South of the Border -- The Mexico Way

When I made the decision to go to Dallas, two things were on my mind. First, that I would finally get a chance to meet my long time online friends, Brenda Everroad and Jamie Griffin, and second, that I would be in the best place in the world to research that unique blend of ingredients and flavourings known as Tex-Mex cuisine.

Brenda herself has her specialties, as far as TexMex is concerned, and she was more than happy to share them with me. She treated us to a wonderful evening featuring her own special recipes and I have to tell you it was some of the best TexMex this northern girl has ever tried.

At first, when you think of TexMex -- at least when I think of TexMex -- the thing that comes to mind is chili; or as it more correctly should be known, chili con carne. And at the risk of starting a stampede, let me just say that while chili is important, it's not all there is. Some of the recipes that follow will require the use or addition of chili but I'm not giving you a recipe for it. We all have our favourite, and to be honest, to do the topic justice, I would have to devote a feature just to that. Come to think of it, I may just do that sometime soon.

But for this month, I want to look at the rest of what makes up TexMex cuisine. It varies a lot from region to region in terms of seasonings, but the main dishes are consistent throughout. So please join me as I run through some of the dishes that to me exemplify TexMex cuisine -- food with a 'tude!!

These first two recipes are for munching and sipping while you prepare the rest of your feast. But beware, both pack a bite!!

Crunchy Chile Pecans

Careful, these little guys are truly addictive!!
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp powdered red chiles (either powder in a coffee grinder or buy them from a reputable source top be sure that nothing has been added to them)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups jumbo pecan halves
  • 2 egg whites, well beaten

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Spray a jelly roll pan with non-stick spray.

Combine the sugar and spices in a small bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the pecans and the egg whites, stirring them together until the pecans are completely coated. Before the whites have a chance to dry, sprinkle the spice mixture over all and stir to completely coat the pecans.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared pan, bake for five minutes in the centre of the oven. Stir occasionally to break up any clumping, and continue baking and stirring until the nuts are lightly browned. This should take seven to ten more minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for about a week, if they last that long!

  • Yields: 3 cups
  • Preparation Time: about 25 minutes

Fire and Ice Tequila

This stuff is great just poured straight into a chilled martini glass. Or add it to tomato juice. Or try it as part of your next "tequila popper"
  • 1 - 750 ml bottle of the best tequila you can get your hands on
  • 2 fresh jalapenos, stemmed and quartered
  • 1 green onion trimmed to fit the tequila bottle
  • 1 fresh Serrano chile, stemmed and quartered
  • 1 chile de arbol, stemmed split and seeded (I actually leave the seeds in)
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and halved
  • the zest of a lime (try to get it in one long continuous piece)

Pour off about 1/2 cup of the tequila and make margaritas.

Put all of the remaining ingredients into the tequila and cover the bottle. Let stand at room temperature for 48 hours. Place the bottle in the freezer.

Serve the tequila straight from the freezer.

Sherry Blast

Use this instead of your hot sauce next time and I promise you, you will never go back to store bought!!
  • 1/4 pound of fresh Serrano chiles
  • 1 cup imported sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Stem the chiles and cut them in half length wise. In a 1/2 litre glass or ceramic container, combine all the ingredients, mixing well to dissolve the sugar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 48 hours before using. Pour into a bottle that has a tight fitting lid and store in the fridge.

Sprinkle it on everything!!

  • Yields: about 1 cup
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes, plus resting time

Okay, now for the real food!!

Foxxy -- that's Brenda's online handle -- was gracious enough to share her recipes with me and I promise you, you'll love them!!

Foxxy's Enchiladas

This recipe is actually from Brenda's sister-in-law, but we'll attribute it to Foxxy, after all, she's the one who made it for me!
  • white corn tortillas
  • oil for heating the tortillas
  • chili (your favourite recipe)
  • finely chopped onion
  • shredded cheese (again use your favourite, Brenda used cheddar)

Warm each tortilla in the oil to soften them and set aside.

On each tortilla place a tbsp of chili, a tsp of chopped onion, and a tbsp of shredded cheese. Roll them up and place them seam side down in a baking dish in a single layer. Spread about a cup of chili over the top, sprinkle with shredded cheese and more chopped onion.

Bake at 250F for 30 to 45 minutes.

  • Yields: Depends on how your ingredients!
  • Preparation Time: about 1 hour

Brenda's Beans

These were absolutely yummy!!
  • 4 cans pinto beans
  • 2 tbsp bacon drippings
  • 2 tbsp chopped onions
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (or more)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

In a pot large enough for all the beans, sauté the onion and peppers until softened. Add the beans and cumin and stir together well. Allow to simmer 45 minutes, stirring often to avoid sticking.

  • Yields: 8-10 servings
  • Preparation Time: about 50 minutes

Foxxy's Rice

  • 2 cups raw rice
  • 1/4 oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 2 - 19 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 coriander

Sauté onion, garlic and bell pepper in the oil until softened, add the rice and continue to sauté till slightly golden. Add tomatoes, one can of water and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine well and allow to simmer 20 minutes or until rice is done. You may need to add more liquid as rice cooks but add it gradually as you want this to be fairly dry.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: about 30 minutes

Lest you think I didn't do any research of my own, I have the following recipes for TexMex with a twist that I thought you'd love to try.

Green Chili Corn Cakes

This recipe is from a booklet I have had for years from the Old El Paso Chile Company. Serve these as a side dish for any grilled meat, or leave out the herbs and have them for breakfast with sausage or ham.
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup masa harina (or additional cornmeal)
  • 1/4 unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs well beaten
  • 2 long hot green chiles, roasted, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup sweet corn kernels and juices scraped from one medium ear
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh oregano (if you can't get fresh, please just omit this, dried just won't do)
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted, plus butter for the griddle

In a large bowl, sift together the cornmeal, masa harina, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, green chiles, corn and juices, and oregano. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and partially combine. Add the melted butter and stir until just combined, do not over mix.

Warm a pancake griddle over medium heat. Butter it and working in batches, drop the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the heated griddle. Spread the batter into 3-inch rounds and cook about three minutes or until puffed and golden. Turn the cakes and cook until lightly coloured and cooked through, about two minutes more. Serve hot.

  • Yields: Sixteen 3-inch cakes

Pueblo Potato Soup

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 - 4oz cans chopped green chiles
  • 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced in 1/2" cubes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese

In a large stock pot melt the butter and sauté onions and garlic over medium heat. When the onions are softened add green chiles and tomatoes. Simmer ten minutes stirring often.

Add potatoes, water and milk. Cook over medium heat for twenty minutes or until potatoes are done.

Add cheese and stir until melted. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes more over low heat, stirring often.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: about 70 minutes

Tamale Pie

  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 3/4 lb ground pork
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 oz can tomatoes
  • 14 oz can kernel corn
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry (1 tbsp fresh chopped) oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Cornmeal Topping
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large skillet brown the meat, onion and garlic over medium high heat. Drain off excess liquid. Stir in tomatoes, corn and spices. Cover and simmer ten minutes. Spread the mixture in a shallow 3quart casserole. Set aside.

To prepare the topping:
In a small bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar and baking powder. In another, combine the milk, egg and melted butter. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture.

Spoon the topping over the meat mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered for 45 minutes or until the top is set slightly when touched.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: about 70 minutes

And finally my own concoction. As with most of my recipes, those of you who follow these pages know that I am a stranger to exact measure. I've come as close as I can in this recipe, but keep in mind that flexibility and your own personal taste is the key. Oh yeah, for those of you who are purists, no, taco fillings don't usually include rice, but we like ours this way.

Roxie's Taco Filling

We prefer to use the soft tacos for this filling although the others will do nicely too. In fact, we've even been known to use pitas and other wraps. When I was coming home from Dallas I snuck some corn tortillas home. Mmmm-mmmmm good!!
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 lb lean ground pork
  • 1/2 lb ground veal
  • 1 cup hot salsa
  • 19 oz can diced tomato
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup beer
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp oregano (2 tbsp if using fresh)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large skillet, brown the meat in small batches, set aside, and drain off all fat. When all the meat is browned, return it to the skillet and stir to combine well over medium heat. Add the remaining ingredients except cilantro, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. If the mixture is getting too dry, add more beer in small amounts. The end result should be moist but not wet. Adjust seasoning and stir in cilantro. Serve hot.

We keep the additions to our tacos fairly simple. Sour cream, a good guacamole, some shredded Monterey Jack cheese and sliced black olives. You can, however, also add diced tomato, peppers, jalapenos, shredded lettuce and chopped green onion. Whatever your decorating whim calls for, I can guarantee you're going to love these tacos!!

And just because I love Sangria, here's my favourite recipe.

White Wine Sangria

Sangria derives its name from its colour; red which is the colour of sangre, Spanish for blood. This is a white version, purists might want to call it anemic, but if you're like me and allergic to the tanin in red wine, this is great!!
  • 1/2 cup berry (fine) sugar
  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 2 - 26oz bottles dry white wine
  • 68oz bottle club soda
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced
  • 1 lime thinly sliced
  • 1 orange thinly sliced
  • 2 cups halved fresh strawberries
  • ice

In a punch bowl, combine sugar, Grand Marnier, brandy and wine. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours to chill. Just before serving, add soda water, fruit and ice cubes. Stir and serve.

  • Yields: 12 servings

And, since I mentioned tequila poppers, I thought it only fair to include the "recipe". But don't call me with your headache stories. These little shots go down real smooth and easy and reserve their whallop for later!!

Tequila Poppers

  • 1 1/2 oz tequila
  • 1/2 oz Seven-Up

Pour the tequila into a shot glass and top up with 7-Up. Cover the top of the glass with the palm of your hand and bang the table. As soon as the 7-Up starts to fizz drink it in one gulp.

  • Yields: 1 shot

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