I was in Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago, browsing the cookbook section (moth to a flame!) and I ran across a book I’d never seen before. It’s called “The Homesick Texan Cookbook”. I was interested, so I picked it up, took it to the cafe and looked through it. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it completely blew me away. My culinary childhood flashed before me on almost every page. The author, Lisa Fain, is like me in one way: raised in Texas and moved to NYC as a young adult. She misses Tex-Mex, so she learned to cook it in her own kitchen. This is the real deal. This is true Texan fare, from all regions, with no holds barred. It’s such an awesome book. I too, occasionally miss the food of my childhood. Back then, I didn’t think it was anything special. It was just what we ate. Now, having moved away and traveled a lot, I realize how truly unique and special Texan cuisine really is. New York City is one of the finest food capitals in the world. You can find pretty much any ethnic cuisine here. I mean, hello, I’ve eaten Afghan food here! But I have yet to find a good Tex-Mex restaurant or eatery. I’ve found plenty of Mexican food, and it’s delicious. But we Texans know that Mexican isn’t Tex-Mex. So, my kitchen it is! Thank you, Lisa, for these wonderful recipes. I can’t wait to try them all out (except maybe the deviled eggs. I hate deviled eggs.) I chose something iconic for my first recipe from this new book. This enchilada is so classically Texan, I ate probably thousands growing up. And can you believe, Matt had never had this dish before! I’m happy to report, he’s quite a fan. This was outstanding, and reminded me of being in El Fenix off Central Expressway on Sunday afternoon after church. I hadn’t had these enchiladas in years, but they tasted just like I remember. Enjoy!
6 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 tbs cooking oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tbs ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground oregano
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Ground beef: she calls for 1/4 pound, I used about half a pound, and my feelings wouldn’t have been hurt if I’d used up to a whole pound
2 cups beef broth
Salt, black pepper, ground cayenne to taste
12 corn tortillas
4 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1/2 medium onion, chopped
In a dry stockpot over high heat, toast the ancho chiles until they start to puff, about 10 seconds per side. Fill the pot with enough water to cover them. Leave the heat on until the water is boiling, then turn it off and let it stand for 30 minutes, until softened. Once hydrated, discard the soaking water and rinse the chiles. Place in a blender.
Wipe out the stockpot. Place back on the stovetop and heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook another minute. Place cooked onions and garlic in the blender along with cumin, oregano, allspice, cinnamon and 1 cup water. Puree until smooth.
Using the same pot, brown the ground beef until no longer pink. Drain the fat if you want, but I used sirloin, and this step wasn’t necessary. Add the chile puree and beef broth, heat on high until boiling, then turn the heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste.
Make the enchiladas. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a large baking dish. Next, you will need to warn your tortillas to make them pliable, otherwise they will tear and frustrate you to no end (don’t ask me how I know this!). The recipe calls for heating some oil, then dredging the tortilla through it. I have a gas stove, and I simply put on a medium-low flame, and dropped each tortilla on the burner grates for about a minute, 30 seconds each side. Remove with tongs and place in a tortilla warmer. Saved me some calories and clean-up time this way.
To assemble, take a heated tortilla and dip it into the chile beef sauce. Shake off any excess. Lay it on a plate, and put 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar down the center, then top with a few chopped onions. Roll it up, then place it seam side down in your baking dish. Repeat 11 more times. Pour sauce over all the enchiladas and use a spatula to smooth it out. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and chopped onions all over the top of the enchiladas. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbling. Let rest a few minutes, then serve. If you want to be truly Tex-Mex about it (and why wouldn’t you? :)) then serve some rice and refried beans alongside. Enjoy!!!