The theme for this week is Southern Border Towns – more specifically, cuisines with the letter combination “Mex” (Tex Mex & New Mexican). Tex Mex used to imply cheap imitation Mexican food, but has evolved into its own cuisine. . . after all, the border of Mexico and Texas is a region and regions can have their own culinary culture.
Rick Bayless is my first reference source for Mexican food in America. He’s a chef in Chicago, with many cookbooks, a PBS Television series (Mexico: One Plate at a Time), and a new podcast The Feed, which won a James Beard award this spring. And beyond that he’s the one with the brilliant Spicy Beef Jerky burrito recipe that appears on this Thursday’s menu – using beef jerky, dried further then reconstituted with tomatoes and spice, to intensify flavors into a very satisfying dish. Bayless’ first draft of his “Authentic Mexican” cookbook originally included the Southwestern U.S. as a region of Mexican cuisine.
Some distinctions: Unlike classic Mexican cuisine, Tex Mex uses cumin, fewer chiles (and mostly jalapenos), cheese sauces, more beef (including beef suet) and wheat for the tortillas.
New Mexican cuisine includes many dishes that are also on the Tex Mex list. For this week’s menu I’ve added in fry breads, amaranth, and biscochitos – an anise cookie and the State Cookie of New Mexico.
Oh, and Southern border town food uses chips. Tostitos and Fritos.
This menu has the Fritos covered, which can be added to the Chili Con Carne to make Frito Chili Pie (I did the high end Frito version with homemade chips, you could also buy a bag of Fritos and cut it open and spoon in chili). I did not, however, go in for the classic chip favorite Tostilocos – sourcing the pickled pigskins, tamarind candies, shaved jicama, and chamoy to dump into the Tostitos bag to create this snack proved prohibitive (the cucumbers, sweet coated peanuts and key limes might have been possible). If you’d like to read about the Tostilocos, here is a story by food writer John T. Edge. As an alternative, we’ll offer queso blanco with Tostitos for a Wednesday / Thursday special.
P.S. Interested in trying out Thursday Nigh sit-down dinners? There’s a Localvore Today deal going on right now – check it out.
The Enchiladas Adobo will ideally be reheated in a 375-degree oven or toaster oven (they’re conveniently wrapped in foil for just that purpose) with the extra sour cream added after they’re done. They’ll survive reheating in a microwave, but the outsides will be more soggy than soft.
The tortillas are easily reheated wrapped in a damp paper towel and microwaved for 10-20 seconds (depending on how strong your microwave is). They can also be reheated in the oven. In any event, you’ll want to warm them up to make them pliable again.