Texas Highways photo editor Mike Murphy is a member of the Hamilton Pool Jalapeño Squeezers, a group of friends who enjoys competing in barbecue cookoffs. The group agreed to share one of its award-winning recipes; however, Mike cautions: “You might want to wear some disposable food-service gloves when preparing these appetizers, and DON’T rub your eyes or anything else!” He adds, “These are fun to serve at parties—they tend to separate the real Texans from the wannabes!”
“My Fancy Frito Pie is just a rendition of the traditional,” says Chef David Bull. “Obviously, the chili is the most important part. I have made it with venison and even veal.” Tip: To make lime-flavored sour cream, just mix a few drops of lime juice with a tablespoon of sour cream.“
Few edibles rank as high among Texans in the category of necessary foods as pie. One of the dishes we require at every celebration or Sunday dinner, it belongs up there with chicken-fried steak and cheese enchiladas. When we need the comfort that grandma’s hugs once supplied, we reach for a slice of homemade pie. Pie has also held a significant role in the community; as pie suppers were important fund-raising events, along with cakewalks, fish frys, and chicken dinners. A look into vintage Texas cookbooks reveals recipes for syrup, pecan, peach, apple, buttermilk, mustang grape, and osgood (raisin-date-pecan) pies that were popular as much as a century ago.
“When I was a kid growing up in Corpus Christi, we used to eat migas for dinner during Lent,” remembers Robert Amaya of Amaya’s Taco Village in Austin. “Migas or migajas, we called it. It was a meatless main dish made by frying torn-up tortillas with eggs. We use tortilla chips now instead of fried tortillas and we serve migas for breakfast.” Serve with frijoles refritos and tortillas.
Home-cooked frijoles refritos taste much better than the canned kind as a side dish. They taste great in bean dip, too. But if you want to summon up childhood memories of the bean dip you ate from the can, start with canned refried beans.
Tex-Mex Spanish sauce is a tomato sauce with onions and a touch of chili powder added. It is lighter than chili gravy (opposite page). This recipe comes from a 1932 Gebhardt’s pamphlet.
Jorge Cortez at La Margarita in San Antonio remembers when his family made this Mexican beef and chile stew with big chunks of meat. The ingredients are nearly the same as in chili. “But we never called it chile con carne, we called it carne con chile,” he says with a laugh.
The mashed potatoes of Tex-Mex, refried beans are served with almost everything. If you already have unseasoned cooked beans, this is the easiest way to heat up a couple of portions. If you don’t have time to cook a pot of beans, start with canned pinto beans. (Two 16 oz. cans are perfect for this recipe.) If you do the refrying steps yourself, you’ll still get a great homemade flavor.
The idea here is pretty simple. You melt pork fat without browning it, then strain it to remove the bits of meat, called cracklins. Many people melt lard on the stove, but the cracklins tend to sizzle and spit, causing nasty burns. The slow oven method is safer and easier. Cracklins are delicious in a taco or a salad. Ask your butcher for pork fat for rendering lard; it should be nearly meatless.