I am no historian so I can’t give you a history of how Tex-Mex food came to be what it is today. I can guess that it is the result of Mexicans trying to replicate dishes that they had at home using the ingredients that they could find in Texas much like the German immigrants did with wienerschnitzel which gave us chicken-fried steak. Tex-Mex is not like what you will find in most of Mexico and it is definitely not what you will find in New Mexico either. Some of what I can find around here is close to Tex-Mex but our Mexican Americans are more from the coastal areas of Mexico and the cuisine is geared more towards seafood.
Tex-Mex is not black beans and rice that has corn in it. It is not quail quesadillas with some kind of chipotle reduction with goat cheese crumbles. Tex-Mex is what your best friend’s grandmother cooked. It is comfort food for most Texans. If you walk into a restaurant that claims to have Tex-Mex and you don’t see a single Mexican American then leave! That is the easiest way to tell if you are getting good food. I was lucky enough to have good friends who taught me how to cook their traditional dishes and I am going to share those recipes with you so that if you are far from Texas and miss the food or are new to Tex-Mex you can get a little taste of what I grew up with.
We are going to start with beans. You will need:
1 bag of pinto beans
2 tablespoons of salt
2 teaspoons of cumin
4 small or 2 large tomatoes
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bulb of garlic
1 12 oz beer (preferably not a light version)
2 tablespoons of chili powder
The night before you want to cook your beans pick through them to make sure there are no rocks in them. Place them in a bowl and cover with water that is at least 4 to 5 inches above the beans. When you get ready to cook them drain off the water because it will be dirty. Place the beans in a large pot and add the seasonings. Rough chop the tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and cilantro. Peel the skins off the garlic then add everything to the pot of beans. Pour in your beer then add enough water that the beans are covered and have an extra 3 inches of water above them.
Bring the beans to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Allow to cook for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally, and then start checking for doneness. Just pull one out and eat it. If the bean is soft but not falling apart then turn off the heat. Easy as that! These freeze really well and you can just puree them for refried beans without the added fat. I like mine with rice which is easy too.
For my rice you will need:
2 cups rice (I use the minute kind but regular is fine.)
1 ¾ cup stock (veggie or chicken)
¼ cup salsa
1 tablespoon oil
Just place rice and oil in a pan and toast the rice just a little. When it becomes slightly translucent then add the stock and salsa. Let it come to a boil then cover and turn off if using the minute kind or simmer for regular rice. Done.
Next post will be the enchiladas and the enchilada sauce. Both are easy to do!