Citizens, few things appeal more strongly to the Duke of Dualism, the Pope of Paradox – YOUR TFD! – more strongly than juxtaposing two very different styles of cuisine back-to-back to titillate the taste buds of TFD Nation! My last post was for a ruthlessly authentic version of Japanese tempura, a style of cooking that takes many years to master, and which represents the ‘ne plus ultra‘ of an important and ancient form of cooking that is in fact fusion cuisine between Japanese and Portuguese recipes! Today’s recipe is also fusion, but in the style known as ‘Tex-Mex’ and while this appetizer may be humble, it is nothing except supremely delicious!
Unfortunately, and through no fault of its own, today’s recipe is also saddled (get the pun? 😉 ) with what may be the most unfortunate name in all of cuisine – I give you…ATOMIC BUFFALO TURDS, aka ABT’s amongst more civilized chefs. Despite a truly unfortunate name (and to this day, no one knows where it came from!), these are essentially jalapeño poppers, but instead of being breaded and deep-fried, they are split in half, stuffed with meat, cheese and spices and rolled with bacon strips before being grilled over an open flame or charcoal! These may be humble eats, but they are unquestionably delicious and I hope you enjoy my decidedly-upmarket version!
Just as chile relleno can be made with jalapeño, the jalapeño popper is probably a Tex-Mex version of that dish. Since there is practically zero provenance on ABT’s, I will instead focus on the caloric, deep-fried history that ALONE is Tex-Mex before launching into my spin on the classic recipe!
Tex-Mex cuisine (from the words Texan and Mexican) is an American and Texan cuisine that derives from the culinary creations of the Tejano people of Texas. It has spread from border states such as Texas and others in the Southwestern United States to the rest of the country. Tex-Mex is most popular in Texas and neighboring areas, especially nearby states in both the US and Mexico. It is a subtype of Southwestern cuisine, found in the American Southwest. Some ingredients are common in Mexican cuisine, but others not often used in Mexico are often added.
Tex-Mex cuisine is characterized by its heavy use of shredded cheese, beans, meat (particularly chicken, beef, and pork), peppers, and spices, in addition to flour tortillas. Sometimes various Tex-Mex dishes are made without the use of a tortilla, a common example of this is the ‘fajita bowl’, which is a fajita served without a soft tortilla. Generally, cheese plays a much bigger role in Tex-Mex food than in mainstream Mexican cuisine, particularly in the popularity of chile con queso (often referred to as simply ‘queso’), which is often eaten with chips (alongside or in place of guacamole and salsa), or may be served over enchiladas, tamales, or burritos.
Moreover, Tex-Mex has imported flavors from other spicy cuisines, such as in its use of cumin, introduced by Spanish immigrants to Texas from the Canary Islands but used in only a few central Mexican recipes.
During the mission era, Spanish and Mexican cuisines were combined in Texas as in other parts of the northern frontier of New Spain. However, the cuisine that would come to be called Tex-Mex originated with Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) as a mix of native Mexican and Spanish foods when Texas was part of New Spain and later Mexico. From the South Texas region between San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso, this cuisine has had little variation, and from earliest times has always been influenced by the cooking in the neighboring northern states of Mexico.
The ranching culture of South Texas and Northern Mexico straddles both sides of the border, where beef, grilled food, and tortillas have been common and popular foods for more than a century. A taste for cabrito (kid goat), barbacoa de cabeza (barbecued beef heads), carne seca (dried beef), and other products of cattle culture is also common on both sides of the Rio Grande. In the 20th century, as goods from the United States became cheap and readily available, Tex-Mex took on such Americanized elements as Cheddar, jack, and pimento cheeses.
In much of Texas, the cooking styles on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border were the same until a period after the U.S. Civil War. With the railroads, American ingredients and cooking appliances became common on the U.S. side. A 1968 Los Angeles Times feature wrote “[i]f the dish is a combination of Old World cooking, hush-my-mouth Southern cuisine and Tex-Mex, it’s from the Texas Hill Country.”
Outside the US, Tex-Mex is surprisingly popular. In France, Paris’s first Tex-Mex restaurant opened in March 1983. According to restaurateur Claude Benayoun, business had been slow, but after the 1986 release of the film Betty Blue, which featured characters drinking tequila shots and eating chili con carne, “everything went crazy.” According to Benayoun, “Betty Blue was like our Easy Rider; it was unbelievably popular in France. And after the movie came out, everybody in Paris wanted a shot of tequila and a bowl of chili.”
Tex-Mex became widely introduced in the Nordic countries and United Kingdom in the early 1990s through brands like Old El Paso and Santa Maria, and very quickly became a staple meal in the Nordics. Minor local variations on Tex-Mex in these areas, are to use gouda cheese, or to substitute taco shells with stuffed pita breads. Previously, Tex-Mex had been sold on a limited scale in Stavanger, Norway since the late 1960s. Tex-Mex has also spread to Argentina, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Thailand.
The word “TexMex” (unhyphenated) was first used to abbreviate the Texas Mexican Railway, chartered in southern Texas in 1875. In the 1920s, the hyphenated form was used in American newspapers to describe Texans of Mexican ancestry. The Oxford English Dictionary supplies the first-known uses in print of “Tex-Mex” in reference to food, from a 1963 article in The New York Times Magazine, and a 1966 item in the Great Bend (Kansas) Tribune.
However, the term was used in an article in the Binghamton (New York) Press in May 1960 and a syndicated article appearing in several American newspapers on October 6, 1960, uses the Tex-Mex label to describe a series of recipes, including chili and enchiladas. The recipes included the suggestion of ‘cornmeal pancakes’ in place of tortillas, which at the time were not reliably available to readers outside of the Southwest.
Diana Kennedy, an influential food authority, explained the distinctions between Mexican cuisine and Americanized Mexican food in her 1972 book ‘The Cuisines of Mexico’. Robb Walsh of the Houston Press said the book “was a breakthrough cookbook, one that could have been written only by a non-Mexican. It unified Mexican cooking by transcending the nation’s class divisions and treating the food of the poor with the same respect as the food of the upper classes.”
The term “Tex-Mex” also saw increasing usage in the Los Angeles Times from the 1970s onward while the Tex-Mex label became a part of U.S. vernacular during the late 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. Adán Medrano, a chef who grew up in San Antonio, prefers to call the food “Texas Mexican,” which he says was the indigenous cooking of South Texas long before the Rio Grande marked the border between Texas and Mexico.
Now – as to ABT’s, these are a very popular item to be cooked outdoors on the grill, and with great reason – the addition of heat and smoke onto these cheesy, spicy, smoky, meaty bites is simply superlative! I nicknamed my ABT’s ‘Fat Boys’ after one of the first Atomic bombs, sadly used to destroy the Japanese city of Nagasaki in WWII – they will also add substantively to your girth if you over-indulge in these explosively caloric bites of deliciousness!
Most ABT’s cooked in Texas include some tiny sausages inside called ‘Lil’ Smokeys’, but the truth is that ANY protein can be used inside them, and the combination of shrimp and sausage is a popular one (not surprising considering Texas is on the Gulf of Mexico, home to some of the best shrimp on Earth!). My recipe also uses shrimp and sausage, but instead of Lil’ Smokeys, I prefer to use sweet Italian sausage (with the casings removed) and grind the meat up with the shrimp.
I also steer the spicing of my ABT’s distinctly towards the East, specifically Asia – because TFD prefers a lighter hand with this recipe when it comes to flavors. Instead of just using shredded cheddar cheese, I much prefer to use a British cheese called Cotswold. Cotswold is a Double Gloucester cheese with chopped onions and chives blended into it – Cotswold is also a region in Southwestern England. The Cotswold cheese is also referred to as ‘Double Gloucester with Chives’ or ‘Pub Cheese’ – buy it from the link or it is also typically carried in the cheese area of grocery chains like Whole Foods and Safeway.
It’s a smooth, cheddar-like cheese with chives and onions and in British pubs it is usually served with toast or rustic bread. It tastes PERFECT in my ABT recipe as a more savory and better melting version of shredded cheddar. To add extra creaminess, I also add some sour cream enhanced not only with packaged green onion dip, but elevated with some packaged miso soup as well! The miso adds a savory umami element to the dip that really complements the ABTs in a way that is beyond the mundane and transcended into the Empyrean sphere of Heaven above through the spicing genius that alone is Mine!
Lastly, I also add in some fresh herbs into my shrimp/sausage blend, as well as some Chinese oyster sauce, ginger, garlic, canned water chestnuts for texture (they also play nicely with the 50’s leitmotif of this recipe) and I garnish the final product with both BBQ sauce and fresh oregano.
This is by no means a difficult recipe to make, My Citizens. I hope it brings you the same joy it brings to all My dinner parties whenever I make it for guests – needless to say, the name alone will be an excellent conversation starter at your next backyard soirée!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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