave - see note 1
- Spanish rice using the recipe from Taste of Home but omitting the meat and subbing a can of Rotel for the diced tomatoes – made the day before and nuked to reheat.
- Charro beans using the recipe below, made the day before and nuked to reheat.
- Condiments of shredded white and yellow cheddar cheese, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, fresh and pickled jalapenos, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges.

Note 1 - I looked online about how to heat the tortillas in the microwave and it said to put a damp paper towel between each one and nuke until warmed.  Either this doesn't work or we did it wrong as we ended up with paper and tortillas glued together, so into the trash they went - fortunately Bev had bought a second 20 pack just to have on hand.

I first ate Charro Beans at a Mexican restaurant in San Marcos, TX during our first big RV trip and since then I have always opted for them in lieu of refried beans when I had a choice but we’ve never made them and Bev was very skeptical until she had a taste and declared them a keeper.

Charro BeansAdapted from Mexican Please

2 cans pinto beans (drained and rinsed, approx. 4 cups) - note 2
1/2 lb. bacon (approx. 7-8 slices)
4-5 plum tomatoes (Larry used 5 pretty large ones)
1/2 onion
3 chipotles in adobo (Larry used one)
2 cloves garlic
2 cups stock (or water), divided (Larry used water with Chicken Base)
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano (optional) (Larry used it)
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
Freshly cracked black pepper

1. Give the tomatoes a good rinse and roast them in the oven at 400F for approximately 20 minutes or until you need them.
2. Chop up the bacon into small pieces.  Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned (approx. 5-8 minutes depending on the size of the bacon pieces).
3. Chop up a 1/2 onion and add it the bacon – reduce heat to medium.  Let the onion cook for 3-5 minutes or until tender.
4. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic and cook briefly, 30-60 seconds.
5. Add the roasted tomatoes to the pan (roughly chopping them up in the pan is fine) - Larry removed the skins and chopped on a cutting board.  
6. Also add:  2 cans pinto beans (drained and rinsed), minced chipotles in adobo, 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano (optional), 1/2 teaspoon salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and one cup of stock (or water) - Larry change from two cups.   Combine well and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid has reduced down a bit. At this point add more of the stock to suit the amount of liquid you want – Larry added just a half cup.
7.Salt to taste.  You can also add more heat at this point if you want a more fiery batch. 
8. Serve immediately.  Note that these beans are best served in some of the broth.
9. Alternatively, you can use part of the batch to make a bean puree.  Simply add them to a blender or food processor and combine into a puree.

Note 2 - Next time I make these (and there will be a next time), I will make the pinto beans from dry as they will hold their shape better and I'll use 5-6 cups in the recipe.

We added the rice and beans to each plate from the kitchen then made the fajitas at the table where we had two sets of everything spaced for easy reaching.  We served the meat and veggies on heated cast iron plates that we’ve had forever but I don’t remember ever using.

Other than getting the chicken a little more done than I like (Cindy said it was just right for her), the meal turned out very well.  The rice was just okay and much of it went uneaten - I won't use the recipe this way again although it is likely very good as written.  The beans had just a little heat that I felt in the back of my throat so I would use all three chipotles for folks who like some heat - I added jalapenos to mine at the table.  They got great reviews from everyone. 

While shopping for the meat, Bev found that skirt, flank, and flat iron steaks were all unavailable (I guess the restaurants buy them all) but the butcher suggested sirloin and it worked very well especially after several passes with the jaccard - wish I'd gotten a cooked shot as it turned out nearly perfect.  Both the beef and the chicken required additional salt beyond what was in the seasoning - especially the chicken.

The meal was a hit and one of our guests commented that he had eaten a lot of fajitas in a lot of places but these well the best he ever had – wow talk about a feel good.  After the meal, it was back to the sun room for more visiting and one more marg.

And finally for the highlight of the evening.  Bev wanted to heat the chips a little before serving and we agreed they could just be nuked in the cane basket.  I walked past the microwave and asked if something was burning and glanced over to see flames through the door window.  So I opened the door to find the basket, paper lining, and chips all on fire.  As it turned out this basket had a thin scalloped edging around the outside with a wire in it, thereby violating a cardinal rule of microwaves – no metal.  So this little episode provided the excitement, entertainment, and laughter to get the evening started.  The silver lining is we have way too many baskets and I’d like to get rid of several – well one less than several now.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


3/30/18 Meal Date


  1. What a tasty busy meal you had with a bit of excitement thrown in as well.

  2. Larry, Nicely plated and photographed southwestern meal! FYI, the only place that we've found skirt or flank steaks in the area is at Fresh Market. Nothing like a fire to add a little excitement to the evening! It beats the heck out of passing out and calling EMS at a party...although it's not quite as dramatic. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  3. I had read that corn chips can be used as fire starter. Who knew they would flame up without a match?

  4. Love that you have cast iron plates to serve fajitas. A lesson from visiting New Mexico so many times, we also prefer those types of beans over refried. I'll have to try that recipe. And I look forward to trying those chips. Thanks for the recommendation. I've never added moisture to flour tortillas, but it sure works for heating corn tortillas. And goodness about that fire - if you were 40 years younger, you would have had your cell phone in hand and gotten a great video! :) Sounds like a fabulous meal Larry. Bev looks so cute and that amaryllis is stunning.

  5. That flambe is no beuno. Warming tortillas in a damp towel minus the paper usually works well. We have a two dollar styrofoam tortilla warmer that also does the trick very well. The secret I have learned is to just separate the tortillas out of the package and restack slightly askew.

  6. Glad the microwave fire was entertaining and not scary. The whole meal sounds terrific and I really want to try your charro beans recipe. YUM!

  7. Nothing like live entertainment for a meal at home with guests! The chips sound good, have to look for them. Thanks for the bean recipe!

  8. wow that was something glad things turned out ok my friend... I dont use the microwave much.. have a great summer ahead!


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