Oh, fajitas. Oh, how I adore you. The way you arrive at my table still sizzling on a metal platter. The way the waiter warns me to NEVER touch that metal platter, or else all my nerve endings will detonate. The way the steam comes up from the tortillas once I've lifted the lid on the tortilla-holder thingie. I love you, fajitas. You make me happy in my pants.
That's why it pains me to see people out there who do not consume fajitas properly. Your Uncle Bob will fold his fajita once and leave it at that, like he's eating a goddamn taco. THIS IS ANARCHY. If you want a taco—if you want 50 pounds of food spilling out of your tortilla, forcing you to eat up all the runoff with a fork at the end of your meal—then order a taco. You are not qualified to order fajitas yet. You're out of your depth. Go back to night school. Everyone should know how to properly make a fajita, so let's take you through the process step by step:
1. Remember that a tortilla has a limited loading capacity. The tortillas that come with your fajita are often quite small, perhaps no more than eight inches in diameter. This is a shame, because I'm the sort of person who is often tempted to pack every last goddamn scrap of food into the tortilla for my first fajita because I'm so hungry. This inevitably leads to disaster, which is why all fajita tortillas should be the size of a dartboard. But you must make do with what you have. You must accept that you will not be able to fit everything inside your first fajita, and you must remember that you can always have more than one tortilla. Even though the waiter gave you only three tortillas because he's a bastard, and getting him to give you more in a timely fashion is like trying to wrestle a goddamn bear. Better to have six perfect, small fajitas than one giant, sloppy-pussy-mess fajita.
2. Prioritize your ingredients. Your platter of fajitas comes with roughly 75 satellite plates that will occupy the rest of the table and force your girlfriend to sit at another booth nearby. She's a big girl. She can handle it.
Obviously, MEAT is your priority. Meat is the star of the dish. Take that into consideration when conducting ingredient triage. Do you really need rice in there? Probably not, unless you're carb-loading for your dead-lift meet. For your sake, I have prioritized your fillings for you:
3. Sour cream
4. Cholula sauce
————LINE OF DEMARCATION———-
5. Sizzling onions
6. Pico de gallo
8. Lime juice squeezed from 5-day old lime wedge provided
9. Sizzling peppers
10. Those lettuce shreds that stuck to the sour cream and guacamole
11. Cilantro leaves
N/A. Olives. Fuck olives.
The line of demarcation above represents a fajita's viability. You can have just the top four ingredients and still have an acceptable fajita. In fact, let's face it: Restaurants give you all that other shit as filler so that they don't have to give you as much meat and guacamole, which is BULLSHIT. Fuck you, Tex-Mex restaurants of the world. Avocados aren't made of goddamn platinum. WE WANT MOAR.
3. Hoard the good ingredients at your end of the table if you can. People make shitty fajitas because they're hungry, and if the sour cream is at the other end of the table, they forgo it and start throwing down the peppers first instead. This is WRONG. Those peppers add unnecessary bulk and they occupy a disproportionate amount of tortilla. Try to make sure that the most important ingredients are closest to you, or else you'll be sitting there for hours, waiting for your old lady to finish up with the sour cream. You're not painting a mural, missy. Hand that shit over. Sometimes, while waiting for someone else to take some meat, I'll grab a plain tortilla and start eating it, only to realize I've reduced the precious tortilla count and then I scream out DEAR GOD WHAT HAVE I WROUGHT?!
4. Make sure you have a clean, dry plate. If you have a pint of salsa juice sitting on your plate before you even begin, this shit isn't gonna work. No one wants a sopping wet tortilla that looks as if it fell into a puddle of blood. Have a clean plate ready to go. If your waiter didn't give you one, stab him with his own crumb sweeper.
And don't go putting rice and beans on your plate and then try and put your fajita together in some other quadrant. That never works. You need space to work.
5. Begin assembly. Lay the tortilla flat on your plate. Then, make a doodoo streak of guacamole from one edge of the tortilla down two-thirds of the way. Make a similar doodoo streak of sour cream next to the guacamole. If the sour cream is stubborn, use your finger to spread that shit out. Don't just dump a tablespoon of it in the center. That ruins everything. Carefully lay down the strips of meat on top of the guacamole and sour cream streaks. Two strips usually works best. Three is pushing it, even though by then you'll be ready to EAT THE WORLD ENTIRE. Apply the hot sauce. Apply the onions. Apply the salsa (also in a streak), the cheese, and the lime juice.
6. ASSESS. Take a moment to consider space constraints. Is there enough room to continue adding more ingredients at this point? Do you NEED a strip of green pepper in there? You probably don't. It may be better to quit while you're ahead and go straight to the crucial fold. Let some other dumbfuck eat all the peppers.
7. Fold. The fillings should now occupy a straight line in the center of your tortilla, with empty real estate on the sides and toward the bottom. Take that empty part at the bottom and fold it upward. Don't tuck the bottom in last. That's jayvee shit. Make sure a good amount of the bottom is folded up, or else it'll open like a trap door upon initial consumption. Once you have the bottom flap up, you tuck one side over on top of the fillings, and then the other side. Then you grab it hard like it's a microphone. There you go.
8. Admire. Look all that meat and that sour cream just BURSTING out of the top of your creation. God, it looks so fucking good. I MUST HAVE IT. Savor the moment.
9. Bite all the way through the meat. I can't tell you the number of times I've taken a bite of a fajita and then unwittingly pulled out a whole strip of meat from my creation, leaving it RUINED forever, with the meat coated in guac and hanging down from my mouth like some kind of cannibal soul patch. So disheartening. Gotta make full use of those incisors, or else all your work will be for naught.
10. DO NOT PUT YOUR FAJITA DOWN. Not to piss. Not to shake hands with some asshole from high school who spotted you at your table and waltzed over to say hi. Not to rescue a falling baby. Nothing. Don't put that fajita down, or else it'll come apart and life as you know it will end.
11. Lick any excess juices off the plate prior to assembling fajita #2. That way, your second tortilla is as pristine as your first. Also, your mom will totally approve.
12. Accept that the last fajita will suck. All the sour cream is gone. All the guac is gone. It's just one burnt chicken end, 50 pepper strips, and a bag of tomato cubes for your final masterpiece. That's life in Tex-Mexico. It never ends pretty.
Image by Jim Cooke