Category Archives: Tex-Mex

Carne Asada Wraps with Pico de Gallo

I used flank steak, as I usually do, because I have never seen skirt steak in the two grocery stores I shop at. I think I saw it once when we lived in Texas in the mid-90s, but not since. I look for it all the time, but am running out of hope. I can’t complain about flank steak, though, as long as it is scored on each side and marinated. I’ve written about the scoring before in this post: A Tale of Two Flank Steaks. As you can see in the image, it did not have to be cooked just to bloody rareness to remain juicy—it was grilled for 7 minutes per side, and then rested for 10, which was plenty of time for the small 1 lb steak. We ate every bit.

I made a very nice pico de gallo—really a chopped tomato salad—to eat with mine (or to eat with a spoon), while my tomato-averse husband had a roasted salsa verde with his.

Carne Asada Wraps with Pico de Gallo

  • Servings: makes about 4 wraps
  • Difficulty: time consuming
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1 flank steak, 1-2 pounds, scored on both sides

Wet Marinade
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  1. Mix all ingredients and pour over scored flank steak in sealable bag.
  2. Marinate in refrigerator for 4-6 hours. remove at least 1/2 hour before grilling to bring to room temperature.
Prepare grill for direct heat
  1. Grill steak for about 7-10 minutes on each side with the lid closed, depending on the size of your steak, for medium rare.
  2. Remove and rest steak on cutting board under a loose cover of foil for about 10 minutes.
  3. Slice thinly, against the grain.
  4. Serve in wraps wit lettuce and toppings, like pico de gallo or your favorite salsa, avocado, or a fresh cheese, like queso fresco.
Pico de Gallo

4 small tomatoes (about 3-4″), chopped—you could seed them or not

1/2 large onion, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, diced

about 2 tablespoons minced garlic or garlic paste

a big handful of finely chopped cilantro or 2 tablespoons cilantro paste (I used the paste)

1 generous teaspoon kosher salt

3-4 tablespoons lime juice

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Mix all ingredients.
  2. I let mine sit in the refrigerator for an hour, but you could eat it right away. I like to let the onion and pepper absorb the liquid a little.

Refried Beans, Not Refried

So-called refried beans are not fried twice nor even once, although many do the last step of mashing them in a hot skillet, which is kind of like frying. I guess. But it’s not necessary, especially with the availability of a food processor. I like the food-processor beans, which are creamy but still with a noticeable texture, to serve as a dip or spread, as well as a side dish, the basis of a burrito, or whatever you can think of. Even in the food processor, you can control the chunkiness to some extent by leaving out some mashed beans to stir in to the smoother processed beans.

You can make refried beans with just beans and salt, or elevate them with an endless number of additions. I would say you must use some fat—bacon fat or lard or oil—but everything else is negotiable:

  • garlic
  • onion
  • spices, like cumin, ancho, or chipotle powders
  • salsa
  • cheese
  • tomatoes

I’m just adding garlic, bacon fat, and lots of salt. We ate them as a side with chile relleno (not fried) burritos and mashed avocado. That’s two things that could have been fried, but were not.

Refried Beans

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: time-consuming
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Make the beans:

1/2 lb dried pinto beans

3 cups water

2 cloves garlic

  1. Rinse the beans well and sort to look for any small stones. Combine with the 3 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover and turn off heat, allowing beans to soak for 1 hour.
  3. Return to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. During the last half hour, toss in the garlic cloves so they cook some before finishing the dish.

Make the refried beans:

1/2 lb cooked pinto beans

about 2 tablespoons bacon fat

2 teaspoons coarse salt—or to taste

1/4-1/2 cup bean liquor

  1. Drain the bean liquor into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Put the drained beans, salt, and bacon fat into a food processor.
  3. Process with 1/4 cup bean liquor, adding more to reach your desired consistency. I used 1/2 cup to reach a consistency like creamy mashed potatoes. They might dry out or thicken upon standing, so it’s a good idea to save the remaining bean liquor to stir in, if you need it. Or you could add it to other dishes.

Grilled, Beer-Brined Chicken Enchiladas

I usually use poached chicken in enchiladas, but have even used rotisserie chicken, which is always moist and gives me chicken from all parts of the bird. Just for something a little different, I decided to grill some flattened and beer-brined chicken breasts for these enchiladas, and it made all the difference. The brined chicken was the definition of succulent.

We were fond of red and white enchiladas—using both enchilada and cheese sauces—until my husband’s lactose intolerance, so I’m skipping the cheese sauce, using a little more enchilada sauce, and less shredded cheddar. I make my own enchilada sauce, which has been posted on this site a few times, I think, and it makes a big difference. If you have never tasted enchilada sauce that doesn’t use tomatoes, I urge you to try it. Here’s the recipe again, adjusted to make 3 cups:

Enchilada Sauce

  • Servings: about 3 cups
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Prepare Reconstituted Dried Chiles

  1. Rinse 6-8 dried ancho chiles, remove stems and seeds
  2. Tear into pieces so they fit in a small container or bowl
  3. Cover with 3 cups boiling water, submerging the peppers as much as possible; cover container with plastic wrap
  4. Set aside for at least 45 minutes; reconstituted peppers will be dark red, soft, and pliable
  5. Place reconstituted chiles in blender with half the liquid and puree, adding the rest of the liquid through the lid opening
  6. Strain puree through a fine strainer to remove large pieces of pulp—stir slowly in the strainer with a spoon until all the liquid is out and only the pepper fiber remains in the strainer (about 5 minutes)

Prepare Enchilada Sauce

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil  and 2 cloves of grated garlic in saucepan over medium heat until you can smell the garlic
  2. Stir in 2 tablespoon flour until smooth
  3. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  4. Pour in pepper puree and 2 tablespoon white or rice vinegar
  5. Stir and simmer until slightly thickened

Grilled, Beer-Brined Chicken Enchiladas

  • Servings: 8-10 enchiladas
  • Difficulty: easy
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At least 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 cups enchilada sauce

1 small onion, diced

1 3/4-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

8-10 8″ flour tortillas

Prepare chicken:

  1. Flatten breasts to a uniform thickness, maybe a little less than 1/2″, between plastic wrap.
  2. Place chicken in large dish with brine (see below).
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and brine for at least 4 hours.
  4. Remove chicken from brine and grill over direct heat, turning once, closing grill lid between turnings. The chicken cooks after about 5 minutes per side at 300° but use a thermometer to test for an internal temperature of about 165°
  5. On a large cutting board, pull the grilled chicken into large shreds. I only used 3 of the breasts for 7 good sized enchiladas. The two breasts left over will not go to waste!
  6. Mix the pulled chicken with about 1 cup of enchilada sauce and 1 small diced onion.
  7. Fill 8″ tortillas (mine were whole grain) with about 1/3-1/2 cup of the meat and sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.
  8. Place filled tortillas in large baking dish with about 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce spread over the bottom.
  9. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce down the center of your row of enchiladas and sprinkle with more cheddar.
  10. Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges of tortillas are beginning to brown.


  1. 2 12 oz bottles beer
  2. 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  3. 1 tablespoon chili powder

I also made a small pot of black beans, but I’m retired, so don’t feel like you have to go all out.

Chili-Dog Quesadilla Wrap

You heard right. I had too many tortillas in the fridge, and we eat just about any other kind of meat in them, so why not hot dogs? These dogs have at least two places to stuff—in between the tortillas and in the hot dogs themselves. If you can find another spot, let me know. What you stuff in and where is part of the fun. I’m making the traditional quesadilla with shredded cheese and chopped green chiles, then wrapping it around a chili dog with my homemade sauce and browning the whole thing on a griddle.

As far as flavors go, my hot dog sauce is spicy with cloves, nutmeg, and paprika, so I had to think about how to fill the quesadilla without any clashing flavors. If you try your own wrap, make sure all the flavors go together. You could even put more cheese in the dog and skip the sauce.

I thought it would be a heavy meal, too filling, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was a nice change from a chili dog in a bun. A little crunch on the outside, then melty cheese, then the savory dog and sauce in the middle.

Chili-Dog Quesadilla Wrap

  • Servings: as many as you can eat
  • Difficulty: easy
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The recipe time does not include the time to make your own hot dog sauce. I made a half recipe of the sauce the day before and still had to put much of it in the freezer in small containers:

Hot dog sauce (recipe link above)

Natural casing weiners

Soft taco sized flour tortillas—I used both white and whole wheat

1 can chopped green chiles, rinsed and drained

Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded

Once your sauce is made, this recipe is mostly a matter of construction.

  1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Turn off heat and place hot dogs in the water. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat tortillas in the microwave in between paper towels to make them soft and pliable.
  3. Arrange about 1/4-1/2 cup shredded cheese and chopped chiles on a warm tortilla. Cover with another tortilla and press down.
  4. Slit a hot dog and place it in the center of the quesadilla. fill with hot dog sauce. A thick sauce works best.
  5. Roll the quesadilla around the hot dog, bringing one side up over the sauce to begin. Roll as tightly as possible, then seal with a toothpick at an angle, so it doesn’t get in the way of browning.
  6. Brown the rolled tortilla on a heated, oiled griddle over medium heat. Or you could brush the tortillas with oil. You want to keep turning to melt all the cheese in the quesadilla.

You can serve with more condiments, like more chili sauce or sour cream for dipping, but we didn’t find that to be necessary.