This huge marvelous state sports friendly residents, beautiful flat plains AND rolling hills, not to mention fields and fields of blue bonnets (thank you Lady Bird Johnson), silly, fast road runners that don’t look anything like the cartoon character and the best authentic Tex-Mex food. Who could ask for more?!
I recently visited Austin once again (thank you dear friends for your Texan hospitality).
First stop Chuy’s after the airport. Yes, I know it is a chain now but still a ‘must’ for chicken enchiladas with creamy, cheesy verde sauce and enough spicy salsa to clear your sinuses. Food trucks are abundant in Austin as well as so many good restaurants to choose from; not to mention the music scene. FUN, FUN, FUN city!
Chile con queso is always found on menus in Texan restaurants. It means chili with cheese in Spanish. This dish consists of melted cheese and chili peppers. The perfect sauce for nachos or dipping just about anything. Chili con queso is part of the Tex-Mex/Southwestern cuisine believed to have originated in Mexico (specifically Chihuahua according to Wikipedia). It doesn’t get any better in Texas although my brother’s recipe does rival Güero’s Restaurant for sure ~ won’t even compare his to Chuy’s ~ their queso is fantastic. Dawn and I have actually made ourselves sick ‘pigging out’ on this delectable, yet gluttonous concoction!
Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May is around the corner. This annual ‘holiday’ is a celebration in the U.S. for Mexican-Americans to commemorate Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla May 5, 1862. Any excuse for a party!
My brother, Buddy has been making his queso for close to 40 years. I remember parties at our childhood home on Notley Road when he would make this ‘dip’. Perhaps a Bendler throwdown is in the works now as I make this dip a little differently and will mention how later.
Velveeta cheese is often used in a recipe of this sort due to its ability to melt rapidly and smoothly. Who doesn’t love it for that reason? I must admit that it does create the best consistency but you must overlook the fact that it is an oil-based, processed American cheese PRODUCT. Get over it and prepare my brother’s creation ~ your friends will mop it up with tortilla chips!
Buddy’s Queso Dip
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 pkg. Old El Paso Taco Seasoning mix
- 2 lbs. Velveeta cheese
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 10 oz. can Ro-tel diced tomatoes with green chiles
- 1-2 fresh jalapeño or hot banana pepper to taste, sliced
- 3 T fresh cilantro, minced
1. Brown beef in taco seasoning mix; drain.
2. In a mini-crock pot set on low, melt cheese with milk. Adjust amount of milk according to consistency.
3. Add beef, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro. Serve warm with tortilla chips.
I love the addition of the ground beef as this ingredient seriously makes it a meal. Plus the seasoning adds an unexpected zing. Serve it atop a plate of tortilla chips and diced lettuce as nachos and there is no way you can eat anything more!
I love Velveeta as much as the next gal or pardner. I am offering my recipe with real cheese to avoid the graininess that can occur with melting fresh cheese. I use cream cheese to smooth it out without losing that flavorful taste. I adore my brother and the fond memories his recipe conjures up but I encourage you to try both if you love this type of food as much as we do! My own culinary ‘compound’ is amped up with fresh ingredients mostly from my garden. A pure match made in heaven.
- 12 oz. white extra-sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/3 c. cream cheese, softened
- 2-3 T. white wine, for thinning
- 1 pint Ali’s fresh canned tomatoes, drained and pulsed or 6 fresh tomatoes
- 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
- ½ small sweet onion, chopped
- 2 T. ground cumin
- Red pepper flakes to taste
1. Melt cheeses in a mini-crock pot (in a pinch I have also used a chocolate melter).
2. Add a tablespoon of wine at a time once the cheese is melted to thin out the consistency.
3. Add remaining ingredients, warm through. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips.
The compliment to any Tex/Mex food is salsa and guacamole. My brother and his wife, Betty make their chunky salsa very similar to mine but adjust the heat with whatever hot peppers they have in their garden and use diced green pepper.
Ali’s Pico de Gallo
- 2 c. fresh tomatoes, chopped
- ¼ c. onion, diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, diced
- 1 sweet banana pepper, diced
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 T. cilantro, chopped
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- Juice of 1 fresh lime
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- Salt to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Allow mixture to rest at room temperature for hour before serving.
- 2 fresh, ripe avocados, peeled and diced
- 2 limes, juiced
1. Smash avocado with lime juice to desired consistency. Serve immediately.
It doesn’t get any simpler or fresher than this. You could also add the pico de gallo to the guacamole.
Fish tacos are another popular item on menus these days, no matter what cuisine the restaurant seems to focus on. I have been making fish tacos for so long and it would seem unfair to keep this simple, delicious, often requested recipe to myself.
Ali’s Rockfish Tacos
- 1 large rockfish fillet
- 1 T. olive oil
- Old Bay seasoning to taste
- Flour tortillas, warmed
- Appropriate Tex-Mex condiments, as noted above
1. Lightly coat fish fillet with oil and sprinkle with seasoning as desired.
2. Grill over medium heat on a gas grill approximately 10 minutes until fish easily flakes with a fork.
3. Remove from fire and break fish into large pieces, fill tortillas and serve with desired accompaniments of salsa, shredded lettuce, lime cilantro dressing and/or guacamole.
Ali’s Lime Cilantro Dressing
- 2 T. cilantro, chopped
- 1 T. red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. lime zest
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- ¼ c. sour cream
- ½ small ripe avocado, chopped and smashed
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
- ¼ c. olive oil
- Salt/pepper to taste
1. Combine all ingredients (using a food processor, if desired for smoothness) and serve as a dressing for tacos.
This sauce is just as good on a green salad as a variation of a green goddess dressing.
There is it in a nutshell. One of my favorite types of food in the states. Serve any or all of these simple recipes for lunch or dinner or at your next casual party ~ Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner.