The Key To Chicken Fajita Casserole Is Sauteing The Peppers

Chicken fajitas are actually a contradiction in terms since the only meat that can truly be considered for use in a fajita is skirt steak on the etymological grounds that "fajita" is the Spanish diminutive of "faja." This word, which translates to "girdle" or "belt," is what vaqueros called the then-cheap cut of steak, while a fajita was a dish they made by grilling strips of the stuff. Over the years we've come to accept numerous Tex-Mex fajita variants made with just about anything the cook cares to wrap in a flour tortilla, although here recipe developer Christina Musgrave eschews tortillas to turn chicken fajitas into a casserole. She notes, though, that "you can ... use any protein instead of chicken," so you could always swap it out for skirt steak to take the casserole back to its roots.

Meat fajitas typically include vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, and peppers, but for her chicken fajita casserole, Musgrave opts for bell peppers alone. She does say, though, that "you can add additional veggies" if you wish. Before they're mixed with the fajita meat, the peppers need to be sauteed because, in their raw state, they're overly crunchy and won't complement the cooked meat to the same extent as softer, sweeter cooked ones. If you fry the peppers until the edges start to blacken, as Musgrave does, they'll also develop a little bit of charred flavor that may give your casserole a hint of the grill without the bother of cooking outdoors.

What peppers can be substituted for the bells?

Bell peppers are one of the least expensive and most readily available kinds of peppers in any given grocery store, so it's unlikely that you'll be swapping them out because you simply can't get your hands on them. If the issue is that you can't find or don't want to pay an upcharge for the yellow and red bell peppers Musgrave uses in her casserole, though, green ones will work just fine. If, on the other hand, you don't care for bell peppers at all, you have several alternatives available to you that won't change the nature of the casserole too much.

One pepper with a texture similar to that of the bell is the poblano, which is a great choice if you want a bit more heat and a less vegetal flavor. Anaheim peppers, too, are thick and slightly spicy while being just a bit sweeter than poblanos. You could also replace the bell peppers with jalapenos, although these much smaller peppers will leave you with some extra room in the skillet. In this case, we'd suggest you chop up an onion and throw it into the pan, although if you do so you may want to omit the onion powder Musgrave uses to season her casserole.