Tag Archives: Tex-Mex

Hatch Tortilla Soup

I love tortilla soup because it makes a tasty, satisfying meal that makes everybody happy.  Pair it with some quesadillas and you’re set.  And all without meat!  I have trouble coming up with good meatless meals that doesn’t involve spending $$$ on fish for dinner.  But this one is good.  Really good.

In this soup from Friday, I used hot Hatch peppers because it’s still Hatch season and we love them in this house.  But you don’t have to use them.  When they aren’t in season, I make this soup using a seeded and minced serrano instead.  The heat level ends up being about the same.

  • 1 medium yellow onion or 1/2 Texas sweet onion, diced (~2 cups)
  • 2 hot Hatch peppers, seeded and sliced (or 1 serrano, seeded and minced fine)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp oil, whatever suits your fancy
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups cooked and rinsed black beans
  • 2 cups frozen sweet yellow corn
  • 1 cup water + 1/4 cup masa
  • handful of cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • tortilla chips & mexican cheese blend to garnish

Heat the oil in a big, heavy bottomed pot, and throw in your onion and peppers.  Saute them until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft, then throw in the garlic and cumin.  Stir this around and cook for another minute, then add the vegetable stock, tomato paste, corn, black beans, and 2 cups of water.  Bring to a simmer.  While the soup is heating, prepared your masa.

I suspect tortilla soup originates from a practice of tossing old, tough corn tortillas into a pot of soup to use as thickener.  Corn tortillas are just masa and water, flattened and cooked on a griddle.  You could thicken tortilla soup with old corn tortillas, but it would need to cook a long time for the tortilla to dissolve and thicken the soup, and I don’t know who has time for that.  So I shortcut and use masa.

This is a concept I acquired from the Pioneer Woman, but every time I tried to use it following her instructions, I would end up with wee masa dumplings in my soup and it took a lot of stirring to reduce them to a bearable quantity.  It was really annoying.  But at the same time, using masa instead of tortillas to thicken the soup is brilliant.  So I fiddled around with it until I made it work.

Start with a cup of cold water.  Sprinkle your 1/4 cup masa (not cornmeal!) over the cold water.  Whisk the masa into the water till it’s smooth and thin without lumps.  Pour this into your soup when it reaches a simmer and stir it in well.

(A 1/4 cup of masa has a lot of thickening power.  If your soup gets too thick, and it might, adding a cup of water will thin it back out again nicely.)

Let the soup simmer 20-30 minutes, then turn off the burner.  Squeeze in the lime juice and stir in the cilantro and then let things sit for 5 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Serve with tortilla chips and mexican cheese blend on top.  Add any other Tex-Mex style garnishes you might like.  It’s your soup.


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Hatch Quesadillas

I meant for this to go up yesterday evening, since I actually took process photos.  But I had a cranky baby to deal with and couldn’t face putting all the photos in while he was crying.  Sorry.  Normally, you will be able to count on posts Monday – Friday from me.


It’s Friday.  A day of abstinence.  It’s also Hatch festival season.  Hatch peppers are all over the stores right now, and very cheap.  So Hatch Quesadillas were an obvious addition to our meal of tortilla soup.

I had no idea how ridiculously delicious and easy they would be.  I have never had a last-minute impulse dinner experiment turn out this well before.  It may never happen again.

The only thing wrong with these quesadillas is that they’re maybe too delicious to eat on a Friday.

  • 4 Hatch peppers* (mild or hot, your choice)
  • 1 sweet yellow onion (Texas 1015!)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 10 fresh flour tortillas**
  • 1/2 lb. Monterrey Jack cheese

* The Hatch festival is going on right now, so I used Hatch in these.  But you don’t need to use Hatch, it’s just a bit of seasonal fun.  Hatch peppers are just a variety of Anaheim pepper grown around Hatch, New Mexico.  You can substitute Anaheims, jalapeños, poblanos, even green bell peppers if you don’t like the heat.

** Fresh flour tortillas are very important here.  The tortilla is a crucial component to the resultant quesadilla.  Don’t buy those branded ones in the bread aisle that taste like plastic, check the fresh bakery in your grocery store.  HEB and Krogers make very passable flour tortillas in store.  If you can’t find any, Joe Pastry has an excellent and easy recipe for homemade flour tortillas.  If you’re making your own, don’t cook them too hard the first time, they need to bend in the recipe.

Okay.  Now that you’ve procured proper flour tortillas (I’ll wait) we can begin.

Dice up your onion.  If you hate dicing onions (and I do), rejoice.  You don’t have to have a very fine or even dice.  Large chunks are even preferable.

Put the onion aside.  Seed and dice your Hatch peppers.  Again, large chunks are fine.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, and throw in your diced Hatch and onion.

This is only one Hatch and a quarter of a sweet onion. Don’t be fooled by the small quantity.

Sauté them until the onion is translucent and everything is getting a nice brown.  Until they look like this:

Again, one Hatch and a quarter of a sweet onion.

When they’re done, pull them out of the pan and put them aside to cool.  Now we’re ready to assemble the quesadillas.

Heat up your comál.  It should be hot, but not so hot it burns your tortilla before melting your cheese.  Medium is fine.  Drop on a tortilla.  If your tortillas are like mine, they’ve been in the fridge and are very stiff.  The heat will loosen them up so they can be folded.  Cover one half heavily with cheese.  A quarter to a third of a cup, if you want a measurement, but this is the sort of thing I do to taste.

Add some sautéed Hatch and onion.

A little more cheese, for adhesive purposes.

By this point the tortilla should be warm and soft, not crispy and breakable.  (If it’s crispy, your heat is too high.)  Fold the other half up and over the top.  My mother in law would just use her fingers, but I’m a wimp and use a spatula.

This is a terrible picture, but it’s hard to fold up a quesadilla with one hand and take a picture on your phone with the other!

Now, let it get brown and crispy.  Flip it over to toast the other side.

Be careful not to burn yourself eating them straight off the comál!

I served these as a side to a (meatless) tortillas soup, but I bet they’d also make great snacks or light lunches.


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Charro Beans

You have ruined me on charro beans.

– guy in our D&D group.

Okay, I can’t take any credit at all for this recipe. I haven’t experimented with them so much as meticulously followed my husband’s texted instructions. It’s his recipe and he apparently came with it pre-installed – there’s no other reasonable explanation for its existence.

He says that his mom has made beans like this before, and all I can say is that, in twelve years, I’ve never had them.

Anyway, these charro beans are about as authentic as you can get short of the Rio Grande valley. They veer heavily Mex on the Tex-Mex scale and are very much a border food. Serve them as a side, or as a meal in themselves, we use them either way.

  • 1 lb. pinto beans, picked over and washed
  • water
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb. bacon, diced
  • 1 lb. roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 yellow sweet onion, diced (~1 cup)
  • 1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced (unseeded if you’re brave)
  • 2 cloves garlic*, minced
  • half a bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lime

There are two ways to start these. You can either soak them ~8 hours and then cook them, and they’ll cook in about 45 minutes… or you can just throw the dry beans in a pot with plenty of water and simmer them until they’re done, which takes about 2-3 hours.

We’ve cooked them both ways and they are roughly equal in unfortunate bean side effects, so you can pick the method that suits your timetable. I prefer the no-soak method, which produces deeper brown beans than the presoaked version.


Presoaked beans:

Combine a tablespoon of kosher salt, about 8 cups of water, and your dry beans in a bowl for 6-8 hours. Rinse them, throw them in a pot with some fresh water and bring to a simmer.

Dry beans:

Combine a half tablespoon of kosher salt, about 8 cups of water, and your dry beans in a big pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the beans are cooked, 2-3 hours, adding more (hot) water if needed.

I know everyone says cooking beans with salt makes beans hard. Everyone is wrong. A hard bean is just an old, dry bean – salt has nothing to do with it. Salting your beans (especially during the presoak) is the only way to actually season the bean. Otherwise, you end up with bland beans and have to salt the cooking liquid heavily to make up for it.

Trust me. We cook a lot of beans.

With that controversy behind us, when the beans are mostly cooked throw in the diced bacon and let things continue to simmer while the bacon and beans finish cooking. About 30 minutes before you want to serve them, add the tomatoes, onion, serrano, and garlic*.

*it is acceptable to substitute garlic powder for fresh garlic. Just sprinkle it in to taste.

About five minutes before serving remove the beans from the heat and stir in the cilantro and juice of one lime. These flavors dissipate with extended cooking, so I always wait till after I’ve turned off the burner before I add them. Give things a few minutes to meld, and then serve.


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Spanish Rice

Spanish rice has aways been my culinary Everest. One would think, being married to a Hispanic, I would have access to inside information. One would be wrong. First, because mother-in-laws don’t always easily relinquish such important information as family recipes to daughter-in-laws. Second, because my mother-in-law’s attempts at rice weren’t any better than mine.

I’ve been working on Spanish rice for longer than I’ve been married. Ten long years of sub par, and sometimes even inedible rice. But no longer. I now know the secret. Jarred salsa.

  • 2 cups ordinary white rice
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 cups mild salsa (I used Native Texan Tex-Mex.)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups water

Heat up the oil over medium in a 12″ frying pan. Throw in the rice, and toast that rice for about 15 minutes. You want the grains to start to brown. Stir it around occasionally so that it cooks evenly.

When the rice is toasted, throw in the salsa and chicken stock. Stir it up off the bottom, then leave it alone to simmer.

When all the liquid is, add two cups of water. Stir it up off the bottom again and leave it alone to simmer. When all the liquid is again, taste it. It probably isn’t done, but at this point you ought to check. Add the last two cups of water, stir it up off the bottom, and let it simmer. When the liquid is all absorbed, taste it. The rice should be done. Stir it for a few minutes on medium high to help let out the excess moisture, then remove it from the heat.

At this point, the rice will taste like the rice from a restaurant, but it will have a moister, stickier texture. If you want the drier texture of a restaurant’s spanish rice as well as the taste, refrigerate it. The next day, microwave the rice to reheat it and the texture will be perfect.


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Frozen Margaritas

Ah, the frozen margarita.  Staple of the Texas summer.  Impoverisher of parents.  Destroyer of cheap blenders.  What would we do without you?

Be unfortunately sober, that’s what.

While I love frozen margaritas, I hate leaving my house.  And there just didn’t seem to be a way to make margaritas without buying a new blender every time, which gets expensive rather fast.  Then I had the bright idea of making them in my ice cream machine.  I added a couple cups of water to the classic margarita recipe and gave it a shot.  The result?  The best margarita I had ever tasted.  Now, I have the best of both worlds!

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup triple sec or brandy
  • 3 cups water
  • margarita salt and lime wedges for garnish

Please note, for this recipe you need at least a 1.5 quart ice cream maker.

Put the half cup of sugar and one cup of the water into a small saucepan and put it on the stove.  Cook this into simple syrup, reduce it to about a cup, and set it aside to cool.

Juice your limes.  It takes me about 10 limes to get a cup of juice.

Look at your boozes.  If you’re using a silver tequila, add triple sec.  If you’re using a gold or reposado tequila, use brandy.  Personally, I use silver El Amo, which is cheap yet not nasty.

When the syrup is cool, combine it in a pitcher with the lime juice, tequila, triple sec (or brandy), and the remaining two cups of water.  Those two cups of water are very important.  They make the ice in your frozen margarita.  Don’t omit them.

Put the pitcher in the refrigerator for several hours.

When the mixture has chilled, get out your ice cream maker and set it up.  With the machine running, pour in your margarita mix.  In 30 minutes, you will have perfect frozen margaritas.  Enough for a small party.  And if there’s only one or two of you… they keep very nicely in the freezer!

But be warned – these are significantly stronger than the ones you get in restaurants.

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