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Common Misconceptions and Myths About Tex Mex Food

When you think of Tex Mex food – or even Mexican food – do you think only of beans, tacos and fajitas?

Then your knowledge of Tex Mex/Mexican cuisine has some holes in it.

Read below for some common misconceptions or even myths about Mexican/Tex Mex foods.

Tex Mex Food Myths

  • As mentioned above, if you think this cuisine is nothing but fajitas, tacos, chalupas, and burritos, you’re missing out. Mexican and Tex Mex cuisine is quite extensive. There’s moles, cabrito (baby goat), pozale, pork marinated with achiote, lime soup, ceviches, tamales, and more – much more.
  • Do you think Tex Mex food is always hot and spicy? Sure, the cuisine is full of spicy flavors, but it’s also full of a variety of subtle flavors such as jalapeno, chile quero, pasilla, ancho, guajillo, arbol, and more. Some are extremely hot/spicy while others are more subtle, used to bring out more of the flavor of a dish’s ingredients.
  • Do you think that Tex Mex cuisine is inherently unhealthy? After all, all that cheese, fatty beef/steaks, refried beans. But those ingredients are more of a fast-food ilk. Real Tex Mex foods include plenty of colorful vegetables, whole and black beans, whole-grain rice, lots of fish, and more.
  • Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about Tex Mex cuisine is that it’s Mexican cuisine. It’s not, really: it’s more of an Americanized – even Texan-ized – version of Mexican foods, as Mexico residents moved up to the United States bringing their native foods with them. As in almost all cultures that meet another, both cultures assimilate some aspects of the other. Hence the “Americanization” of Mexican cuisine.
  • Which brings us to fajitas and hard-shell tacos: neither come from Mexico. Both were created in America. Yes, skirt steak (of which fajitas are made) is eaten in Mexico, but the fajita was created here in the U.S. And, while Mexicans do eat tortillas, they eat soft, floured tortillas. The hard, u-shaped corn tortilla used for tacos was created in the U.S. in the mid-1900s.
  • Another believer is that Mexican food uses a lot of cheddar cheese. Again, using grated or even ungrated cheddar cheese on Tex Mex dishes started in the U.S. Cheese in Mexico sometimes is used as a garnish, not as a major part of the dish. In addition, Mexicans use a whiter variety of cheese, not the bright yellow cheddar.

One misconception about Tex Mex cuisine we know that you know is not true, is that Tex Mex dishes aren’t tasty. If someone believes this, it’s more than likely because he’s eaten too many dinners at a fast food “Mexican” restaurant.

Visit a Mattito’s near you to enjoy delicious Tex Mex cuisine. We look forward to having you as our guest!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Difference Between Tex Mex and Cal Mex Cuisines

The Tex Mex food you love here in Texas is known as Cal Mex.

 Cal Mex Cuisine  Tex Mex Cuisine

Cal Mex cuisine is very similar to the Tex Mex dishes prepared here in Texas. A few (minor) differences include:

  • Californians in general tend to demand healthier foods, and the Mexican restaurants in the Golden State have answered with more dishes offering fish and more vegetables. Dishes such as fajitas also focus on leaner cuts of beef
  • California residents tend to like their taco shells crispy rather than soft.
  • Cal Mex food also has more garlic than Tex Mex.
  • They also ask for black or white beans instead of refried beans.
  • You’ll see black olives in Cal Mex cuisine; rarely – if ever – in a Tex Mex dish.
  • Tex Mex dishes in Texas tend to go heavier on the cheese.
  • Avocado and guacamole is more popular in California.
  • Shredded beef in tacos is more common in California than in Texas.
  • Tex Mex aficionados love their chili and the hotter the better!
  • You may find more lettuce and tomato in your CalMex acos.
  • Californians also love their sour cream, especially on what is known more as a tostado in California (known as a chalupa in Tex Mex cuisine).

Every region has its own take on a particular cuisine. Tex Mex/Mexican food in New Mexico will be a lot different than it is in Texas. Even Tex Mex in Houston will be different than what you’ll find here in Dallas.

If you once lived in California, what do you see as the main difference(s) between Cal Mex and Tex Mex cuisines? Do you prefer the California style, or have you embraced Tex Mex?

Whether you want a taco with beef (shredded or not), or with chicken, if you’ve a hankering for great Tex Mex cuisine, make sure you visit a Mattito’s near you soon. We look forward to serving you!

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Benefits of Eating Tex Mex Food

Eating Tex Mex cuisine has many benefits, most of which are related to our physical health. Some though, have nothing to do with eating and everything with our emotional wellness.

 Eat Tex Mex with friends

Read below to learn what we mean.

  1. Tex Mex cuisine can be extremely healthy. Take ceviche, just as one example, this dish of raw fish (often scallops or shrimp) is marinated in lime juice and then given terrific flavor with spices such as garlic, chili, salt, cilantro, even peppercorn. One serviing is just 140 calories and five grams of fat.
  2. Tex Mex is full of beans (in a very good way)! Skip the refried beans and opt for white beans or black beans. They’re delicious and pack lots of protein and fiber.
  3. Tex Mex food comes with plenty of colorful, tasty, and good-for-you vegetables. Think red and green peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, chilies, corn, and more. Delicious!
  4. Beef is mouthwatering, but the results of eating too much red meat can be anything but. Yet swapping beef for fish or chicken in your taco, burrito, fajitas, etc. is good for you and just as scrumptious.
  5. Traditional Mexican food (which made its way north to Texas as Mexicans moved to Texas and then morphed into the Tex Mex cuisine we love today), actually goes easy on the meat: meat is a garnish, not the main part of a meal. What do Mexicans eat instead of beef in their burritos? Beans and rice. Good beans (such as black beans) and slow-cooked rice, the hearty kind, not the fried rice we love (but which doesn’t really love us back).

But there are more benefits to eating Tex Mex cuisine than just better health. Eating Tex Mex can improve your social and emotional life. Why?

Because few people eat Tex Mex food alone! Think about it: when was the last time you went to a Tex Mex restaurant by yourself? (That solo jaunt to the Taco Bell drive-in window doesn’t count because Taco Bell doesn’t serve real Tex Mex—or even real Mexican – food.) Eating with others allows you to connect, bond, learn from each other — and even plan future activities together. You’ll undoubtedly laugh. You’ll undoubtedly discuss the day’s events, possibly even current events. (You could actually learn something!)

People truly do need people and eating Tex Mex food with family or with friends (or with both) is good for a healthy heart – and a healthy soul.

Enjoy all the physical and emotional benefits of eating delicious Tex Mex cuisine by eating at a Mattito’s near you. Come on in today!

Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Back to Tex Mex Basics

Tex Mex cuisine is becoming so popular today that it’s easy to find complicated recipes for Tex Mex dishes. Or to find recipes for a recipes that are a fusion – if you will – of the best of Tex Mex and another type of cuisine.

But let’s get back to basics! Read below for two quick and easy Tex Mex recipes.

Carne Asada

July1_Carne_Asada (1)

Grilling carne asada.

You will need (makes 4-6 servings):

  • Two pounds of skirt or flank steak
  • Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt
  • Olive oil

For the marinade, you will need:

  • Four minced garlic cloves
  • One seeded and minced jalapeño chili pepper
  • One teaspoon of ground cumin seeds
  • One large fresh cilantro (leaves and stems), chopped finely
  • Additional ground black pepper and kosher salt
  • The juice of two limes
  • Two tablespoons of white vinegar
  • Half a teaspoon of sugar
  • Half a cup of olive oil

To make:

  • Place the steak in a large bowl (non-reactive) or baking dish. Combine the ingredients for the marinade and pour the mixture over the steak, making sure that each piece is thoroughly coated.
  • Cover in plastic wrap, place in refrigerator and let stand for one to four hours.
  • When ready to grill, preheat the grill to medium-high flame. For stove-top cooking, use a cast iron grill pan on high heat.
  • Brush grates/pan with a bit of oil to prevent the meat from sticking.
  • Take the steak (brush off excess marinade). Season each side of the steak with the pepper and salt.
  • Grill each piece for just a few minutes on each side until medium rare or well done (to your preference).
  • Place the steaks on a cutting board and let them rest for about five minutes. Then slice them thinly on the diagonal and against the grain.

Carnitas

You will need (makes 6-8 servings):

  • Four pounds of boned pork shoulder. Remove as much fat as you can and cut into large cubes.
  • One quart of beef broth
  • Two cups of tomato salsa (chunky)
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Two cups of tomato salsa/pico de gallo
  • 20 or so corn tortillas

To make:

  • Take a large saucepan and, over medium-high heat, combine the broth, pork and salsa. Add water to completely cover the meat. Cover and bring to a boil.
  • Keep it covered and reduce the heat to low and let simmer for at least three to four hours until the pork pulls easily apart (you may have to let it simmer for more than four hours). Add salt, as needed (to taste).
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Take the meat from the pot. Pour out the liquid.
  • Spread the meat in a roasting pan, breaking it into smaller pieces.
  • Roast the meat until crispy and brown (about 15-20 minutes).
  • Heat your tortillas one by one in a microwave or in a hot skillet
  • Double up the warm tortillas and place the carnitas in them by spoon. Top with salsa.
  • Best to serve with avocados, beans and maybe even grated cheese.

If you’d rather not do the cooking, visit a Mattito’s near you to enjoy our own delicious carne asada and carnitas dishes. We look forward to serving you.

Image by Meowmeow10 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Making the Perfect Fajita

Fajitas are not traditional Mexican food – they’re a modern creation, a delicious modern creation.

Served sizzling hot, these dishes actually can be healthy (so long as you use a lean cut of beef).

June4_Fajitas

Take a look below at a recipe we believe can lead to the perfect fajita.

Ingredients you’ll need (serves 4-6):

  • A half cup of soy sauce.
  • A half cup of lime juice (6 to 8 limes).
  • A half cup of canola oil.
  • One-quarter cup of brown sugar (packed).
  • Two teaspoons of ground cumin seed.
  • Two teaspoons of chili powder.
  • Three medium cloves of garlic (about one tablespoon of the garlic, finely minced).
  • Two pounds of trimmed skirt steak. Cut them crosswise into 5- or 6-inch strips.
  • One each of large red, yellow and green bell pepper. (You’ll need to stem them, seed them and cut them into strips that are a half-inch wide.)
  • One white (or yellow) onion. Cut it into half-inch slices.
  • 12 to 16 flour or corn tortillas. Make sure they are hot.
  • Guacamole (if desired).
  • Pico de gallo (if desired).
  • Shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream (if desired).

To make:

  • Combine the lime juice, oil, soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, chili powder, garlic and cumin in a medium-sized bowl. Wisk to combine the ingredients.
  • Transfer a half cup of this marinade into a larger bowl and set aside.
  • Take the steaks and put them in a zipped-lock bag (one gallon size) and add the remainder of the marinade.
  • Seal the bag (squeeze out as much air as possible) and massage the bag until all the meat is completely coated with the marinade.
  • Lay the bag flat in the refrigerator and turn it every couple of hours. Do this for three to 10 hours.
  • While the steak is marinating, toss the peppers and onions into the bowl with the remainder of the marinade. Place in refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.
  • When you’re ready to cook the steaks, remove them from the marinade. Wipe off any excess marinade and place the steaks on a large plate.
  • Light a charcoal fire and, when it’s covered by gray ash, pour it out and arrange the coals to the side of the charcoal grate.
  • Set a cooking grate in place, cover the grill and allow it to heat up for five minutes.
  • Clean and oil the grilling grate.
  • Get a large cast-iron skillet and place it on the cooler side of the grill.
  • Transfer the steaks to the grill’s hot side; and cover and cook for one minute.
  • Flip the steaks and cook for another minute.
  • Cook, flip and cover until all the steaks are charred well.
  • Insert a thermometer (instant-read type) and make sure the steaks’ centers are 115 to 120 degrees F (if you want medium-rare steaks) or 125 to 130 degrees F (for medium).
  • Transfer the steaks to a large plate.
  • Cover (tent) with foil and leave them there for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Transfer the iron skilled to the grill’s hot side and let it preheat for two minutes.
  • Add the onion and pepper mix and cook it, stirring occasionally. The vegetables should soften and begin to char in spots (takes about 10 minutes).
  • Once the vegetables are cooked, transfer the steaks to a cutting board and pour any juice from the plate into the skillet with the vegetables. Toss the skillet to coat the vegetables with the juices.
  • Move the vegetables to a warm platter.
  • Slice the meat thinly and against the grain.
  • Transfer to the vegetable platter.
  • Serve immediately (the meat needs to be hot) with the hot tortillas. Add the guacamole, pico de gallo, condiments, etc., to preference.

Try making your own fajitas, then visit Mattito’s to see if we make a better one! Visit a Mattito’s near you today.

Image courtesy of KEKO64/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When it comes to your Fourth of July party, you want things simple. After all, you’ll probably be outdoors, it probably will be Texas hot (and that’s HOT!), and you may be by the pool and will want to enjoy lazing in it yourself.

In fact, just because you’re the party host or hostess doesn’t mean you have to work to make sure your guests have fun: you want to enjoy Independence Day, too.

June3_July4Fireworks

The great thing about Tex Mex party food is that most of it can be made ahead of time, leaving you free to actually enjoy your own party!

Yet perhaps the best way to incorporate Tex Mex food with your Fourth of July celebration is to mix Tex Mex with that All-American favorite, the hot dog.

To make a Tex Mex hot dog, all you need are grilled and hot frankfurters, buns and lots and lot and lots of Tex Mex toppings.

Instead of the usual mustard, relish and ketchup, have on your hot dog toppings table the following:

  • Cubed avocado
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Black beans (maybe even white beans)
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Fresh corn kernels
  • Chopped onions

As for the sauce, try drizzling Crema Agria Mexicana on the dogs (once they are snug in their buns with all their toppings). Made by Darigold, this topping is similar to sour cream, but offers up a spicy as well as salty taste, helping the flavor of your hot dog and its topping pop!

Want a full Tex Mex menu for your Fourth of July get together? Then call Mattito’s for catering. We can cater your party whether it’s just a handful of guest or a couple of dozen. Contact us today.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you want to start your children out on the right foot when it comes to making Tex Mex dishes at home, look no further than the wonderful quesadilla.

This dish is the perfect Tex Mex dish to make with our kids or grandkids.

Take a look below for an easy-to-create yet very healthy (lots of vegetables and chicken in this quesadilla) recipe for the cheese-and-flour-tortilla mainstay.

June2_Quesadilla

Add even more vegetables to this chicken quesadilla, and you have a very healthy and filling meal.

You will need (serves 2):

  • One tablespoon of olive oil
  • Two (2) cloves of minced garlic
  • ½ of a yellow squash (cut it into ½-inch cubes)
  • ¾ cup of diced rotisserie chicken
  • ½ of a red bell pepper (cut it into ½-inch squares)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Four (4) whole wheat soft tortillas
  • Optional: sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup of rinsed and drained black beans (canned is fine)
  • ½ of an avocado (mash it)
  • One tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro

To prepare:

  • Get a skillet and heat one tablespoon of olive oil in it over medium-high heat. Then sauté the garlic in hot oil until the aroma wafts toward you (should take about one minute).
  • Add the yellow squash and cook and stir until it’s softened a bit (about one to two minutes).
  • Stir the chicken and bell pepper into the squash mix and cook and stir until it’s all heated through (about another two minutes).
  • Season the chicken mixture with salt and move it to a bowl.
  • Spray one of the tortillas with olive oil cooking spray and place it in the hot skillet. Then place one slice of the cheddar cheese on it and spread ½ of the chicken/veggie mix on top.
  • Then spoon half of the black beans over the chicken/veggie mixture and half of the avocado over the black beans.
  • Sprinkle half of the cilantro over the avocado.
  • Spray a second tortilla with the olive oil spray and place it on top of the first tortilla (making a tortilla “sandwich”).
  • Cook the sandwich until the bottom tortilla is crispy (about two to three minutes) and then carefully flip the quesadilla sandwich over and cook it until the cheese has melted, and the now-bottom tortilla also is crispy (about another four minutes).
  • Do the same with the remaining two tortillas to make two quesadillas sandwiches.

Quesadillas often are considered to be appetizers, but this recipe makes the quesadilla a true, healthy meal.

When you need Tex Mex food, visit a Mattito’s restaurant nearest you to enjoy quesadillas, fajitas, tacos, burritos, etc. with the entire family. Contact us today.

Image courtesy of KEKO64/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 of Our Favorite Tex Mex Food Blogs

We love our blog. It’s nice to write about Tex Mex food, offer recipes, give our readers a bit of Tex Mex history, and talk about how Tex Mex cuisine has evolved.

As much as we love our blog, also have some favorite blogs of our own.

June1_TexMexBlog

Read below for four of our favorite Tex Mex food blogs (and one on Mexican food).

  1. The Homesick Texan is all about Tex Mex or Texas food, all the time. It’s written by native Texan Lisa Fain who now works and lives in New York City. In it, Fain shares her favorite recipes, with beautiful pictures, and also provides links to the Tex Mex and BBQ cookbooks she sells on Amazon.
  2. Robb Walsh Texas Eats is the blog of a former Texas restaurant reviewer Robb Walsh (he most recently wrote for Houstonia Magazine and the Houston Press). He also owns a Tex Mex restaurant in Houston and is the co-founder of Foodways Texas, the mission of which is to “preserve, promote and celebrate the diverse food cultures of Texas.”
  3. The Latin Kitchen is a site that offers up blogs, recipes and just plain great information about all things Latin food, including Tex Mex, Mexican, Spanish, and Latin American cuisines.
  4. Sweet Life is a blog written (as she says on the blog), by a “proud Tejana who feels lucky to have the best of both worlds” because she was raised in Texas by Mexican parents. The blog is full of Tex Mex fusion recipes, as well as great stories and beautiful photos.
  5. While not a Tex Mex food blog per se, we love Lo Mexicano because it promotes Mexican food as we like to promote it: as some of the healthiest cuisine on the planet (when done right). The site offers a blog, as well as Mexican food recipes. The site’s author, Jim Peyton, also plans to offer a healthy Mexican food diet plan on the site. Peyton is not of Mexican or even Texas descent, but he has written four Mexican cookbooks. He knows his stuff!

These are our five favorite Tex Mex food blogs. Do you have any you’d like to share with us?

Once you take a look at the blogs listed above, head over to the Mattito’s nearest you to savor some of the Dallas region’s finest Tex Mex cuisine.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Glossary of Tex Mex Foods

We’ve put together a little glossary/dictionary of common and popular Tex Mex foods and words. Please understand that this is just a small sampling of the many different types of Tex Mex foods and dishes.

May4_Dictionary

A short Tex Mex glossary/dictionary for you!

Arroz: this word means rice, particularly the white variety. It’s a mainstay in Tex Mex cuisine.

Barbacoa: a Mexican pot roast that is made from a cow’s head. The head is baked with steam for several hours until it’s tender enough to easily peel apart.

Bunuelos: fried pastries that look like tortillas. Often made during the Christmas holidays, this treat often is sprinkled with cinnamon.

Burrito:  large (usually about 10 inches in diameter) flour tortilla that can be filled with different types of food such as rice, meat, vegetables and cheese, and then wrapped tightly. Can be eaten with hands or with knife and fork

Carne: the Spanish word for meat. In Tex Mex cuisine, it usually refers to beef.

Chorizo: a Mexican sausage that’s been created using ground pork and lots of great spices

Cocina: the Spanish word for kitchen.

Comal: the round, flat skillet/grill/pan used to make tortillas.

Frijoles: pinto beans. If seen on a Tex Mex menu, it usually means refried beans.

Huevos: eggs.

Pico de gallo: the Spanish phrase for “beak of the rooster.” In Tex Mex cuisine it usually refers to a dip in which to dip tortillas while waiting for your meal.

Pollo: the Spanish word for chicken.

Queso: the Spanish word for cheese. Now you can see where “quesadilla” comes from.

Tomatillo: a small green fruit that’s (it’s a member of the gooseberry family) often used in making sauces.

Torta: a sandwich. Usually a sub-like sandwich, made one a bollilo (see above).

Bring you newly learned Tex Mex terms to Mattito’s for practice as your order your meal with us. Find the Mattito’s nearest you in order to enjoy some delicious Tex Mex cuisine from our cocina.

Image courtesy of Praisaeno/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Make the Perfect Guacamole

Sure, guacamole has a lot of calories. But so does just about all other chip dips.

But guacamole also provides you with a ton of heart-healthy fats via its main ingredient, the avocado.

Avocados have a lot of the good-for-you monounsaturated fat within them. Many people believe an avocado is a vegetable, but it’s really a fruit, a fruit that also packs 20 additional vitamins and minerals within its dark green skin.

Guacamole also tastes delicious! It’s the go-to dip for tortilla chips, too.

May3_Guacamole

Delicious, satisfying and good for you! Guacamole!

Read below for a recipe for the perfect guacamole dip (serves two to four).

You will need:

  • Two ripe avocados
  • One-half teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • One tablespoon of fresh lime or lemon juice
  • Two tablespoons (up to one-quarter cup) of thinly sliced green onion or minced red onion
  • One or two serrano chiles, minced, with their stems and seeds removed
  • Two tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro (include the leaves and stems)
  • A dash of black pepper (freshly grated)
  • One-half of a ripe tomato, chopped, with the seeds and pulp removed
  • Chopped red radishes and/or jicama for garnish

To prepare:

  • Cut the two avocados in half and remove the seed. Then scoop out the avocado’s meat from its skin and put the meat in a mixing bowl.
  • Take a fork and mash up the avocado. You want the guacamole to be a bit chunky, so don’t mash the mixture until it’s smooth. Sprinkle the mash with the salt and lime juice (or the lemon juice). Doing so helps the avocados stay green. Then add the chiles, onion, black pepper, and cilantro.
  • Wrap the bowl in cling wrap to keep the air out (air can turn the avocado brown) and place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
  • If you plan to add tomatoes to the guacamole, don’t place them in the mix in the refrigerator because tomatoes can lose their flavor if chilled.

Do you have a hankering for guacamole but have no avocados at home? Then get yourself to your nearest Mattito’s location!

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net