Sophie at the Stove: Cinco de Mayo Fajitas

The Washingtonian's resident Brit shares her home-cooking adventures—and proves that there's more to English food than bangers and mash.

After going 22 years without Mexican food, Sophie makes these fajitas roughly once a week. Photograph by John Wilwol.

According to a new tool released by the USDA, 4.4 percent of Americans live in a “food desert.” I have no official statistics to back up the purely imaginary claim I’m about to make, but I’d estimate that 99 percent of Brits live in a Mexican-food desert, without so much as a Chipotle or a California Tortilla to call their own—one of the tragedies of England being 5,000 miles from Mexico (the other is the complete absence of mariachi bands and piñatas from the British cultural lexicon). Before I was 22, I’d never enjoyed an enchilada, scarfed down quesadillas, or patronized a taco truck at 2 AM.

After almost four years in the States, however, and one summer traveling around the South with my Georgia roommate, MacKenzie, I’m now madly in love with Mexican food and particularly grateful that there’s an entire holiday here dedicated to freedom and tequila-based drinks. At home, we make the following recipe roughly once a week, so it has evolved from an early attempt at authenticity to a full-blown homage to jalapeños. I made it for English Mummy last night, thinking it might dramatically alter her world view, but it turns out she spent a summer traveling around Mexico in the 1970s, so she merely said, “No refried beans?” before diving in with gusto.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! If you’re considering making margaritas, try shaking one part tequila, one part Triple Sec or Cointreau, and the juice of ½ lime over ice instead of using margarita mix: infinitely better-tasting and better for you.

Chicken Fajitas
Serves 2 to 4

For the marinade:

Juice of 1 lime
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon coriander
Pinch red chili flakes
Salt and pepper

For the fajitas:

2 chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-size pieces
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 orange pepper, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
Lime wedges to taste
½ avocado, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, chopped
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
8 whole-wheat flour tortillas

In a large bowl, mix all of the marinade ingredients together. Add the chicken pieces, sliced peppers, and onion. Stir together, and leave for 10 to 20 minutes to marinate. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the contents of the bowl. Cook, turning occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and the chicken is browned. Warm your tortillas on a dry pan or under the broiler, then serve with the chicken, lime, avocado, tomato, and cheese.

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