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Recipe: Tex-Mex beef enchiladas

Written By | May 19, 2018

FORT WORTH, Texas: What’s your favorite ethnic food? Nation’s Restaurant News counts Italian, Mexican, and Chinese food as the top three in the United States. It’s not surprising. You’d be hard-pressed to not find at least one variety of restaurant representing them in virtually any town in the U.S. Recipes for each fill cookbooks brought home by many the hopeful cook.

This author loves Mexican food. Or Tex-Mex. IS there a difference? There most definitely is. What passes for Mexican food in some restaurants, fast food, and our society in general is not authentic Mexican.

Meredith Bethune of Serious Eats spoke to experts on the subject. Iliana de la Vega is the chef and owner of the Mexican restaurant El Naranjo in Austin, Texas. While growing up in Mexico she says she ate chiles rellenos, or salads composed of chayote or nopales. She continues, “In traditional Mexican cooking, we eat a lot of chicken and a lot of pork.” Iliana didn’t eat enchiladas with chili sauce as a child.

Mexican and Tex-Mex. Is there a difference? Absolutely.

In Tex-Mex tacos have a crunchy corn shell; in Mexican tacos are chicken or pork and served on a flour tortilla. Tex-Mex uses yellow cheese; Mexican food has white cheese. Cumin and chili sauce is Tex-Mex. Cumin came to Texas with the Canary Islanders who immigrated in the eighteenth century.

Bethune also spoke to Robb Walsh, author of The Tex-Mex Cookbook and Texas food expert. Walsh reveals that chili powder is not Mexican. An immigrant from Germany in New Braunfels, Texas invented it in the 1890’s. And Tex-Mex started with the Tejanos who lived in Texas before it became a republic in 1836.

The beans and rice served with your Mexican restaurant meal? Again, is Tex-Mex.

Authentic Mexican food

Chayote and nopales (cactus leaves) are authentic Mexican fare. There, they are a favorite ingredient in salads among other things. (Photo: Jaco Transfer and Pixabay)

Enchiladas are Mexican. The History of Things says the Mayans were the first to wrap a corn tortilla around fish in the Yucatán before Columbus crossed the Atlantic. Since that time this humble yet delicious dish has evolved. Chili powder, cumin, beef, and yellow cheese added to the fare embodies Tex-Mex. Fish, chicken, or pork fills tortillas in Mexico and topped with Queso Blanco or Queso Manchego. Cheddar cheese is English. Surely beef is available, but it’s not authentic Mexican.

Homemade enchiladas don’t take any more time to make than lasagna, and probably less.

When making enchiladas at my house this recipe is used. The gravy is based off of a great recipe website called Macheesemo. Homemade enchiladas don’t take any more time to make than lasagna, and probably less. Be sure to try this at home. Your taste buds will thank you.

Beef and Cheese Enchiladas

2lbs. ground beef
1 tablespoon dried onions
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoons pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Chili gravy:

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups beef stock

18 corn tortillas
1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 ½ cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400˚. Brown the ground beef in skillet with spices; cook until meat is no longer pink. Set aside.

In a medium pan, whisk together vegetable oil and flour over medium heat. Keep stirring until the mixture turns a light, tan color, about 5 minutes.

When buying corn tortillas, make sure they are bendable. The fresher the better.

Add all the spices and cook for another 30 seconds stirring well. Continue whisking while slowly adding beef stock. Once stock is fully incorporated, bring gravy to a slight simmer and cook until it thickens nicely, about 2-3 minutes while stirring.

When buying corn tortillas, make sure they are bendable. The fresher the better. I like to get mine from my grocery store deli area. The ones that sit on the shelf tend to crack when rolling them with filling.

Spoon about ¼ cup of chili gravy into bottom of oblong pan sprayed with non-stick spray. Roll each tortilla with about 2 tablespoons of meat and a bit of cheese. Place seam side down in pan. When pan is full sprinkle with some of the cheese. Pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas to cover. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Spray foil with cooking spray then cover pan, spray side down. Bake for 30 minutes. Take foil off and bake for additional 10 minutes. Let sit for about five minutes before serving.

Makes 18 enchiladas.


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Claire Hickey

Claire Hickey was born the last year of the Baby Boom and spent the first half of childhood in Chicago. She has always loved to write but wanted to create pieces worth reading. Her curiosity and love of research lead her to create her column based on the “garbage in garbage out” theory to provide interesting and thought-provoking pieces that enrich her readers. She also believes life is a banquet and loves to learn new things. Her professional pedigree includes Cosmetology, Surgical Technology, and the Culinary Arts. When not working she loves to spend time with family and friends. She lives in Fort Worth.