Traditional Texas Food
Articles about Texas' most famous foods
by John Raven, Ph.B.
Authentic Tex-Mex from the Pearce Ranch
Marta Pearceby John Raven, Ph. B.
Last month we followed George Pearce down to Luckenbach, Texas for some camp cooking. This month we are visiting with George's wife, Marta, to get some of her knowledge of Mexican style cooking and a couple of recipes.
Marta says she started helping her mother cook at an early age. According to Marta, her mother was a businesslike cook; her job was to get the family fed and "fancy" touches were not a part of everyday cooking. Marta's interest in the finer treatment of dishes was inspired by her grandfather, a chef in Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso. Marta speaks fondly of her grandfather's Sunday offerings. especially the red snapper ala Vera Cruz. The snapper was prepared whole with a colorful sauce, and grandfather carved and served the portions.
Marta and husband George cook together most of the time. Each having their own version of the recipes brings about animated conversation. George raises most of the herbs used in their cooking. Around the patio you can find Mexican thyme, Mexican oregano, chives, tarragon, rosemary, basil and parsley, in season. Fresh herbs are always better than the dried variety.
Marta claims not to have a favorite recipe. She says she likes them all. When asked about her preference for cheese in her Mexican recipes, she said "Queso Chihuahua" is the best. It's not available in most stores, but can be found in San Antonio. Muenster and Monterey Jack are fair substitutes.
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Marta offered up two recipes for sauces that form the basis for most Mexican dishes.
Marta's Red Chile Sauce
Place half the chiles with half the tomatillos in a blender with about ½ cup of the water the tomatillos were simmered in. Blend until pureed. Repeat with the remaining chiles and tomatillos. Process the chili sauce through a food mill to remove seeds and bits of the chile peel.
This version of Salsa Roja is the basis for chile con carne, enchiladas, tamales, menudo, posole and chilaquiles. Double or triple the quantities, depending on how much you need.
For making enchiladas or tamales the sauce is modified as follows:
Mince 2 cloves of garlic and saut in 2 tablespoons of lard (or shortening, but lard is better) until tender. Don't brown it. Add the red chile sauce and season with teaspoon Mexican oregano and 1 teaspoon ground comino (cumin). Mix and simmer until heated through. If the sauce is too thick, you can add chicken broth to get the desired consistency. Add salt to taste.
Marta's Green Chile Sauce
Drain and tomatillos and tomatoes, but reserve some of the tomatillo cooking water. Puree the tomatillos and tomatoes, along with the garlic. Use a little of the reserved cooking water from the tomatillos to smooth it out, if you like. Add the chopped onion and the finely chopped fresh cilantro. If the sauce is too thick, you can add chicken broth to get the desired consistency.
This Salsa Verde is the basis for Green Enchiladas, Pork Guisado and other recipes calling for green sauce.
One of Marta's grandfather's recipes is also one of George's favorites, with modifications of course.
Grandfather's Roasted Chiles
This is served with any grilled meat or fowl. George's version of this recipe includes tender banana peppers in season. They don't need to be roasted and skinned, just seeded and sliced. Also a jalapeno or two, seeded and sliced. George sauts all his ingredients in the olive oil instead of refrigerating them.
Another favorite recipe around the Pearce ranch is Chilaquiles (chee-la-key-ahs).
There you have it, boys and girls. Authentic Texas-Mexican style cooking from the Pearce kitchen.
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