Confession No. 30 — Texas-style? I’ll be the judge of that.

A friend and co-worker recently took me to task after reading a beerfly review that I’d posted on BeerAdvocate. It all boiled down to my use of three words: authentic British pub. When she asked me whether I’d ever been to a pub in England, I knew that there could be no debate.

But, it got me to thinking about widespread claims of authenticity, particularly about my beloved Lone Star State.

At one time, probably more than 15 years ago, I read in Ad Age Weekly that ‘Texas’ was among the most marketable names in advertising. I’m not sure what effect time has had on our standing in that category, but I still see our flag and name plastered on a lot of goods — many of which have originated in North Carolina, or worse — New Jersey.

Now, before you Tarheels and Shore-goers start writing me hate mail, please know that I have the utmost respect for your states. I married a Jersey girl, and Andy Griffith is from North Carolina. How could you not like either place? I just wish some of your homers would brag on their own state in their efforts to make a living.

Hot sauce, salsa and hot dogs
North Carolina is the home of TW Garner Food Co. If you’ve never heard of that, perhaps you are familiar with their most popular product: Texas Pete Hot Sauce. Apparently, the originator of the product shot down ‘Mexican Joe’ as the product’s name, instead opting for a more ‘American’ label. Just in case you buy this product and believe you are eating something that we eat here in Texas … Well … You are. Except in Texas, we refer to it as Louisiana Hot Sauce.

New Jersey, home of Campbell’s Soup, is a hotbed of marketing Texas by proxy. Did you know that the original Pace Picante Sauce commercials used New Jersey as the reason they should hang the camp cook? Yep. When the hungry cowboys realized that the chuck wagon was stocked with Garden State-made salsa, he ordered his crew to ‘get a rope’. That all changed when Campbell’s bought Pace. Next time you see the commercial, you’ll notice New York City getting picked on. In the interest of full disclosure, last time I checked, Pace Picante Sauce was still manufactured in San Antonio.

Want a Texas wiener? You can buy them at no fewer than three dozen places, including Plainfield, Montclair, Linden, Paterson and Ocean City — all in New Jersey. I’ve noticed a few Texas wiener joints in Philadelphia too, but I’ve never seen a single one in Texas. Around here, we just call them chili dogs.

Texas-style brisket? Really?
It bothers me to pick on one of my favorite magazines for recipes and landscaping ideas, but Southern Living really screwed the pooch in the cooking section of its January issue. Apparently, the fine folks in their test kitchen didn’t realize that we don’t cook our beef briskets with chopped onion, Liquid Smoke and Heinz Chili Sauce … in a Crock Pot. Oh, we do slow cook our brisket — in a smoker. And we do season it — with dry rub. But, we sure as heck don’t ‘brown’ it beforehand, as the Southern Living article suggests. Sitting in a cloud of hickory or pecan wood smoke for 24 hours makes a brisket plenty dark on the outside, while leaving a pink, very tender interior. C’mon, Southern Living! Get out of Atlanta once in a while!

Of chili, burgers and a few other Lone Star flavors
Call your chili anything you want, but if you make it with beans or tomatoes, it’s anything but Texas-style. You see, chili is the official state food (the state legislature proclaimed this in 1977), and our version includes, meat, chiles and a few spices. Nothing else.

Marzetti’s New York brand offers a line of products labeled as Texas Toast. If you don’t know how to butter your own bread and put it in the oven, this product might just be right up your alley. You should know, though, that around these parts Texas Toast is what you get with a Dairy Queen Steak Finger Basket. And it’s not slathered with fake butter and topped with cheese.

I’ve seen national hamburger chains add jalapenos, barbecue sauce or onion rings to a hamburger, then slap the Texas moniker on it. I’ve also come across similar sacrilege in the frozen food section of my local grocery store. Truth is, to be a Texas-style burger, it has to be made from beef (sorry, Amy’s); and it has to have yellow mustard on it — something Burger King never could figure out.

It just seems to make sense that the company with the rights to a BK-inspired line of snacks also hawks Bob’s Texas Style Chips (made in Arizona). Bob’s kettle cooked potato chips are thick, crunchy and full of flavor. But, a true Texas-style chip is made of corn, and is used as a vessel for bean dip or table salsa. Fritos is the true Texas chip, since it was invented here. But so too are the triangular slices of corn tortillas that have been fried and salted.

If you order any type of beer in Texas, it’ll likely be served ice-cold in a longneck bottle. And it won’t matter whether you are in a honky-tonk in Lockhart … or a British-style pub in Houston. That’s just how we do it here.

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Menus change. Especially when a friend brings you fresh homemade corn tortillas and a couple of pints of homemade New Mexico Red Chile Sauce. This sauce is a cousin to the Tex-Mex Enchilada Sauce that has become my staple. It’s not generally as hot. The flavor is of the chiles and garlic — period. And it has a bright beautiful ruby hue.  As I learned a few years back from an  interview with Jane Butel — the authority on Southwestern cuisine — New Mexico-style enchiladas are served stacked, opposed to rolled. For true authenticity, top the stack with a fried egg.

New Mexico Red Chile Cheese Enchiladas

New Mexico Red Chile Enchiladas are traditionally served stacked and topped with a fried egg. Admittedly, this was my daughter's plate. I prefer my eggs over-hard.

New Mexico Red Chile Enchiladas are traditionally served stacked and topped with a fried egg.

New Mexico Red Chile Enchiladas
 
New Mexico Red Chile Enchiladas are traditionally served stacked and topped with a fried egg.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Southwestern
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 18-20 – Dried Hatch chiles (about 1 lb.)*
  • 4 cups – Water
  • 6 – Garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon – Dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon – Corn or olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 9-12 – Corn tortillas
  • Corn oil
  • 1 Cup – Shredded melting cheese (Queso fresco, queso quesadilla, Monterrey Jack)
  • Chopped raw onions; fried egg (one for each stack); dried Mexican oregano, for garnish. (Optional)
Instructions
The Sauce
  1. Rinse chiles, then remove stems and seeds.
  2. Place in large saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
  3. Simmer until chiles are soft, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Remove chiles from liquid (reserving liquid) and run through a blender until a smooth paste is formed; add sliced garlic and oregano to paste.
  5. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. Add chile paste and stir constantly, for about a minute.
  7. Add about half of reserved liquid, whisking constantly.
  8. Add remaining liquid and whisk until combine. Simmer mixture until it reduces to a gravy-like consistency. Add salt to taste. (Yield: About 2-2½ cups.)
  9. If sauce is too thick, add water.
  10. If you prefer a completely smooth sauce, add garlic to blender with chiles and oregano.

  11. !The Enchiladas
  12. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  13. Arrange your work station. You'll need a (wide) bowl with warm red chile sauce; the cheese; and chopped onions (if using). If you aren't using ovenproof plates, you'll want to make your stacks on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  14. Heat oil in a small skillet.
  15. Fry tortillas, one at a time, about 5 seconds on each side.
  16. Using tongs, dip hot tortilla in sauce so that it is coated. Lay on plate or pan. Top with cheese (and onions, if desired).
  17. Repeat this process, making a 3-4 layered stack.
  18. Top stacks with cheese and more sauce.
  19. Place plate in oven (for 3-5 minutes) until top layer of cheese is melted and bubbly. (I sometimes cheat and use the microwave for 45-60 seconds.)
  20. Top stacks with fried egg, if desired.
Notes
* Not all chiles are created equally. Some are large, while others are quite small. You'll want about 16 ounces.

 

 

Comments

  1. You had me at red chile – I am a spicy fiend!!! This looks absolutely extravagant and a dish to set my mouth on fire is a good dish 😀
    Topped with cheese it cannot get much better!!
    I love your blog by the way – it is so entertaining and full of good food!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru
    Latest: Nutella Baking Week

  2. THE Louisiana Hot Sauce is made in New Iberia.

    http://www.brucefoods.com/contact-us.html

  3. I guess since Texas is BIG, anything with good size runs the risk of having the name slapped on it for good measure. As per usual, a great morning chuckle. Many thanks.

  4. Adam, you touched a close (and funny) nerve with this one. My husband is a Van de Walle (his mom). As in the picante sauce. His family were all farmers for 130 years, and used to grow the vegetables for Pace picante sauce. In the mid 80’s, the family asked my father in law to head their company. His first move was to quit growing veg for Pace and to start bottling their own picante sauce with the veg they grew. That’s when Pace started getting their veg from New Jersey. Aside from bottling their own VandeWalle and San Antonio Farms brands, the family also bottles all of HEB/Hillcountry Fair salsas, spaghetti sauce, McIlhenny Chili Starter, and Whataburger Salsa packets…They actually sold out to Kit Goldsbury (formerly of Pace), and some other investors, about 10 years ago, making all of those old belgiun farmers millionaires. Some of the family has stayed on though, and still work on the land their great grandfathers used to farm.

    • I’ve always thought that VandeWalle and Pace were very similar. Now I know why. (VandeWalle is also a lot cheaper.) I mostly make my own salsa these days, except for the rare occasion when I buy Herdez or treat myself to Salpica (a Rick Bayless company – made in Illinois, but oh so good). Knowing that Pace gets its veggies from the Garden State has made my day.

  5. Haha, what a lovely rant. I have never been to Texas, but my wife has relatives in New Mexico, and man, was the food amazing. 🙂

  6. Enchilladas are my FAVORITE. great recipe. I want that rice too!

    • Leanne – Thank you. I should have mentioned too that the New Mexico Red Chile Sauce recipe was inspired by the friend’s mother’s version. As for the rice, it was my own creation based on what we had on hand: Rice, black beans, a little grated lime and lime juice, ground coriander seeds and a slight bit of chile powder (to tie the two dishes together). I added a Kaffir Lime leaf during the cooking process (removed it later). Everything got tossed with some avocado chunks. The family added sour cream to theirs, but I liked it just the way it was — with a little salt.

  7. Reading through your sharing got me drooling esp with the mention of each one of the type of food. Over where I am, its mostly on Asian style cooking but we do go Western from time to time but mostly dining out. Thank you for getting connected with me because I am discovering food from other parts of the world. Thats a lovely recipe and just like your daughter, I prefer the runny eggs and in fact, its a stand out in the pic.

  8. Loved your post. Made me laugh, being a born and bred Texas boy. The enchiladas, although not the way I grew up having them, look really good. I wish I had a plate of those right now. Can’t wait to see more of your posts.

  9. Loved reading through all your old posts this week. It was so great I added a link to your site from mine so that others will find it and laugh as much as I did, hopefully. You are doing a great job. Keep it up.

  10. So, I’m originally from New Mexico. And I’m absolutely drooling over these enchiladas, which coincidentally, I’ve never seen here in Texas. And that makes me sad.

    So, I’m adding this to our menu. Cause if I can’t get it around here, then I can at least make it.

    • Jen – I’m about as far east in Texas as you can go, without being in Louisiana. Everything here is Tex-Mex, which is great. But, New Mexico style is also special. Thank goodness it’s easy to make.

  11. jamie golden says:

    hi, i just finished making the sauce. i used 1 lb dried chilis, but i think i ended up with more like 8-10 cups of sauce. should i add more garlic and oregano? right now it is a little bitter. i have never made this sauce before so i am not even sure what it is suppose to taste like.

    • adamjholland says:

      Jamie – I hope I’m not too late in responding. The sauce shouldn’t be bitter (I’ve always thought of it as slightly fruity — in a pepper sort of way — warm, but not as sharp as your typical Tex-Mex enchilada sauces). ~ If you want to rescue it, add more garlic and salt … a little at a time. Please let me know how it turns out.

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