Delicious baked chicken fajitas. Tender juicy chicken and vegetables. My take adds an ingredient called nopales (cactus) and poblano peppers to this dish we all know and love.
Baked Chicken Fajitas
When coming up with this recipe for chicken fajitas, I was conflicted. Many of you wanted me to write this recipe but as I was doing research for the recipe I kept thinking to myself what can I offer you that hasn’t already been done. I actually have made chicken fajitas in our house for dinner so many times now! Alas, it finally hit me to combine my two favorite things and the result is glorious.
I love talking food. I will talk about food with everybody. One day while I was at a family get together my aunt walks up to me and says, “Have you ever had nopales?” I looked at her and said, “cactus??” She said, “Yes!” She said while in Mexico she had this dish with grilled nopales and onions and it was so good and she wanted to know if I had anything like that on my website. Inside I panicked, this particular aunt knows her Mexican dishes. Also, she is the person I would go to if I needed to know anything about Mexican history. She loves it, she could probably teach a class on it at a college or something. Still a little panicked, I stalled for time and told her that I would definitely work on a nopales dish just for her.
Sometimes it’s hard being a food blogger, many people have so many different expectations of what should be on a food blog and you never know how they are going to react or what they are going to react to. I didn’t have time to think about that though, I was on the case. The Nopales case. I know that my aunt would be coming over to dinner in a couple months and I had high aspirations to wow her with my next nopales dish. First, I did my nopales research, what did they taste like, what would go well with nopales besides onions? So I was able to find out that they are used mostly as a side dish grilled with tomatoes and onions or in a salad. They taste tangy and citrusy, but not as tangy as a tomatillo (small green tomato). The texture is to be honest a little slimy, kind of like okra (which I only really like fried).
Next, I had to find these little green guys to practice with. It was in the middle of summer last year and I went to the grocery store because I had remembered seeing them in a jar somewhere and I did, in the international aisle (the Mexican aisle). However, I wanted to get my hands on fresh nopales. I mean, I watch a ton of Rick Bayless shows and he lives in Chicago (an hour north of here), so if he can find them I should be able to, right? Luckily, there is a small Mexican store that I love to go to in the summer time for all of my peppers. They have very large poblanos and jalapenos. I just love going there. I was going to go there anyway to pick some poblanos so I stopped in and asked if they had any and sure enough right in their refrigerator they had them and they had already chopped off the spikes (spines) for me (I wasn’t looking forward to doing that part anyway).
It just so happened that that night we were going to a friend’s house for a BBQ and I had brought all of these peppers with cheese. It’s my favorite thing to make in the summer (thanks dad)! I take hot banana peppers and stuff them with pepper jack cheese and grill them, then I take shishito peppers and grill those and add goat cheese. You either eat these as is on a plate or add a tortilla. It is SO good. Any-who, I decided to chop up one of the nopales, grill an onion, grill the poblano and some salt and pepper, then I heated a corn tortilla added goat cheese and my nopales mixture and BAM! Flavor bomb. It was delicious. Also, can I just say, that is why I LOVE Mexican cooking, because often you can get the right simple ingredients and make a truly delicious meal.
So, when my aunt came over, I told her my little adventure and she tried it for herself. While it didn’t remind her of the dish she had in Mexico, she loved my dish and was surprised when I told her I found fresh non-jarred nopales. Then I enjoyed my tacos while I listened to her and my dad reminisce about their favorite dishes.
Voilà! Long story short, this dish is sort of a mashup of my quick nopales dish/veggie taco and traditional chicken fajitas.
- nopales leaves (if you can’t find these or you are just not that adventurous, replace these with two poblanos)
- green bell pepper (or any bell pepper)
- yellow bell pepper
- poblano peppers
- a yellow onion
- small jar of poblanos in adobo sauce
- fresh garlic cloves
- avocado oil (or olive, vegetable oil)
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- taco seasoning
- 2 fresh limes
- 4 ounces of goat cheese
- corn or flour tortillas
- 2 pounds of boneless chicken breast
- 1 gallon Ziploc bag
- a large baking sheet with a lip
- parchment paper for easy clean up
- whatever other fajita toppings you like
Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.
Make your marinade…(you could also make this step the night before and marinade the chicken over night if you wish but this a quick marinade). You can make this in a blender or food processor. Add the chipotle peppers and a little of the adobo sauce with the cloves of garlic, seasonings and limes and blend well. Pour over the chicken and coat well. Set aside.
Cut the nopales, onion, and bell peppers into thin slices, place into a bowl and lightly coat with avocado oil and salt, mix well and set aside
Poblano Pepper Prep:
Grab your poblanos and if you have a gas stove place them on top of the stove over a medium high flame, they will crackle and make popping noise but it will be fine, after you get a nice char flip them for another 2 minutes or until you get a char. A stove top grill, cast iron skillet or broiling will also work here. Once the peppers are fully charred, take them with some tongs and place them in the Ziploc bag and seal. Set aside.
Prepare your baking sheet pan with parchment paper and add your ingredients. Carefully take your poblano peppers out of the bag and peel off all the charred outer skin. It should come off easily and the pepper will be nice and soft. Once you’ve taken off the skin take out the seed and stems and slice into thin strips. Add to the bowl with the rest of the veggies and mix well.
Add all combined veggies to the baking sheet on one side and your chicken on the other side and place in your oven for a total of 25 minutes tossing the veggies and flipping the chicken once half way through. Make sure the chicken reaches 165 degrees internal temperature. Once the food is out of the oven, let the chicken rest for at least 5 more minutes before cutting into it against the grain of the meat.
Serve the sliced chicken and fajita mix with tortillas and sides of crema, goat cheese and any other toppings you like on fajitas.