Author Topic: i need a crash course on tex-mex food  (Read 2262 times)

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cicero

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i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« on: September 26, 2012, 04:59:27 AM »
Mexican food isn't so popular here (i'm not sure why it never took on - people here love spicy). we can buy different types of tortillas, refried beans, salsa etc. anyway, i was watching a few episodes of "eat st" and a lot of the recipes are tortillas that look crunchy , not soft. and then DS saw a recipe for oven fried fish in a taco and said he might like to try that (for DS to say that he is willing to try *anything* that he hasn't eaten before is a huge step, so i'd like to give it a try).

can someone help out a newbie? or send me to a web site that explains things? I don't need the actual recipes (that I can figure out on my own) but how do you put them together? how does the food stay *in* the taco? or does it not? we are used to eating things in lavash bread or pita ( so nice and neat). what is a taco, tortilla, burito?


can we make tacos in advance (like take them to work)? or is that a burrito?

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RebeccainGA

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2012, 09:31:38 AM »
I'd suggest allrecipes.com.

There are soft tacos (made with flour tortillas), 'hard tacos' - made with fried or baked corn tortillas, like a tortilla chip that's been made into a little cup. If you want to take them someplace, I suggest transporting the ingredients separately, not assembled - and to use tortillas, as the hard taco shells aren't very good cold. You can warm them up in a hot over for a minute or two, and they are lovely. They are also sometimes served as a 'taco salad' where a bowl made of (usually) a flour tortilla is baked or deep fried (You can put a large flour tortilla in the bottom of a metal bowl and bake it) and then lettuce and beans are layered in the bowl, with other taco ingredients (salsa, cheese, meat, sour cream, onions) are layered on top.

Burritos are ingredients (usually rice, beans, cheese, meat, maybe salsa, seldom anything cold like lettuce or sour cream) wrapped in a flour tortilla and served as is. Deep fried burritos are called chimichangas, and are often served with cheese sauce. Enchiladas are like burritos, but baked with a sauce on them (usually a red tomato based sauce called 'enchilada sauce' which is sort of like a spicy ketchup).

I can't imagine a place with no Mexican food, but having grown up in Florida (lots of Mexican and Cuban food), lived in Georgia (lots of Mexican immigrants) and Arkansas (shares a border with Texas, where Tex-Mex was born, and Little Rock, AR is the birthplace of cheese dip), I've lived in lots of places where Mexican food is a staple.

Good luck! Good Mexican is usually simple to make at home, inexpensive, and tasty, and can be quite healthy if you watch what you add to it. The Mexican food we most commonly hear about is really the peasant food of some parts of the country, and so it's not meant to be difficult to make. Now if you want to start on good chiles rellinios, or some machacha, that's the hard stuff. ;-)

Sophia

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2012, 09:37:32 AM »
Rebecca was accurate, but I would like to add that enchiladas are made with corn tortillas that have been warmed in hot oil on the stove.  Just a quick dip for both side. 

Hillia

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2012, 09:40:21 AM »
A tortilla is a piece of soft flat bread.  It's made of either corn or flour.  The flour tend to be more 'breadlike' while to me, the corn have a coarser, dryer texture. Corn also tend to be smaller, around 4" across, while flour are made in several sizes up to around dinner plate or slightly larger.

Taco: Generally a flour tortilla with various fillings.  A very typical one would be lettuce, tomato, maybe refried beans, and either seasoned ground or shredded beef or chicken.  The fish taco has shredded cabbagek, a creamy seasoned sauce, and your cooked fish. Those bright yellow, crunchy, semicircular things that you see in the grocery store or on commercials are corn tortillas that have been folded in half, leaving about a half inch for stuffing, and fried - taco shells.  You can make a crunchy taco out of them but I hate them, because the first bite causes the shell immediately splinters into a million pieces and the filling falls out. 

Burrito - a tortilla filled with meat and other things that has been rolled up and had the ends tucked in, kind of like a big egg roll.  Because it's 'closed' rather than open ended, burrito fillings tend to be sloppier - more gravies, sauces, etc.  They are also often served hot on a plate, sometimes smothered in chile sauce and melted cheese.

Either item is portable to work.  For a taco, I would probably pack the tortilla and fillings separately, because you do want the contrast of crispy veggies (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers) with the warm meat and cheese, and your tortilla will get soggy if you try to send them pre-made.  A burrito is more of a plated item, so you could easily make them up ahead of time and reheat.

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CakeBeret

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2012, 09:43:13 AM »
Tex Mex is really easy and versatile to make.

Cook some meat with a little chili powder, garlic, and onion. Optional: green chiles, red pepper, jalapeno, etc. You can use beef, pork, chicken; it can be ground, chopped, pulled, etc.

Add some beans (black, pinto, refried, white, etc) and toppings (sour cream, cheese, salsa, lettuce, tomato). Use some form of tortilla (flour, corn, taco shell, chips) and you have a Tex Mex!

Burritos are a great portable food. Take a large flour tortilla (10 inches or larger) and stuff with your choice of meat, beans, toppings, and rice if desired. Wrap it up until the filling is completely encased.

Tacos are messier because the filling does tend to drop out. But with tacos, you can get away with using smaller tortillas and more filling.

Nachos are delicious, melt cheese on top of chips and then add toppings.

Quesadillas are also tasty and portable. Fill a tortilla with cheese and meat (beans optional), fold in half, and cook in a skillet until the cheese is melty and the tortilla is crisp on each side.

Oh, and don't forget guacamole, an excellent accompaniment to any Tex-Mex! It's made by combining mashed avocado, salsa (jarred or homemade), and a little lime juice.
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Hmmmmm

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2012, 09:49:26 AM »
Cicero, there are commercially made crunchy taco shells that are bascially a corn tortillia folded in half and then baked or fried till crispy.  If using purchased hard shells, you do want to heat them in the oven prior to filling. 

In San Antonio there is also a thing called a puffy taco that he might have seen being used.  These can be made at home and are quite good.  Here's a website about them. http://www.puffytacos.com/

Most fish tacos are served in soft tortillias, primarily corn tortillia.  It is common to use fried or grilled fish, but I think baked would be fine too.  A good creamy tomatillo sauce is really nice with fish tacos, but so is a green salsa.  You also add a shredded cabbage or lettuce  and fresh cilantro to the taco.  For the soft tortillias, you can heat them on a griddle sprayed with cooking spray for a few minutes till pliable or even stick in the microwave in a covered dish with a wet paper towel for about a minute to steam them.  If I'm doing over a dozen, then I do the microwave.

A good source of texmex recipes for people who are not in Texas is the homesick Texan.  She is good at coming up with some alternatives when you can't get the ingredients you were looking for.


PastryGoddess

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2012, 09:52:50 AM »
Now I'm craving fish tacos :)
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cicero

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2012, 12:49:07 PM »
wow thank you all!

i know that mexican food is very popular in the US, i've actually had it on more than one ocassion. I live in Israel and it's not as popular here. there are a few mexican restaurants and the canned/packaged goods are readily available.

I'm going to try the fish tacos to start , i'll let you all know!

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Gumbysqueak

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2012, 01:34:21 PM »
We live in Colorado which has a huge Mexican population and history. I agree with all the other posters. One good idea is roast or buy a rotisserie chicken (if they have those there). Shred the chicken and quickly simmer in canned mexican tomato sauce.Flash fry corn tortillas add chicken, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and anything else you might like. Super yummy and easy for a weekday dinner.

Zilla

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2012, 02:17:09 PM »
Rebecca was accurate, but I would like to add that enchiladas are made with corn tortillas that have been warmed in hot oil on the stove.  Just a quick dip for both side.


Or warmed over a dry hot heat.  Like an ungreased pan.  There is "fat" in the corn tortilla already and the heat melts them and finish cooking the tortilla.


You eat the tacos folder over once.

Acadianna

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2012, 09:28:48 PM »
There are also some great Tex-Mex casseroles that are easy to make and easy to transport.  You can layer meat/bean/sauce mixture with cheese and tortilla chips (Doritos work well here).  Or you can top the meat/bean/sauce mixture with corn bread batter.

Specky

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2012, 05:15:57 PM »
Don't forget those wonderful spices!  Can you find the spices there?

greencat

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2012, 05:48:04 PM »
Pictures would probably help.
(Pictures are not mine but found on google image search)


That is a fairly common preparation of a soft taco with ground beef (seasoned with taco seasonings, which are usually garlic, cumin, lots of salt, paprika, cayenne powder/crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, and onion powder.)  The traditional toppings are usually shredded lettuce and pico de gallo - freshly chopped tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, and shredded cheese.  You can replace the beef with any meat - I actually quite partial to fish tacos, and when I make them at home, I take the taco seasonings and blend them into the breading.  You can also put other veggies and sauces on the taco.  That picture shows the soft tortilla shell loosely folded around the filling to make a pocket - you can also roll them around the fillings, and if you get bigger tortillas, the ones labeled burrito sized, you can fold the ends up to make a closed container.  The soft tortillas like that are made of a room-temperature semi-solid fat like lard or vegetable shortening mixed with corn meal or wheat flour - I prefer the ones made with wheat.


These are hard taco shells.  They're always made of corn rather than wheat.  Fill them the same way as the others, but they are stiff and brittle and crunchy.

PastryGoddess

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2012, 11:54:16 PM »
^^^
Don't forget to heat up the hard tacos in the oven or microwave
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cicero

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Re: i need a crash course on tex-mex food
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2012, 03:02:44 PM »
Don't forget those wonderful spices!  Can you find the spices there?
oh yes, they have the mixes (those little envelopes) as well as just regular spices in the spice markets - cumin, peppers, chili, oregano as welll as fresh cilantro.
@greencat - thanks for the photos and ideas

and thank you all - this is the bestest place to be!

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