by Betty Thompson
It was my first time in El Paso and although brief, I wanted to taste Tex Mex food prepared by Texans. The locals' unanimous restaurant choice was Jaxon's, a 20-year family-run success story which included "one of the Southwest's finest microbreweries." The menu featured Southwestern foods including great fajitas and aged, hand-cut steaks.
Tex Mex (Texas-Mexican) food with its regional variations, can best be described as Texas variations on a Mexican theme. An example is jalapeño peppers stuffed with cheese and dipped in hush puppy batter and deep fried, or Mexican pizza with corn meal in the crust and a topping of shredded pork, beef, chicken or beans topped with salsa ranchera, onion rings and cheese. Texans love to be innovative, use generous portions of meat and cheese, and have a great love for the chili pepper.
Airplane pretzels leave a definite hunger pang. Upon arrival at the restaurant, we were set to try almost everything on the menu. We started with chili relleno appetizers which were fresh-peeled Anaheim chilies stuffed with cheese, rolled in egg roll skins and deep fried. These were served with chunky fresh tomato-cilantro salsa.
Next came a bowl of creamy potato and green chili soup topped with angel hair shreds of cheese and a mound of thin crunchy strips of corn tortillas. This was a house specialty
We tried two entrées. One was a good slab of grilled sirloin steak sprinkled with a house seasoning called Charro (a blend of ground charcoal and seasoning) and topped with strips of fresh-peeled chilies. This was served with green salad, Jaxon's spicy beans with bacon and two cheese enchiladas with tomatillo sauce.
The second entrée was grilled chicken breast in diable sauce. The sweet smoky hot sauce featured the chipotle peppers (smoked jalapeño packed in a sauce and canned). The chicken was served with curly fries with chili powder and mixed green salad with green chili ranch dressing. This was more than enough food.
What about dessert? This was our only chance to try the mile-high adobe mud pie with the hot fudge sauce. It was just too tempting and worth every calorie.
If a trip to El Paso is not in the plans, maybe this month's recipes will help the cook create a taste of Tex Mex cuisine.
Creamy potato soup with lots of green chilies contrasted with
the crunch of fried tortillas makes this a favorite. For more
of a bite, add a few diced jalapeño peppers.
3 tablespoons corn oil
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup whole canned green chilies, chopped
1 cup cream or low fat canned milk
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 corn tortillas made into strips (see below)
Sauté onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add potatoes and chicken stock. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Mash part of the potatoes with a potato masher. Add salt, pepper, oregano and chilies to the soup and simmer another few minutes. Add cream and heat through. Top each serving with shredded parmesan cheese and a handful of tortilla strips.
Tortilla Strips: Using scissors cut four corn tortillas into 1/4-inch strips about two inches long. Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a skillet. Fry a handful of strips in the oil until crisp and beginning to brown. Drain and cool
The quick, smoky-sweet hot sauce in this chicken recipe is also good on any grilled meats.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 10-ounce can Las Palmas enchilada sauce
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
4 canned chipotle peppers, finely chopped. (Place remaining chilies in a jar and refrigerate for future use.)
Combine all ingredients except chicken, simmer for 10 minutes. Lightly pound chicken breasts, grill or pan fry. Top with sauce and serve immediately.
Serve this Tex Mex variation on any favorite salad greens
1 cup Marie's Light Ranch Dressing
5 tablespoons peeled diced green chilies
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon epazote (Mexican herb, optional)
Combine and serve over mixed greens.
Start with canned pintos to make this spicy dish with speed.
2 cans pinto beans, drain and reserve juice
2 strips lean bacon, diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning or chili powder
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
In a skillet, fry bacon, drain excess grease. Add beans and seasoning. Fry and toss lightly until heated through. Add a little bean liquid to prevent scorching. Beans should remain whole and fairly dry.
11/2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons Kahlua
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
1 cup whipping cream
Caramel rum sauce and chocolate cookie crust (see below)
Prepare cookie crust and caramel sauce. Set aside.
In the top of a double boiler, soften gelatin in milk for 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sugar, coffee powder, liqueur, salt and egg yolks. Mix thoroughly. Stir over boiling water until mixture is very hot and slightly thickened. Do not boil. Remove from heat and chill until mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon.
Beat egg whites until soft; add 1/4 cup sugar gradually until soft peaks are formed. Fold into gelatin mixture. Whip cream and fold into gelatin mixture.
Spoon half of the mixture into the cookie crust. Drizzle with caramel rum sauce and spoon on remaining gelatin mixture. Freeze several hours. Serve with additional whipped cream and hot fudge sauce.
(Chocolate variation: Substitute 6 tablespoons cocoa for the coffee powder and liqueur.)
Chocolate cookie crust: Place 1/3 pound Oreo cookies (about 20) in a plastic bag in one layer and crush coarsely with a rolling pin. In a 9-inch pie pan, toss cookies with 1/3 cup butter melted butter and press into pan. Cookies will be chunky.
Caramel rum sauce: Cook and stir 1/3 cup brown sugar, two tablespoons cream, 11/2 teaspoons butter over low heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat, add one teaspoon rum extract and cool.
Betty Thompson has taught cooking locally since 1974.
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