Tex-Mex Tasty!

by FoodBabbles on October 8, 2011

Hang on to your hats people! I’m taking a rare break from all the sweets and finding myself at the other end of the spectrum completely. Today it’s all about the wonder that is Tex-Mex! I absolutely love Tex-Mex. When I’m pregnant, I love it even more so when Amber of Bluebonnets & Brownies recently tweeted that she would be teaching the class Tex-Mex Tasty, I jumped all over that.

Amber’s goal for Tex-Mex Tasty was to show all of us that you can make authentic Tex-Mex cuisine at home quickly, easily and without resorting to using things out of a box. In fact, according to Amber the stuff out of boxes that grace all the grocery store shelves don’t even come close to real Tex-Mex cuisine. After learning from Amber and eating all the things we made, I couldn’t agree more! What a difference… a wonderful difference.

Amber is a Texas native. She grew up in San Antonio but then she found herself transplanted in England which was devoid of the food that she grew up on. She started cooking all the foods that she loves so much as well as started writing her blog, Bluebonnets & Brownies as a way to reconnect to her Texan roots.

Amber is so incredibly knowledgable about her home state, the culture and the local cuisine. I was absolutely blown away by her knowledge. Did you know that Texas was once a country?!? I certainly didn’t! From 1836-1845 and Sam Houston was the President. Being a huge fan of margaritas, one of my other favorite fun facts that Amber bestowed on us was that the margarita was invented in Dallas. Tex-Mex is a very regional cuisine. If you’re in Dallas you will find food that you can only get there. Travel to San Antonio and you’ll notice that they have unique dishes all their own also.

As our class kicked off, Amber taught us how to make Nachomama’s Salsa. It’s “Nachomama’s,” cause it’s her mama’s. This recipe was perfected by Amber’s mother over the course of 11 years! Her mother would keep tweaking it but it continued to be something she wanted to improve upon. She even consulted with a local restaurant owner, bringing samples of her salsa every week until she got it perfected. After all was said and done, the recipe ended up being one of utter simplicity… tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Someone in the class asked if there would be onions in the salsa. Amber taught us that in traditional Tex-Mex salsa there are no onions. Onions are found in pico de gallo. We also learned that at any party in Texas, you’ll find a block of cream cheese at the appetizer table. Salsa is then poured over the cream cheese and you dip tortilla chips into the concoction. I was more than a little skeptical about how that was going to go over with me but once I tasted it, I couldn’t stop eating it! Absolutely delicious!

The next stage of our class was learning how to make Homemade Flour Tortillas that we would then turn into Breakfast Tacos. In Texas, breakfast tacos are a very traditional breakfast much like bagels are here in New Jersey. They sometimes have a refried bean base and some sort of meat. I thought making the tortillas was going to be difficult but it wasn’t. There are a whopping three ingredients! Flour, salt and lard. Lard, yes lard. At first a few people made a face at the mere mention of lard, myself included. That’s when Amber dropped some more knowledge on us. We learned that real lard, the stuff that isn’t shelf stable that you can only get from a butcher (we’re not talking Crisco here) is better for you than butter, better than olive oil and has less saturated fat. Lard just gets a bad rap because of the shelf stable products which contain trans fats and are notoriously bad for you. Real lard is not the same thing.

After combining our three ingredients and a little resting time, it was time to press our tortillas. Next we cooked them in a dry pan until lightly browned and that was it! So easy and so much better than anything I’ve ever eaten out of a package from my grocery store. Next we cooked up some bacon, shredded potatoes, onions and combined that with some scrambled eggs. We piled that into our tortillas, topped it with some cheddar and viola! A breakfast taco that was to die for. It was also fantastic topped with a little of that salsa too. Yum!

Next Amber taught us how to make Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas with Chili Gravy served with refried beans and rice. Something I found very interesting was the way she made her rice. After getting her water to boil, she added a particularly leafy stalk of celery to the water. We learned that celery is an excellent way to flavor any rice. Just put a stalk in with your water, stir in the rice and cook as you normally would. Once the rice is cooked, discard the stalk and you’ll find that your rice is already very flavorful without any salt or other ingredients.

Traditional enchiladas should be made with corn tortillas, not flour tortillas like we normally see here in New Jersey. Also an enchilada should be crispy. The corn tortillas should be fried first and not eaten raw. We poached some chicken in a tomato chicken broth with cumin, ancho chili powder and tomato paste. After the chicken was poached, it got shredded and combined with sautéed onions, more cumin and ancho chili powder. The chicken mixture was wrapped in our fried corn tortillas and topped with a chili gravy that was out of this world! A little cheese finished it off and then into the oven it went until it was all melty and bubbly.  Ah-mazing!!

This class was such a great experience. I learned so much and came to realize that Old El Paso, Ortega and such brands are just not the way to go. If I had known all this time how easy it is to create authentic Tex-Mex cuisine at home there’s no way I would have been buying boxes of anything. I even think these meals are something Mike will eat and that’s always a plus. In fact, I’ll be making cheesy enchiladas with chili gravy tonight to test out that theory.

In the meantime, I’ll be hoping Amber decides to teach another class. I loved learning from her as well as spending time with her. Now, go visit Bluebonnets & Brownies. I’ve linked to all the recipes we learned in class and even without Amber right there to instruct you, it will be like she’s right beside you. Her recipes are thorough and will have you creating your own Tex-Mex at home in no time.

Enjoy!

~K