How I cook Tex-Mex using ingredients from a typical German supermarket.
The food I miss most from home is without question Tex-Mex. When I fly home, I always land in Houston just in time for dinner and head straight to my favorite Mexican food restaurant. Good Tex-Mex, or real Mexican food for that matter, is near impossible to come by in Germany. I have tried every place in Munich, and several that I have encountered across Europe, and the only place that has hit the spot was Carlito Taquito, a Munich pop-up restaurant (@Carlito if you ever stumble upon this, please open up a permanent establishment).
However that once a year that I go home (2020 excluded, making my cravings extra vigorous) is not enough to satisfy this homesick Texan's Tex-Mex cravings, so I have taken matters into my own hands.
You are probably thinking, "surely this cannot be that difficult". Well it is. All of the shortcuts you have available to make Tex-Mex at home - Rotel, corn tortillas, tomatillos, enchilada sauce - at aren't readily available. First of all, you cannot buy these products in your typical German supermarkets (e.g. Edeka, Rewe). Second, there are some online Mexican shops where you can buy ingredients, but this requires planning ahead, and my cravings don't plan ahead. Finally, there is a tiny Mexican shop in town that I cannot manage to make it to during opening hours (opening hours in Bavaria is a post for another day...) and the other one is attached ot its distribution center, which is inconveniently located outside of Munich.
It has taken years, but I am here to share with you that it is possible to make some damn good at home Tex-Mex by shopping at your local German grocer and this post will tell you how.
Note: this is my first cooking series on the blog so I should denote my cooking style, which can be characterized by "eye-balling it" and "doing-it-your-own-way". I try to explain it in a simple way that makes cooking more approachable because while it is a science, we aren't baking so you have a lot of room for experimenting.
What's on the menu?
The menu is reflective of ordering fajitas for two at your favorite Tex-Mex spot. Don't get critical here, as mentioned before this menu is built around products you can buy in a typical German supermarket and you sure aren't going to find pinto beans. That being said, this menu is also delicious no matter where you live. This does require a lot of hands and some timing, but if your timing is off you can always keep things warm in a low heat oven.
Beef & chicken fajitas
Refried black beans
Trio of Dips: Guacamole, roasted tomato salsa, chile con queso, and roasted pepper sour cream
Augustiner (or you favorite Helles) Margaritas
Your Shopping List
Spices: Crushed red chili, ground cumin (Kreuzkümmel), garlic (Knoblauch) powder, paprika, oregano, salt, pepper
Meat: Chicken breast, Entrecôte, chicken broth
Fresh produce: Tomato, red onion, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, Jalapeños, avocado, limes, garlic, cilantro (Koriander)
Dairy: Sour cream, feta, American cheese, cream cheese
Baking: Flour 405, baking powder
Other: Salted tortilla chips, pickled Jalapeños, ice
Drinks: 100% Agave Tequila, orange liqueur, beer
Oil: Olive oil
Beef & Chicken Fajitas
Starting with the main event, you will need:
Fajita seasoning, which you can buy but better just make yourself with a combo of: crushed red chilis, ground cumin, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper
Green Bell Pepper
Entrecôte, the European cut of rib-eye, makes a delicious fajita. We usually get them cut about 2.5-3 cm thick. Entrecôte is a little pricier, but while you can find flank steak at select butchers and markets in Germany, it is not a staple here.
Wash and dry your chicken breast. Tenderize so that it is a similar thickness throughout. Rub with fajita seasoning, and coat with olive oil.
Remove from fridge 2 hours before cooking. Wash and dry. Rub with fajita seasoning.
Slice veggies into strips and put together in a bowl. You can do this at a ratio of your preference. Then toss in olive oil and fajita seasoning. Sautée in a pan until soft.
Now we are ready for the grill (if you don't have a grill, then you can use a cast iron pan or heck even a normal pan). The grill should be at medium-high heat.
Place steaks on grill. Grill for 2 minutes - flip and grill another two minutes - repeat (total of 8 minutes / 4 minutes per side). Remove and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
At the same time as the steaks, lay the chicken on the grill. They will need about 10 minutes, so 5 minutes on each side. After 10 minutes, remove and slice.
On a serving plate, place the beef and chicken on each side, separated by the veggies.
I always scared away from making my own tortillas. I could now kick myself for waiting all of these years because despite my aversion to baking, calling this baking would be a stretch and they are way more satisfactory than what you can buy at the stores.
I did not make up this recipe on my own, but found this one from the cafe sucrine farine to be perfect. To sum up, you will need:
Baking powder. Note on baking powder: the Backpulver is different than the baking power I knew from the US. Nevertheless it worked fine in her recipe so don't fret here.
The rolling pin I bought years ago and never used finally came in handy here.
My tip here: it is really all about the pan heat here and I found that it needs to be properly hot.
Refried Black Beans
Pinto beans are unheard of in Germany, so I go for black beans which I find better anyway. the choice of black beans. Fair warning, most of my grocers sell black beans but not all of them so I recommend going to one of the larger stores. Here's what's require:
Black Beans, drained and rinsed
Chicken or vegetable broth
Fresh cilantro (always optional for you crazies that think it tastes like soap)
Crumbled Feta (optional)
In a pot, sautée the garlic and Jalapeño in fajita seasoning and olive oil for a couple of minutes. Then toss in the black beans with some broth that only half covers the beans. Mash the mixture. I do this with a couple presses of the immersion blender. Throw some fresh cilantro on top. If you're feeling a little wild you can also top some crumbled feta because that is a close as you will get to cojita.
This recipe was inspired by this two-step one by Mommyto2. It is so easy and is hands-down the best way to make people actually want to eat this often neglected side dish. For the best ever Mexican rice you will need:
Heat the oil in a skillet medium heat and add rice and fajita seasoning. Cook, stirring constantly, until golden. While cooking, add in tomato paste and keep stirring. Finally, stir in chicken broth and let cook until absorbed. Follow typical rice-water ratio here.
The chips and dip are probably my favorite part of any Tex-Mex restaurant experience. I actually snack so much that I typically don't order a main course and stick to the chips, salsa, queso and margaritas, but putting this sort of acidic stress on other people's stomachs seems aggressive so I do make other things.
My favorite dip in the world is always a verde, but tomatillos are another one of those forbidden fruits here so for this made-in-Germany Tex-Mex dip cuatro we will be serving: guacamole, roasted tomato salsa, chile-con-queso, and roasted pepper sour cream. Serve with tortilla chips. Although not all four are essential, I prefer excess and each of them makes a great fajita topper as well.
Ingredients: Avocado, fresh Jalapeño, red onion, garlic, lime juice, salt
Finely chop the onion, toss in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, and then soak in lime juice for a mild pickling. Finely chop garlic and Jalapeño, add to bowl. Finally scoop out the avocado meat and add to bowl and mash with a fork until at your desired consistency.
Roasted Tomato Salsa
Ingredients: Tomatoes, fresh Jalapeño, red onion, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt
Grab a baking dish and preheat oven to something hot, like 200C / 400F. Grease baking dish with olive oil. Slice tomatoes in half and throw in skin side up. Slice Jalapeño(s) in half and throw in skin side up. Peel onion and slice in half, toss in. Throw in garlic with skin on. Sprinkle all with salt. Roast until some brown spots appear. Remove from oven and peel garlic and tomatoes. Blend all ingredients together, adding cilantro and lime juice. Serve hot or chill in fridge.
Roasted Pepper Sour Cream
Ingredients: Red bell pepper, sour cream, Jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, salt
Grab a baking dish and preheat oven to something hot, like 200C / 400F. Grease baking dish with olive oil. Roast red bell pepper and Jalapeño until some brown spots appear. Peel skin off red bell pepper. Blend all ingredients together.
I also recommend putting some in a sauce bottle using it for some cool plating, or just scoop it directly on the chicken fajita!
Chile con Queso
My beloved Chile con Queso. In my younger days, I dreamed of a food stand near bars where all the party people could fulfill all of their drunk cravings. In fact this is still a good idea but for now I have to stick to my day job.
Ingredients; American cheese, cream cheese, pickled Jalapeño, chopped tomato, cilantro (optional)
You are probably wondering, "where you I American cheese in Germany?" And while this is the unattractive answer, it is the true one: what you will need are the Toast Scheiben or Schmelzkäse. I usually buy a pack of the toast cheese slices because it is basically the same as Velveeta, unfortunately not in block form.
Unpack the cheese and throw into the top of a double boiler. No double boiler? Me neither. I place a metal mixing bowl above a pot of water on the stove. Now, add in the other ingredients. I usually add some of the Jalapeño juice in as smell to smooth it out. You can also add milk. Proportions are as you like but you'll want it to smooth out, for which you can also use milk.
Fair warning: These margaritas will knock your socks right off. To put it simply, you will be buzzing after one. Not many drinks can do this, so let's applaud the margarita for its accomplishments. But really, don't drink these on an empty stomach. If you are going to drink multiple, I sometimes thin them out by substituting the beer with sparkling water instead.
Fresh Lime Juice (you can also buy it at the store but nothing beats fresh squeezed)
100% Agave Tequila. Don't torture yourself with the Sierra brand they sell everywhere. Instead save yourself the headache and order this Espolon Tequila.
Cointreau, or another orange liqueur of your preference
Augustiner Helles, or truly any other light colored beer
Ice. I never buy my own and instead keep one of these in the freezer. It produces large cubes that don't melt too quickly.
Now all you have to do is squeeze the limes and mix. For the margarita mixture, I use 3 parts tequila, 2 parts Cointreau, 1 part beer, 1 part lime juice. Then stir with ice. If you are feeling festive, salt the rim but admittedly I am a no-salt girl.
Now that everything is ready, it is time to assemble. I love meals that require assembly and it is also great to cook for groups so everyone can fit their own taste buds.
If the length of this post evidences the amount of effort that goes into this meal, but if you are consistently homesick for Tex-Mex like me, then you won't think twice.
What are your hacks for cooking Tex-Mex from abroad?