Everyone… PAY ATTENTION… These. Will. Change. You… Forever. Once you try these skillet chicken fajitas with amazing Rajas con Crema (roasted poblano peppers in cream reduction), any other chicken fajita will be mediocre by comparison. These fajitas take a little time and effort, but none of the steps are difficult. And the finished product is well worth it.
Let me talk about the Rajas con Crema for a minute. This is not the onion and peppers combination you’re used to for standard fajitas. Poblano peppers are roasted, onions are carmelized and then the addition of thyme, oregano and heavy cream will reduce to make for a deep, mildly sour flavor (thanks to the addition of some lime juice), adding new life to your dish. Rajas con Crema is actually delicious on its own. Try them as a breakfast accompaniment. But try them for this recipe and it will soon become standard fare for fajitas every time.
Starting the chicken in a skillet and finishing it up in the oven ensures a juicy, perfectly seasoned chicken that is the base for these amazing toppings. The simple marinade-brine of oil, lime juice, smoked paprika, cumin, pepper, salt and cayenne makes for subtle but classic fajita “grilled” meat. You will pound the chicken to an even thickness, place your chicken in the marinade and let them sit at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes while you prepare the Rajas con Crema.
If you’ve never roasted peppers, it’s super easy and the skin burns to a bubble quickly under the broiler.
Onions are carmelized for a sweet flavor to go with the peppers in the Crema.
Once the onions are charred, garlic, thyme and oregano are added. Then the cream makes its appearance on the scene. After adding the cream, let it cook down for a couple minutes until it coats the onions.
After the skins have been removed from the peppers (leave a little of the char on, as it is flavor) slice or thick-chop them and added to the onions, the marriage is complete and these ingredients will add a happily-ever-after finish to your fajitas from here on out.
Now, that two-step cooking process I talked about for the chicken. Boneless chicken breasts are healthy, but oh-so easy to dry out in any recipe. Starting them in an oven-safe skillet seals in the juices and adds a nice char before finishing them in the oven. Plus, using this method means you can cook perfect fajitas year-round without having to fire up the grill.
After they come out of the oven, let the chicken rest for a few minutes to seal in the juices. Then slice and toss them back into the skillet to gather up the rest of the seasonings.
My family devoured these and demanded that I make them “all the time”, and serve them with crumbled queso fresco and tomatoes.
Take the fresh tomatoes a step further with this quick but powerful finish. After you’ve removed the chicken breasts from their skillet, pour the left-over chicken marinade (from the bowl they soaked in) into the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Chop 2 or 3 tomatoes into big chunks and add to the sizzling marinade, continue to cook until marinade has reduced and tomatoes are broken down a bit. About 3 or 4 minutes.
Cook’s note about flour tortillas: I buy uncooked flour tortillas and just fry them up before serving. They only take about 30 seconds. Most grocers carry them and it might be a favorable option when you compare the ingredient list between uncooked vs. precooked. Or for my friends who prefer a gluten-free option, you could certainly use corn tortillas, or just forgo the tortillas altogether.
One note about queso fresco. You can definitely substitute feta if you already have that but for a special meal, use queso fresco. It is a delicate crumbly Mexican cheese that reminds me of ricotta cheese. And it adds a texture and flavor that blends perfectly in Mexican cooking.
I can’t forget the Spicy Pickled Radishes. These aren’t absolutely critical to the recipe, but they add a nice crunch and color in the fajitas or served on the side. Click here for recipe.
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to ½-inch thickness
- Rajas con Crema
- 1 pound (3 to 4) poblano chiles, stemmed, halved, and seeded
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, halved and sliced ¼ inch thick
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 8 – 12 (6-inch) flour tortillas, warmed (Use corn or omit for gluten-free)
- ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
- Spicy Pickled Radishes
- Lime wedges
- Crumbled Queso Fresco or feta cheese
- Tomato wedges
- Special tools needed:
- Meat pounder (or cover a hammer with plastic wrap)
- Meat thermometor
- 1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Whisk 3 tablespoons oil, lime juice, garlic, paprika, sugar, salt, cumin, pepper, and cayenne together in bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.
- 2. FOR THE RAJAS CON CREMA: Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to highest position and heat broiler. Arrange poblanos, skin side up, on aluminum foil–lined rimmed baking sheet and press to flatten. Broil until skin is charred and puffed, 4 to 10 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through cooking. Transfer poblanos to bowl, cover, and let steam for 10 minutes. Rub majority of skin from poblanos and discard (preserve some skin for flavor); slice into ¼-inch-thick strips. Adjust oven racks to middle and lowest positions and heat oven to 200 degrees.
- Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add onion and cook until charred and just softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add cream and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced and cream lightly coats onion, 1 to 2 minutes. Add poblano strips, lime juice, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Transfer vegetables to bowl, cover, and place on middle oven rack. Wipe out skillet with paper towels.
- Remove chicken from marinade and wipe off excess. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook without moving it until bottom side is well charred, about 4 minutes. Flip chicken; transfer skillet to lower oven rack. Bake until chicken registers 160 degrees, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes; do not wash out skillet.
- Slice chicken crosswise into ¼-inch-thick strips. Return chicken strips to skillet and toss to coat with pan juices. To serve, spoon few pieces of chicken into center of warmed tortilla and top with spoonful of vegetable mixture, cilantro, Spicy Pickled Radishes and tomatoes as desired. Serve with lime wedges.
Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.