My recent columns about tacos and enchiladas sparked a conversation on my personal social media about where you can get the best and most authentic Mexican food around these parts.
“Best” and “most authentic” here in West Texas have totally different subcategories, if you ask me. Are you looking for Tex-Mex, New Mexico style, or Old Mexico style? Yellow cheese or white cheese? Salsa made with tomatoes, or tomatillos? The differences between Tex-Mex, New-Mex and Old-Mex are real, and we have all of them, right here in our big little corner of Texas.
After reading the suggestions from lots of friends that offered their favorite Mexican food eateries in the Trans-Pecos, I came to the conclusion that nobody agrees on the best and most authentic Mexican food around, because everyone has their own tastes, preferences and reasons that they love or don’t love certain places.
For example, I love the green chicken enchiladas at a local place. A friend doesn’t like the place, but that same friend has been a loyal customer forever at a place I don’t care to eat at more than the twice that I’ve already been.
Lately, we’ve been eating at home more than usual. I like having leftovers to heat and eat. On Sunday, we broke our home-cooked-meals streak and went to a place somewhere in the Trans-Pecos that we’ve been to a number of times, and ordered food we’ve ordered before. And, as is normal for us, we drank water with our meals. Our bill for lunch was just under $35, markedly more expensive than it’s ever been at that restaurant. And that was with no table service, ordering at the counter.
While the food was really good, albeit overpriced, I went grocery shopping later in the day and brought home a six-pack of craft beer, a small bag of dog food, six English muffins, 18 eggs, a head of cabbage, a hunk of Asadero cheese, 20 corn tortillas and a really nice package of pork roast, all for just under $32… less than what a lunch for two cost earlier in the day.
Awhile back, we ate at another local place and my husband ordered a Carne Adovada (also known as “asado”) burrito. Carne Adovada is a traditional New Mexico dish made with chunks of pork and red chiles, simmered (or braised) in its own gravy until it melts in your mouth. He was disappointed in the mild flavor of it and didn’t finish his burrito. I decided it was time for me to make a pot of Adovada so we could have quick tacos for a few days.
I was heavy-handed with the chile, and they were so spicy hot, we could barely finish our dinner. The next day, I probably broke some kind of adovada-rule when I mixed sour cream and pinto beans in with a portion of the pork and used it as a new day’s taco filling. Sour cream cut the burn noticeably, and the beans helped add filler and reduce the flaming hot meat, too. The tacos were delicious.
I’ve recently decided that my favorite, most authentic Mexican food comes from our kitchen, at home.
Because I can buy the healthiest, best quality ingredients available, I know every single ingredient that goes into each bite we take. While I often end up with a huge mess to clean up, we also end up with lots of leftovers.
Carne Adovado (Red Chile Pork)
3 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
2 medium white onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
6 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
3 ½ pounds pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes (I like mine a little smaller)
8 whole dried chile pods; seeded and deveined and crushed (pick your heat when you pick your dried peppers)
2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
4 cups chicken broth
Pre-heat oven to 350. Heat 2 T. oil in a dutch oven. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring until onions are golden, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer onions and garlic to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, cumin and pepper. Add pork and toss to coat. Return pot to medium high-heat, add remaining 1 T oil, working in batches, lightly browning mean on all sides, about 5-7 minutes per batch. Transfer meat to separate bowl as you go.
Return onions and garlic to pot. Sprinkle with chile and oregano. Cook and stir 2 minutes. Mixture will be thick. Add broth, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of pan. Blend sauce in blender or food processor until smooth. Return sauce to pan and add pork.
Cover and cook in oven for one hour. Set lid slightly ajar and cook for one more hour until pork is tender. Serve with flour or corn tortillas, with a side of pintos.