Fajita 911

Each Saturday morning, as I lead a group of eager students toward the farmer’s market in downtown Fernandina Beach, I brag about the old-fashioned, small-town lifestyle of Amelia Island. As we stroll quiet streets, I describe town and island history and point out some of the many historic landmarks we encounter along the way.

One of the most striking of these historic sites is the Nassau County courthouse. With its majestic clock tower, perfectly maintained brickwork and arched entranceway, the exterior of this beautiful structure (built in 1891) looks as if it were plucked from a Hollywood movie set. I tell students of the pristinely maintained woodwork in the main hallway as well as the courtrooms, but the one detail that gets my guests’ attention the most is my account of the DMV.

It seems the one thing all Americans can relate to are the long lines, callous, detached clerks and general misery associated with a trip to the DMV. “But not here in Fernandina Beach!” I tell my shocked scholars. I continue, “At the DMV in this courthouse, there are more clerks than patrons, and they are extremely friendly, helpful and generally sympathetic to your needs.”

Even bad experiences (like kitchen accidents) bring out the best of folks on our island (like my savior, Inga, who dropped everything to help me). Once I arrived at the island ER, I was thoroughly impressed by the fact that I was taken to a room within five minutes. Yes, inconceivable, I know, but true!

I had a very nice nurse check out my wound after about five more minutes and the doctor stopped by after another 10. But even 10 minutes with nothing to do gives the mind time to wander, and since I was already really hungry, I thought of food, for a change. The way I saw it, there was no way my treatment would be complete for another hour or so and I probably wouldn’t be in any shape to cook dinner after the doctor finished stitching me up. How absolutely tragic … especially since I had a couple pounds of gorgeous skirt steak soaking in a delicious fajita-style marinade in the fridge.

Skirt steak is the perfect vehicle for Tex-Mex spices, with its deep meaty flavor and fantastic, slightly chewy texture. When the steak is thinly and carefully sliced against the grain, it becomes just tender enough to be enjoyed in a warm corn tortilla.

Yet the most crucial detail to an exceptional Cheffed-Up skirt steak fajita is to grill the luxurious beef over a mesquite fire. Unfortunately, with 11 fresh stitches in my shin, the skirt steak fajitas weren’t on the menu that night. Alas, my ‘New Year—More Food’ motto had to skip a day.

Chef Bill’s Fajita Marinade

  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ancho powder
  • 1 tbsp. chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 oz. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 oz. red wine vinegar
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 2 oz. soy sauce
  • 3 oz. canola oil
  • 3 lbs. inside skirt steaks


  1. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except the steak.
  2. Place the steak in a large ziploc bag and cover with the marinade.
  3. Marinate overnight.

Until we cook again,

Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina Beach’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at [email protected], for inspiration and get Cheffed-Up!