The Enchilada Queen Cookbook
By Sylvia Casares
(St. Martin’s Griffin, $27.99)
Sylvia Casares’ rise from a childhood cook to the throne began when she, at age 10, successfully made the family favorite: red long grain rice. She learned how to cook by watching her mother and grandmother, Mama Mia, in the kitchen. After graduating from the University of Texas she became involved in the food world, which led to her open a “little bitty Mexican restaurant” in Houston. The restaurant served all the food she grew up learning to cook, ane eventually evolved into Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen. In addition to the restaurant, Sylvia caters and teaches cooking classes in a “to the earth” way of cooking to please the foodies who love the regional flavors in Texas-Mexico border food.
Following a near death experience, Sylvia was determined to write a cookbook to preserve her perfected collection of 125 authentic recipes. Each recipe is a blend of Texas and Mexico and reflects “Hispanic cooking traditions on both sides of the border,” the oldest regional cooking in the U.S and America’s first fusion cuisine. At the heart of the recipes are fourteen sauces, her favorite part of each recipe. In the opening pages of The Enchilada Queen Cookbook, you enroll in Tortilla Bootcamp, where you learn about the flavor backbone of Tex-Mex, such as Tex-Mex Holy Trinity: garlic, cumin, and black pepper spice paste that can be stored for a month in the fridge.
Enchilada recipes for sauces and fillings and named for regional preference precede the chapters: Salsas/Appetizers/and Snacks, A la Parilla (Border Grilling), Enchilada Queen Homestyle (Soups & Stews, Family Dishes, & “Mexican Breakfast”), Tamale Tutorial, Enchilada Queen Sides and Sweet Endings, and Sipping with the Enchilada Queen. Headnotes add details and background, sidebars are filled with notes and wisdom from the Enchilada Queen. Scattered here and there are Sylvia’s Flavor Tricks. She suggests getting really good avocados, also called mantequilla de pobres, or butter of the poor. Quality ingredients are a must, and a resource list is included.
In this delightful read, discover Picamole (a signature recipe that’s part pico de gallo and part guacamole), Chile con Queso (the ultimate dip), Knorr chicken bouillon, and crispy tortilla croutons. Be sure to invite friends and family for a “tamalados” to make tamales, the fourth-generation red rice recipe, sopa de Fideo (the Tex-Mex riff on SpagettiOs), and sip the perfect margarita, by the pitcher or the glass!
(Full disclosure: I grew up in Corpus eating this style of cooking and just wallowed in food memories!)
For over thirty years, Lois Friedman has been immersed in food culture and cookbooks. She has written “Read It And Eat” previews of cookbooks for The Desert Leaf and other local publications, done guest presentations at Canyon Ranch, hosted the Omaha Library Read It And Eat Culinary Conference, taught cooking classes and demonstrations, and now brings her expertise to her Read It And Eat blog for Edible Baja Arizona.