Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fakejitas #1

Please forgive the awful pun, but since I use fake meat strips I thought it was appropriate. Though Mexicans would probably refer to this as ropa vieja (old rags) and make it with boiled shredded beef, it is not far from what Americans call fajitas. I make it with fake meat, either Lightlife Smartstrips Steak-style strips, or Morningstar farms frozen steak strips. They are far lower in calories, and you can still have sour cream and do no damage in terms of either cholesterol or kashrut. God forgive me, I never thought I would say this, but I have become rather fond of fake meat.

This dish really requires poblano chilies. Their flavor is deep, rich and unique, it doesn't take long to roast and peel them, and the dish would not be the same without them. When I get around to it, I will post another version of fakejitas which is more generic and tomato-y and acceptable to use regular sweet peppers. If you must, you can use canned green chilies here, but the poblanos are worth the minimal extra effort.

Fakejitas (vegetarian Mexican ropa vieja)

  • Oil spray
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • Peanut oil (between 1 and 2 tablespoons, depending on your preference)
  • 6-10 ounces vegetarian steak strips
  • 1 medium white onion, cut in half and sliced about 1/4 inch thick (the size of a peach; red or yellow is acceptable if you cant find white)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Bragg's aminos (optional but adds a lot of umami flavor)
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly with a pinch of salt

To serve
  • Corn tortillas (this amount makes 6-8 soft tacos and serves 2-3, see below on reheating)
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa (see recipe below; don't even think of using jarred salsa)
  • Sliced avocado

  1. To prepare the poblanos, spray them with the oil spray or rub them lightly with oil. Stick them over a high gas flame on your stove (if you have an electric stove, get a gas one) and turn them around with tongs until they are blackened all over, for between 5 and 10 minutes. Watch carefully so that they don't burn. When well blackened, remove them and either wrap them in paper towel or put them in a paper bag and set them aside until they cool. They will steam a bit while they cool and the skin will loosen.
  2. Remove the blackened skin with your fingers. (You may want to wear gloves or use paper towels if your skin is very sensitive or you are in the habit or rubbing sensitive body parts like your eyes. Poblanos are only mildly hot, but they can tingle.) Run under water if necessary and remove as much skin as you can. Cut open the pepper, remove the stem, ribs and seeds, and cut into 1/4 inch vertical strips. These are called rajas.
  3. Spray a medium nonstick skillet with oil spray, heat on high, add a bit of oil and add the fake steak. Stir fry a few minutes until browned and remove to a serving bowl.
  4. Add a bit more oil to the skillet and add the onions, salt lightly, and saute on high without browning until they being to soften.
  5. Add rajas and cook about 3 minutes more.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  7. Add the fake steak, the Bragg's and heat through. Taste for salt -- it probably won't need any more.
  8. If you are using the eggs, push the mixture over to one side of the skillet, add the beaten eggs, and cook until almost done. Break it up with a spatula and mix into the other stuff.
  9. Put in a bowl and serve.
  10. To eat, smear a little sour cream on a warm tortilla, add some of the fakejitas, a slice of avocado, salsa, and wrap it up and eat it.

Reheating corn tortillas: Turn on a gas burner and turn to medium low. Add a tortilla, heat for about 30 seconds, adjusting the heat so that it does not burn, and put another tortilla directly on top of it. Flip it over (using tongs, not your fingers!) so that the cold tortilla is over the flame, and heat for another 30 seconds. Add another cold tortilla on top, flip over, and repeat for up to a dozen tortillas. Wrap the tortillas in a clean dishtowel and serve as soon as possible. I have tried many methods and like this one the best. There is a satisfying, elemental quality to this technique, and the slight char on the tortillas adds much more flavor than a sojourn in the microwave.

Salsa: I never understood why people buy jarred salsa when all you need to make salsa mexicana is a few ingredients and a sharp knife. Mix about 1/4 of a medium white or red onion, finely chopped, with a smallish chopped tomato, a chopped serrano or jalapeno chili (remove the seeds if you want it less hot), and a handful of chopped fresh cilantro and some salt. Let it sit for a few minutes, and add a tablespoon of water if you want it more liquid. That's it.

No comments:

Post a Comment