Time for Tex-Mex: Because Some Like It Hot!
There are lots of types of “Mex” out there. That’s why I believe there is no single true “authentic Mexican cuisine.” Mexico is a big country with many regional differences, as any Rick Bayless-loving nerd like me will tell you. Even in the United States we have multiple genres of Mex: Cal-Mex, Fresh-Mex, Korean-Mex…there is even a restaurant here in Los Angeles that is Indian-Mex. I haven’t been there but I really hope that there is a tikka taco on the menu.
The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh is a comprehensive guide to Tex-Mex. It starts with your basic vocab. The difference between migas and chilaquiles is important, my friend. It schools you in your peppers – the heat, size and origin. It walks you through some of the more unusual ingredients and equipment you may need. Then it gets into Texan history, culture, religion and politics.
The Tex-Mex Cookbook is filled with short biographies of the people behind the food. You also go on a virtual tour of Tex-Mex restaurants in the USA and beyond. Know how the French eat enchiladas? With Gruyere. Because they are better than us. I only half-jest. My fondness for French cheese knows no bounds. However, I also attest to the superiority of the cheese that Tex-Mex restaurants use. You see, it is a special cheese. A “high-performance” cheese. Land O’Lakes Extra Melt is the secret and only restaurants can get it. Know what your at-home substitute is? Velveeta cheese. That is not a typo. FRIGGIN‘ Velveeta is the stuff.
This is what makes me love cooking. If you learn about food, you learn about everything. You learn who got to places first, who imported what, and why. Wars have been waged over spices. This makes sense if you ponder what happens when two hipsters meet over the last bottle of Sriracha. That’s right. Somewhere in Safeway, a fedora perishes.
All of which takes me this: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “GOOD” TASTE. Good taste is what you make it. Actually, I think taste is not so much what you make it because tastes are made. Hence the term “acquired taste.”
My acquired taste, having grown up visiting family in Texas, is for that spicy, oozy, cuisine known as Tex-Mex. My favorite dish varies by mood. Sometimes I could just eat spicy spicy spicy XXX killer hot salsa by the bowlful. Sometimes I get ambitious and make enchiladas, rolled or stacked. The original enchilada was stacked.
My latest obsession is migas. There are different sorts of migas: Spanish, New Mex, and Tex-Mex. At its most basic, migas is a dish made of stale tortilla chips (or just sautéed old corn tortillas) and eggs. Cheese, tomatoes and onions are in the mix. Toss in some chile and you are golden. The recipe for migas that Walsh treats us to comes from Austin’s Taco Village.
Amaya’s Migas adapted from The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (I used vegetable oil spray)
- 2 cups small tortilla chips or tortilla pieces (I used something I got at Whole Foods called Chip Ins)
- 1/2 cup diced tomato (I used canned)
- 2/3 cups chopped onion
- 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and chopped
- 2 eggs (I whisked them briefly together)
- 1/2 cup cheddar (I cut it into tiny cubes)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the tortilla pieces or chips and sauté until they get a bit more crispy. Add the tomato, onion and jalapeño and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the eggs and mix with a spatula, scraping them up as they set. When partially set, add the cheese. Cover for around a minute to start the melting. Then, uncover and toss around until melted.
Serve it up! Perfect.