Monday, July 13, 2015

Chicken Fajita Bowls

Here's a post from my neighbor and BBQ teammate, John Makela, about one of their favorite dishes.  He apologized for "the pictures not being up to your usual pictures" but hey, this is how real people eat - not everyone likes to sit around taking 72 shots from every angle while the food gets cold.

One of the things that I like about John's process is that is uses the "grill once, eat twice" strategy.  A little bit of prep work on Sunday feeds them quick meals for the first few days of the week.  And now, here's John's fajita bowls recipe.       

Grill Dome Chicken Fajita Bowls

This is absolutely one of my wife’s and my favorite dinners.  We own a small business and staff Monday and Tuesday evenings until 7 PM.  I sure don’t want to cook when we get home so I make the chicken and boil the rice on a Sunday and we now have a very tasty dinner for the next 2 or 3 nights with very little effort or time required.

easy meals, easy recipe, make ahead recipe

This is, as is any recipe, only a guideline feel free to substitute flavors that suit your tastes better.  This is for two people and will make dinner for 2-3 nights, so it's about 6 servings.

Grill Dome Chicken Fajita Bowls

  • 18 oz Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts or Thigh Meat trimmed
  • 1 ½ Cups Dry Brown Rice (measured before boiling)
  • 14 oz Can Black Beans (may need a second)
  • 14 oz Can Diced Tomatoes with Jalapenos (sub Rotel) (may need a second)
  • 1   Ripe Avocado Diced  (more is okay too)
  • 1   Fresh Tomato Diced (can use more)
  • Some diced sweet onions
  • Diced pickled jalapenos
  • 8 oz package Sargento sharp cheddar cheese or equivalent.
  • Cilantro for garnish (not on my bowl)
  • Rub for Chicken (we use commercial rubs that feature sweet heat)
  • Digital scale to weigh the salt

For the Chicken Brine:

  • 1 Liter Purified water
  • 35 Grams Kosher Salt (this makes a 3.5% brine solution)
  • 3-4 oz of your favorite marinade (We like World Harbors Fajita Marinade)
  • 3-4 good dashes of Tabasco or Sriracha sauce

Day Before the Meal

  1. Trim any excess fat off the meat.  
  2. Make your brine, we like a lower sodium solution and shoot for a 3 ½ percent solution; you can go as high as 9% (which would be 90 grams salt per liter of water) we think that is a bit too salty and you need to rinse your meat when it comes out of that brine.  Add 3-4 ounces of your preferred marinade and 3-4 good dashes of your favorite hot sauce; this can be omitted if you do not like spicy heat.  Put the solution in a gallon zip bag and cool the brine solution.  We place it in the freezer for 30-40 minutes and that seems good.  
  3. Place the chicken in the brine.  Burp as much air as possible from the bag and leave refrigerated for 2-4 hours.
  4. Set up your Grill Dome cooker (or similar) for indirect cooking and preheat grill to 350-400 degrees.  Pull Chicken from the brine and rub both sides of the chicken with your favorite rub.  We usually use two different rubs, one for each side.  In this instance we used Sweet Georgia Heat and Simply Marvelous Pecan rubs.  Add a small amount of smoke wood to your cooker (we like cherry, apple or pecan).  Place chicken on grid and cook until 160 degree internal on breasts and 180 degrees for thighs.  Pull chicken when done and let rest for a few minutes.  Then dice the chicken and place in a container to store in the refrigerator.  Place cooked rice in refrigerator.
  5. Boil your rice while the chicken is cooking.

Meal Day(s):
  1. Dice your avocado, dice your tomatoes, and dice your onions.  Open can of black beans and Rotel, combine in pot and heat.  Remove your chicken and rice and cheese from the refrigerator.  
  2. Grab a good size bowl and assemble your dinner.  We go layer of rice, then chicken then cover with beans/rotel mixture.  We then heat slightly in microwave since the rice and chicken were cold.  Then shredded cheese (this allows it to melt slightly).  Top with onions, avocado, tomatoes and diced jalapenos.  Enjoy! And repeat for day two and three.
chicken brine, fajita brine, chicken fajitas
Ingredients for the brine solution

Weighing the salt, yep this will be 3.5%.

Chicken in the brine bag, ready to head into the fridge.

Chicken ready to be rubbed.

chicken rubbed, fajita chicken
Rubbed and happy.

kamado fajita chicken
Grill looks ready, time to cook 'em up.

Finished dicing, time for the fridge.

Kroger products, fresh tomatoes
The rest of the ingredients.  The tomatoes are from our garden.

Just need to add the final toppings.
Ready - hold the cilantro on mine.
prep ahead meal, prep ahead recipe, easy recipe, weeknight recipe

Chris' $.02
John makes a great point about weighing your salt for the brine, that is the better way to do it for accuracy reasons.  I use about 2 tablespoons per quart of water but that is a volume measurement and it will vary by the size of your salt grains.  Also, if you want to make your own fajita rub, here is link to my NMT Fajita Dry Rub recipe.

Right now, I'm wishing that I had this available for dinner tonight.  I beat John home from work on Mondays and Tuesdays - I should sneak through his pet door and raid his fridge! 

Thanks, John, for another great post!


  1. This looks awesome! I want to come over to your friends house too!

  2. Nicely done John! Great tip on the salt and definitely a good tip about rinsing off the meat after brining! I bought a digital scale for weighing ingredients when I read one of Alton Brown's first cook books - as he's big on weighing versus using measuring cups. Got lazy since, though and haven't been following through. As Chris states - definitely super accurate.

  3. I love making taco salads. That chicken looks and sounds tasty!