People often confuse Mexican cuisine with Tex-Mex. It’s not surprising. As new settlers discovered historic Mexico, the intrigue of the spicy dishes captured their attention. Americans living near the Mexican border started taking some of the classic Mexican recipes and altering them to match individual tastes and replacing hard to find ingredients. This led to the creation of Tex-Mex cuisine.
Differences in Tex-Mex Cuisine
Traditional Mexican cuisine featured unusual ingredients like dried epazote (a dried herb used in mole), a sassafras flavored herb known as hoja santa, and huitlacoche (corn smut). Tex-Mex cuisine focused on ingredients that are easily found north of the border like corn and wheat flour (for tortillas), garlic, hot peppers, limes, and tomatoes. While tortillas tend to be served “soft,” Tex-Mex cuisine fried them up into the crispy taco shell that is one of the hottest Tex-Mex dishes around.
Popular Tex-Mex Dishes
Tacos are simple to make and enjoyed by omnivores and vegetarians alike. Start by browning a pound of meat or a meat substitute. You can make beef, chicken, shrimp, or vegetarian meat-substitute crumbles. Add a diced onion, a teaspoon each of crushed garlic, cumin, and chili powder. Finally, add salt and pepper to taste. Fill ready-made taco shells with a little of the meat mixture and top with chopped tomatoes, lettuce, and grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese. Some people also like to add sour cream and Tabasco sauce.
Fajitas are another classic Tex-Mex dish. Marinate your meat, poultry, or seafood in a mixture of 1/8 cup lime juice, ¼ cup olive or peanut oil, a tablespoon chopped cilantro, and one teaspoon each of chili powder, cumin, and crushed garlic. Let the mixture sit for half an hour while you prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Meanwhile, slice two sweet bell peppers and onions. Place those in a skillet with a little butter or oil and slowly sauté until tender but not mushy. While the onions and peppers cook, grill your meat. To serve, slice the meat into strips and place in a soft flour tortilla. Top with the cooked onions and peppers. Place bowls of grated cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, shredded lettuce, and salsa out for those who want to add additional ingredients to their fajita.
We also have Tex-Mex cuisine to thank for nachos. Fried triangles of corn or flour tortillas (tortilla chips) are covered in a variety of toppings like black olives, refried beans, salsa, and taco meat, and then covered in shredded cheese and baked until golden. Popular cheeses include cheddar, Colby, and Monterey Jack.
If you like tortilla chips, serve them with salsa or the more adventurous Tex-Mex Queso dip. Brush two Poblano chilies with corn oil and then grill until the skin blackens. Cool the peppers and use a cloth or your fingers to remove the charred skin. Chop the pepper into small pieces. Place four ounces of chopped Velveeta cheese, a cup of light cream, and a cup of shredded pepper jack in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt the ingredients in the microwave for 45 seconds. Stir the mixture and repeat until all cheese is melted and smooth. Add two teaspoon of crushed garlic, a teaspoon of cumin, the Poblano, and the flesh from one peeled, seeded, and diced tomato. Mix thoroughly and serve while still hot.
Guacamole goes along well with any Tex-Mex dish. Individual preferences vary but keeping it simple usually works best. Scoop out the flesh from two avocados and mash it with the back of a fork. Stir in one chopped garlic clove, a half-tablespoon of fresh, chopped cilantro, and a couple teaspoons of fresh lime juice.
This article was written by Sheldon Armstrong, a regular contributor at INFOtainment News and a lover of Tex Mex! He writes this on behalf of mattitos.com, your number one choice when looking for Tex Mex food in Dallas, TX! Check out their website and see what they have for you!