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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Exploring Mexican Cuisine: BAJA, Southwest, Tex Mex!

While in NM this past month I have had the ability to experiment with dishes from not only NM but also those mexican dishes from other parts of the US. Now then we all know that there are different types of Mexican food. Here is a little breakdown on the Mexican Foods out west.

CALIFORNIA Mexican Foods

Let's take for example Mexican food of the West from California which has a spin on it. They specialize in citrus added to Mexican food with local fresh veggies. Think of the Baja style pepared Fish Tacos recipe below.

Fish Tacos
1 lb Mahi Mahi fish fillets
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 cup flour
1 cup beer
1 cup oil

Mix beer, seasonings and flour together in a bowl. Mix well.

Dry fish, cut into 6 - 8 pieces. Dunk into the beer batter and allow to drain slightly before adding to heated oil. Do not over crowd the pan with fish. Cook for about 3 minutes or until golden brown and turn. Cook for 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until done.

Serve with fresh sliced lime wedges, slaw, salsa, corn tortillas and an ice cold beer.

Southwestern Mexican Foods

Now then New Mexico and Arizona have a different view of Mexican foods. NM is known for their Hatch Chilies and the Southwest is known for the different types of Chilies grown by the universities and local Chile growers. That specific type of Mexican food is known as Southwestern Mexican. Enchiladas in other parts of the country are usually rolled, but in New Mexico it is not unusual to find them stacked. Also, there is the issue of Red Sauce, Green Sauce or Christmas.  Green Sauce is Green Chile Sauce, while the red Sauce is that of the Chile Molido it is a rich red color. Finally, there is Christmas - when you cannot make up your mind you get both sauces - personally my favorite. 

New Mexico is where the Green Chile Cheeseburger was brought to an art. Many say the OWL Cafe in San Antonio,NM serves the best Chile Cheeseburgers but my thinking is that the BUCKHORN Cafe in San Antonio, NM serves the best burgers for $6 and a bunless wonder of the same ingredients for $4 which is a deal. Just be sure to "Thank" Bobby Olguin when you are there - as he is usually there, the proprietor along with his wife and eager to trade jabs at you anytime -- when not filiming his NM foodie show. ( http://www.socorro-nm.com/buckhorn.htm) A damn great burger - just check it out for yourself!

Also, in El Paso, TX there is this small chain of restaurants which specialize in flautas in a thin red sauce. It is called "Chicos Tacos". 

Here is the facsimile recipe:

Mock Chico's Tacos

5 large Roma Tomatoes
3 - 4 jalapenos
salt and pepper

Remove stems, chop coarsely and add to a pot. Add rest of ingredients. Cook until peppers are soft. Add to a blender and puree all together. Set aside.

1 lb chuck, ground
1 Serrano pepper, minced and seeded
2 crushed garlic cloves
pinch of both chili powder, and paprika
1 bay leaf
cup of water
salt and pepper

Next, add ground chuck to a pan, fry with pepper and garlic. Drain oil, add seasoning after pink has fled. Add water and simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside.

2 jalapenos, stems removed
1 serrano pepper, stem removed
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp apple cider vinegar (may substitute regular distilled vinegar)Bay Leaf
Bay leaf
Black peppercorn balls

Add peppers to a saucepan. Add lime juice, vinegar and salt to taste. Add bay leaf. Cook until peppers are soft. Add water to make a cup of broth, put into the food processor and blend until liquid. Serve this first, ladle into a bowl.


corn tortillas
shredded cheddar

Next you will fry the flautas. Dip the corn tortillas in oil, fry no more than 30 seconds and roll (use 1 1/2 tbsp of meat) and secure with a toothpick and fry till crispy or about 2 minutes. Add to sauce, top flautas with cheddar or shredded colby plus add some salsa. Enjoy!

Here is the family favorite NM cole Slaw which is oil based.

New Mexican Slaw
2 tbsp Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 hear of finely shredded cabbage

Place cabbage in a large serving dish. Add the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to a measuring cup and stir  well. Add to the cabbage and toss well. Refrigerate.


Growing up in central Texas I was accustom to what is called TEX-MEX, that is spicy Mexican food which has a distinctive cheesiness about it. It is a US invention as in Mexico there is no such type of food such as TEX-MEX. I used to go to Tip Top Cafe in San Antonio which served the best handrolled Enchilada dinners, but there were also the Puffy Tacos - something well known in San Antonio and difficult to find elsewhere.

Puffy Tacos

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1 Tbsp Chile Powder, Mexican Oregano
1 Tbsp Cumin (OPT)
2 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped
1 potato, diced
Cayene pepper to taste
1 cup Beef Broth

Break ground beef into chunks and add onion and garlic, fry until the meat is no longer pink. Drain meat of oil. Add the rest of the spices. I prefer to not use Cumin, if you must use it - add it now. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Cook for 20 - 30 minutes or until the potato is done.

For the PUFFY TACO  - you must use fresh corn masa to make the puffy shell. Suggestion is to buy it in the store and pat out into a 5 inch circle OR use 1/3 of the bag's recipe to make corn tortillas on the Masa Harina bag available in the hispanic section of the store. Cook shells on each side for 30 seconds to 1 min at most or better yet cook it in 1 inch of oil for a really authentic look and taste. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.


Break top of puffy taco and fill with beef mixture. Top with Shredded lettuce and tomatoes, add cheese and serve with rice, beans and tortillas and lots of Salsa and Tortilla Chips!


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