How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sizzlin' Sesame

Among the most important things Pam and I still have from our four years in Arizona (1990-1994) are an ability to wrap tortillas and a copy of The Well-Filled Tortilla by Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman. Frequent readers of this blog will know that we continue to find new treasures in its pages; the latest is a simple recipe we finally got to just last night.

Spicy Sesame Chicken Fajitas begins with flattening chicken breasts with a mallet (or other implement) between layers of waxed paper or plastic wrap, until it is one-half inch thick. This is what makes  allows for rapid, even cooking, and is what makes this a fajita dish. Strictly speaking, fajita is a particular, thin cut of beef, but it has evolved to refer to other meats prepared in a similar way.

I then sprinkled both sides with sesame seeds, cayenne pepper, and salt. Actually, I only put salt on one side of each, as we all have enough salt in our lives. And the little shaker lid was missing from our cayenne, so it was more of a rub than a sprinkle. Fortunately, a love of heat is something else we retain from Arizona days!

I heated a bit of oil in our indispensible cast-iron skillet and added the chicken once the oil was hot and almost smoking. This allowed them to cook pretty quickly, though I noticed one area that I had not hammered quite thin enough was still a bit pink. So rather than waiting to transfer them to a cutting board, I cut them into strips right in the pan so they finished up quickly. (Do not try this with ordinary cookware!)

I heated some tortillas (we wrap in wax paper in the microwave for 30 seconds) and then we assembled the chicken strips with some avocado slices, plain Greek yogurt (the recipe calls for sour cream, but this is just as good), and Newman's Own mango salsa. This Well-Filled Tortilla includes many excellent salsa recipes, but we knew that this shortcut would be good, and was reasonably close to the mango-jalapeƱo salsa recommended for this dish. The book also suggests lettuce for this and similar dishes, and as we often do, we skipped that part.

This is a simple dish with many sweet and hot notes, and the fats in the yogurt and avocado provide cooling to offset the cayenne. A variety of wines would pair well with this; we chose the mildly sweet Riesling (not cloyingly sweet like most of this variety) from our friends Westport Rivers, and it seemed to love the mango salsa in particular!

Pam's one-word review came at the beginning of the meal: ¡yummmmmm! And our common question about this page in the book - ¿Where have you been all our lives? (Or at least the 20 years we've had this book on our shelves.)

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