Tex-Mex Archive

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

mama canales-garcia’s avocado-shrimp salsa

mama canales-garcia's avocado shrimp salsa

I’m not a summer person. Is it uncool to admit that you sort of hate sweating? Probably, so it’s a good thing you already knew I was a dork. New York City summers seem to be endless strings of heatwaves, and humidity so thick that even 82 degrees can feel like 105. Being pale and freckled, I seem to go through my body weight in sunscreen each summer, and still burn. Inside, the window air-conditioner units are always buzzing and always too cold; I consider summer something I must endure until my real love — crunchy fall leaves, cardigans, apple cider stands — returns in late September.

tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, avocado and shrimp
tiny shrimps, cut tinier is triply redundant, right?

Or so I thought. This summer, something has shifted and it’s like I finally paid attention, and when I did, I realized I’ve had it all wrong. Summer is awesomely, fantastically busy, and with only the good stuff, long days and social butterfly weekends. We haven’t even put the kid to bed on Sunday night before we start discussing how many friends-with-pools/barbecues/ferry excursions/beach towns/playground sprinklers/grilled anything we might be able to stuff into the next weekend. When the heat starts melting your brain, and with it, any ridiculous attempts at dissecting something you read in The New Yorker that week, you get to instead have intense discussions about the ideal popsicle format, how to best fill water balloons, which beaches have the silkiest sand and who makes the best Aperol Spritz. (Buvette, you’re winning.) I realized that there’s barely a month left to summer yesterday, and felt sad, because we need more time. The whole time I’ve been kvetching, summer waged a quiet war on my view of the seasons (“Does fall have watermelon this good? I didn’t think so!” “When was the last time you saw a rainbow through a sprinkler in January?!”) and it won.

chop this: small tomatoes or big

Continued after the jump »

Friday, November 4, 2011

homesick texan carnitas

homesick texan carnitas

I am embarrassed by how long it took me to discover carnitas, or “little meats” that are usually braised then roasted, and are as far I quickly became concerned, the very best thing to pile on a blistered corn tortilla. I had my first one just a couple years ago. I was pregnant at the time and protein-rich foods were ten times as delicious as they normally were so when I became obsessed with having another, and then another, I chalked it up to baby madness. But that kid is now two, and my carnita fixation has gone nowhere. (And no, people, I’m not pregnant. In fact, I’m pouring whiskey into my coffee as we speak, just like I always do after preschool drop-offs.)

orange and lime juice

The only thing greater than my love for carnitas was my wonderment as to how they were made. I imagined that getting a flavor so complex, and a texture so nuanced — somehow fork tender in the center and caramelized to a crunch at the edges — was best left to the experts, and so I continued to pay a tremendous markup in a city not known for excellence-on-a-taco because I knew I’d never pull it off as well at home. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned that one of the most famous recipes for carnitas has but three ingredients: pork, water and salt. Three! I still can’t get over it. I tell people about this all of the time — vegetarians, even, who nod politely; my husband, who thinks it’s cool, but perhaps a little less than I do; this old lady on the crosstown bus who heard me talking about them on the phone… But wait, there’s more: not only do you only need three ingredients to make carnitas, the cooking technique is kind of brilliant. The meat braises in the water and salt (this is the tenderizing part) for a few hours and then, once the water cooks off, it fries itself in its own rendered fat (thus creating those addictive crisp ends). Did you just get hungry too?

pork butt/shoulder

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, July 21, 2011

charred corn tacos with zucchini-radish slaw

charred corn tacos

I would not say that previous to the last year, we were not taco people. I can think of several carnitas that have brought me nearly to tears (and definitely to tears when they stopped delivering) and we’ve been doing an egg-tortilla thing for years. But at some point in the last six months, I got bit with the taco bug bad and now I can hardly think of anything else to eat. Saturday afternoon and the toddler is napping and suddenly we’re hungry? Black bean tacos! Nothing but a couple zucchini in the produce drawer? Roasted zucchini tacos for dinner! I’m about thisclose to becoming the sort of person who puts peanut butter and jelly on a taco. The taco has become the answer to all questions.

slaw to be
tiny matchsticks

It’s this obsession that finally got me to unearth a dish I’ve been meaning to put my spin on for two years. That’s more than a lifetime, if you’re this guy, and even he doesn’t know why it took me so long. The dish is called esquites and from what I understand but have sadly not yet experienced yet in person, it is a street snack in Mexico. Corn is cooked in butter with onions, garlic, chiles, an herb called epazote and salt. It’s then seasoned with lime juice, chile powder and served with mayo in small cups. Oh hi, are you still here? I’m not, because every time I read that description, I run to JFK and book the next flight to Mexico.

charring the corn, duck!

Continued after the jump »

Monday, September 27, 2010

beef chili + sour cream and cheddar biscuits

beef chili + sour cream cheddar biscuit

Abruptly, and likely surprising nobody more than my husband, I have decided to be a Good Football Wife this year. Finding it impossible to summon any actual enthusiasm for the game but refusing to fulfill the sitcom wife-cliché of grumbling about my husband’s Sunday afternoon routines, in the past, I’ve mostly tolerated it. But with months of cold and/or wet Sundays ahead of us, I finally came to the realization that football season is the perfect excuse to embrace some much-needed Lazy Sundays. A morning bagel, park and farmers market run routine segues nicely into an afternoon of bumming around, or you know, however the person at hand defines it. For Alex, football, with the requisite pre- and post-game Sports Shouting episodes. For Jacob, removing books from the bookcases one by one, then attempting to stand on them to reach higher shelves, so he can remove them too. He naps, we replace the books, he wakes up and starts again. Ah, Sundays.

garlic, beans, onions, peppers, carrots
beef chili

I made a giant pot of beef chili that I found from an old (like, 20 years!) Gourmet magazine, which, like almost all Gourmet recipes I run across, makes me sniffle and miss the magazine (in its original incarnation, that is, I haven’t made sense of this app thing yet) even more. Here, they gathered all of the things you’d normally dollop on top of a bowl of chili — cheddar, sour cream and pickled jalapeños — and formed them into a biscuit, which they use to serve the chili shortcake-style. I bet you didn’t know chili could be so cute! I just want to stand up and applaud their creativity but instead I’m very sad, because I’ve been bereft of fresh batches of it for nearly a year. I did not cry into this chili, however, because it was awesome, so awesome that the member of our family who a) does not know how to use a spoon, b) wants to eat what you’re eating but c) refuses to be fed from a spoon actually honored us with the privilege of letting us feed him. And tucked away a frightening amount of chili. The chili is that tremendous.

white cheddarsour cream biscuit doughcutting the shortcakessour cream and cheddar shortcakes

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

black bean soup + toasted cumin seed crema

black bean soup with toasted cumin cream

So, I told you about the brisket. Or, the way we talk about it, thhhuuuuh brisssssket, it’s deliciousness making our syllables stretch out melodramatically. We pulled it into tacos with slaw and pickled onions and it was a great end to a great year. But I bet I know what you’ve been wondering since then, “But no appetizer?” Well, let thie question vex your brain no longer: we had soup. (Jacob, however, got into the margaritas. Again.)

dried black beans
red onions

My friend Jocelyn made a wonderful black bean soup and she topped it with a toasted cumin seed crema and I just about died, the crema was so good. I mean, the soup was delicious but the crema was one of those toppings that was in lock-step with the soup: the richest, creamist, smokiest accent to a spicy, hearty soup. Since I’ve been slow cooker obsessed since that very day, I vowed to make a version entirely in my new BFF, and to top it with that toasted cumin seed cream. Frankly, the soup is just an excuse to get to it.

onions, beans, peppers and garlic

Continued after the jump »