It was a cold, Wintry day in Texas back in the 90s when I first set out to create my own riff on posole, the time-honored unofficial state dish of New Mexico. My Hatch chile reserve (I freeze 30lbs every August) had run dry so I made a Fiesta Mart trip to lay in some chile Poblano, tomatillos and fresh hog bones and meat.

Char-Grilled Tomatillos And Poblano Chiles

Char-Grilled Tomatillos And Poblano Chiles

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A recipe for San Antonio Chili

We were barely up and running on our Scrumptious Chef pop up restaurant series when we decided to tackle Tex Mex cuisine through the lens of the epicenter of Mexican food in USA: San Antonio, Texas.

“Keep San Antonio Lame” is a tee shirt you see worn half-heartedly by natives of the River City. We beg to differ as we’ve had nothing but good times in SA or Zahn Ahn Tonyeeo as residents call the 8th largest city in the US. But then again we’re mainly in it for the food, though if fashion was more our thing, we could sing hosannas to the highest for the women folk of that city as they routinely spend two hours or more in front of makeup mirrors prior to heading to the nearest HEB. Continue Reading

We make chili year round in Texas. It’s what sustains us. 110 degrees in the dead of summer? Time to make chili. Leaves a falling in East Austin? Time to make chili. There is simply no food that nourishes the soul and feeds the spirit like a kettle of chili.

We make all kinds: Texas Red, Kentucky White, Mexican brown…you name it. If it involves chile peppers and few hours on the stovetop we’ll tackle it and wrestle it around til it turns into food. Continue Reading

I was raised on chili. My mom regularly made a batch using red kidneys and ground beef. My grandma had an oddly wonderful take that featured white beans and green tomatoes. My aunts and uncles all knocked out kettles of the stuff and my dad? He made a version at the house for the wife and kids, but he saved the evil for his buddies at the volunteer fire department where he concocted a fierce, witches brew that would singe the brass stays off your Wranglers. I grew up on chili.

One of my favorite styles is carne molida or taco meat as it’s commonly known. Yes, it goes great on crispy taco shells with shredded Colby Jack cheese, iceberg lettuce and sour cream but it also eats good with a spoon. And maybe a fistful of Fritos. Or build a big pile of tototopos, top them with refried beans, carne molida and cheese then give the whole affair a spin under the broiler for a couple minutes. Basically, anyway you can get this food in you will be acceptable. It is delicious.

If you order crispy tacos in a restaurant in Austin, the menu probably won’t say it, but you’re going to get carne molida as the primary filling. It’s one of the cornerstones of Tex Mex cuisine and is one of the first dishes any budding Tex Mex cook learns when they host their first taco night in their college apartment.

Most American’s carne molida virginity has been taken by that randy, leathery honcho: the Old El Paso taco kit. Who knows how many millions of people have been introduced to Tex Mex via this supermarket mainstay. And it’s fine-if you’re 11 years old and eating tacos in a rumpus room in Missouri. But here in Austin we can afford to be picky about our chili in spite of the fact that the grand daddy, Texas Red, is scarce as cheap old rent houses on the East Side.

Want to establish your Tex Mex bona fides? The following recipe is one of the easiest formulas you can follow to create a genuine Austin-style, Tex Mex dish. Put some Freddie Fender on the hi fi, crack open a can of Pearl beer and hit the kitchen running wide open.

Recipe: Carne Molida

Ingredients

2 lbs Beef, ground, I use 73/27

3 T. Chile Powder, Guajillo, found at Fiesta, La Michoacana or El Milagro*

1 T. Cumin

1 T. Cayenne, ground

2 t. Garlic powder

salt to taste

1 12 oz Can Tomatoes, whole peeled, pureed

Method

* Brown meat in heavy bottom pan

* Add dry spices

* Cook for ten minutes, mixing thoroughly

* Add pureed tomatoes, simmer for 15 minutes or til chili thickens

Voila.

You now have a wonderful filling for crispy tacos.

A topping for nachos or Frito Pies.

A protein for a big, fat taco salad or a bowl chili you can eat with a side of crackers.

Is the above recipe not to your liking?

Then tackle the classic bowl of Texas Red via http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2009/11/18/How-To-Make-Authentic-Texas-Red-Chili

*In a pinch we’ll use Gebhardt Chili Powder if we can’t get the pure stuff. William Gebhardt’s back story is sublime. He ran a cafe attached to the legendary Phoenix Saloon in San Antonio. The Saloon featured : “… a deer pen, an alligator pit and ring for fighting badgers”

What great sport it would’ve made if one could’ve sipped on a cold Pearl beer, ate a bowl of San Antonio Chili and watched 2 badgers grapple with one another on a balmy 1890s San Antonio evening.

We eat a lot of alligator.

The state of Louisiana is our source and with a gator population north of 1.5 million there’s plenty to be had in the meat markets that dot the western prairies of the Pelican State. Louisiana has had a controlled wild harvest in place since 1972.

Back when the harvest got started, it was limited to the southwestern part of the state and only twelve hundred creatures were taken. Nowadays the hunt is statewide and skilled woodsmen take over thirty two thousand of the ornery beasts per annum. Pole hunting is prohibited and the majority of the animals are taken via the time-honored line catching technique. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some old school Cajuns out there with a spotlight and a high powered rifle.

Alligator is delicious.

Now that Hatch Chile season has arrived we’ve been in the kitchen nightly, tinkering with recipes to feature the delicious, seasonal pepper. Like this one:

Smoked Alligator Enchiladas With Roasted Hatch Chiles

Ingredients

2 lb Chiles, Hatch, roasted, chopped

1 lb Alligator, smoked, chopped

2 lb Tomatilla, roasted

1 12 oz Can, Milk, Evaporated

1 qt Stock, chicken

1 lb Cheese, Colby/Jack, shredded

18 each Tortillas corn

Method

* Pulse tomatillos and Hatch Chiles in food processor til almost smooth

* Bring chicken stock to boil

* Add evaporated milk, return to boil, reduce

* Combine with tomatillo mixture

* Cook tortillas in hot fat til right at crispy

Now let’s build the casserole

* Coat 9″ x 14″ casserole pan with olive oil

* Pour a skift of tomatillo sauce in bottom of pan

* Add 6 corn tortillas

* Place enough chopped gator to cover tortillas

* Drizzle with tomatillo sauce

* Cover with cheeses

* Repeat order above til casserole is finished making sure top layer is cheese

* Bake at 250 degrees for 45 minutes

* Let casserole sit up for a few minutes before slicing

Voila!

A few nights ago a friend was in town visiting from Arizona when we made this recipe.

“What smells so good”

“I’m making a pan of gator enchiladas”

Shrieks

“GOD IT FEELS GOOD TO BE BACK IN TEXAS…NOBODY SAYS STUFF LIKE THAT IN ARIZONA”

Texas forever

Cooking notes:

* Garnish with a hefty dollop of crema Salvadorena.

* I normally use heavy cream to unify the sauce, but I was out so I utilized evaporated milk instead.

* Evaporated milk is regular milk that has been reduced by sixty percent. It’s a classic casserole ingredient used by housewives all over the Deep South.

* A good side dish for this one dish meal would be Pinto Beans With Jalapenos and Bacon http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/6/7/Deluxe-Side-Dishes-For-Central-Texas-Barbecue-Pinto-Beans-With-Jalapenos-and-Bacon

and/or Cajun Green Onion Rice Pilaf http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/1/15/How-To-Make-Cajun-Green-Onion-Rice