The Big Enchilada
Enchiladas Zacatecanas from Las Manitas, Austin
Quick: define “enchilada.” Most people would say it’s a rolled or folded tortilla filled with something savory, topped with a sauce, and blanketed in melted cheese. And that would certainly be one correct definition. But if you go by the etymology of the word, there’s more to it. The root word is “chile,” and “enchilada” means “chile’d” (or chile-treated). (The word “tortilla,” which is the thing being chile’d, is understood.) Mexican cooking is full of similar pairs, such as tomate and entomatada (treated or prepared with tomatoes), frijol and enfrijolada (with beans), pan and empanada (with bread).
The enchilada is the workhorse of Mexican cooking, a vehicle so versatile you could fill an entire cookbook with recipes. These enchiladas, served at Las Manitas, are typical of the cuisine of the Mexican state of Zacatecas. Their sauce is fresh and light, but it’s their moist, tomatoey, oniony chicken filling that makes them so full-flavored and delicious. One more thing: Before the cooks at Las Manitas would let us use this recipe, they made us promise to tell you something. You must prepare it with the care that comes from respect and love for those you are feeding. If you don’t, it will not turn out right. Recipe.
Catch the Huevo
Hope Rodriguez’s Breakfast Tacos
The best-loved individual at Texas Monthly is not the publisher, not the editor, not even the woman who distributes the paychecks. The most popular person is art coordinator Hope Rodriguez, who has been making breakfast tacos for grateful staff members for twenty years. Twice a week, Hope arrives with an insulated case of fresh, plump tacos and a Mason jar of salsa. The tortillas are filled with combinations of scrambled eggs, potatoes, refried beans, cheese, chorizo, and bacon; the tomato salsa is a family recipe.
“I make the tortillas fresh because they’re much more tender than store-bought ones,” Hope says. She roasts the jalapeños to give them extra flavor, cooks the chorizo well done and the bacon crisp, and uses light oils whenever possible. Another key aspect—a lifetime of practice—is harder to quantify but much in evidence. Hope learned how to make all the basic Tex-Mex dishes when she was thirteen. “My parents owned a restaurant in Cuero,” she says, “and they had to be there from early to late.” As soon as she was old enough, she was drafted to cook for her seven brothers and sisters (two other siblings were grown). She learned well. The difference between her tacos and commercial tacos is the difference between home cooking and mass production. There simply is no comparison. Recipe