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Jun 5, 2010 12:56 PM

Ina Garten Butchers Tex Mex

I had Ina on while I was cleaning a mess of shrimp to be fried. Her friend made an "award winning" Tex Mex chili that was full of beans. Chili with beans will not be allowed at any self respecting chili cook off in my home state of Texas. Maybe she won a cook off in the Hamptons. Later on she did a pink grapefruit margarita, call it something else, this is not a margarita. Then there was the fish taco. Nothing against fish tacos, but I never saw one on a menu until a few years ago. This is a Baja, SoCal dish, not Tex Mex. Finally, a tequila lime grilled chicken. Whatever. Make some chile rellenos using poblanos, a good beef enchilada, some nachos with cheese, fajita meat, chorizo, or crabmeat and some jalapenos, and not a pile of crap on top, just a few ingredients. Simple Tex Mex is a wonderful meal, just don't try and sell me this stuff as Tex Mex. As for the shimp, the demise of the Gulf of Mexico is overstated. I'm still able to get 16-20 count, wild Texas shrimp for 5.99 to 8.99 a pound, depending on the sales. I do hope they get this mess cleaned up soon, however.

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  1. When TV cooking personalities who hail from the NE Atlantic area presume to show us how to cook Mex, the scenario can be pretty hilarious. I remember one such person informing us that "quesadillas frequently contain cheese." [Duh, lady -- if it doesn't include queso, it ain't a quesadilla.]

    5 Replies
    1. re: Sharuf

      I'd suggest looking at the Wiki article on Quesadilla to see the variety of ways in which the word is used. Yes, the word does derive from 'queso', cheese, but that does not mean it hasn't been applied to items without cheese in Mexico or neighboring countries. i think, that on this matter, Ina has done more research.

      1. re: Sharuf

        *LOL*. The queso line -- that's funny. "Here's some refritos. Sometimes they put beans in." "I'd like to show you this guacamole, but this time for a neat change I'm using avocados!"

        1. re: Sharuf

          Bittman had an unintentionally hilarious article a few years ago in which was clear that he didn't know an enchilada from a taco from a burrito, or was it a tamale.

          1. re: Neecies

            I think you are referring to his July 2006 column on tacos, in which he writes
            "You take a tortilla and you put some stuff in it and you eat it; that’s a taco. (If you roll the tortilla, it’s a burrito, which appears to have been created in the American Southwest; if you layer food on top of it, it’s an enchilada; if you crisp it up and use it as a kind of plate, it’s a tostada; "

            But a quick chow search will turn up one or more threads on 'enchiladas - rolled or stacked (flat)'. That is, one (regional) style of enchilada does consist of layers of flat tortillas with fillings between. Dipping the tortilla in the chile sauce before 'filling' is a better enchilada distinctive.

          2. re: Sharuf

            Actually, in Mexico City, quesadillas do not necessarily have cheese in them. There's nothing redundant about asking for your quesadilla "con queso".

            Here a quesadilla is corn dough pressed flat and griddled on a comal, then folded over any of a number of possible fillings, not necessarily including cheese. Or sometimes the dough is sealed up like an empanada and deep fried.

            I'm developing a hunch that, for a laugh, Mexicans have deliberately contrived to make all absolute statements about Mexican food false.

          3. I blinked when I noted on the tv guide that Ina was doing Tex-Mex. Why does the Food Network set up their personalities like that? That's not the kind of cooking she does, left to her own devices. I wouldn't have gotten close to that show with a 10-foot pole, and I'm a big Ina fan!

            3 Replies
            1. re: ChefJune

              Like when Paula Deen cooked Pad Thai. PAD THAI! (Y'all)

              1. re: pdxgastro

                that is exactly what I first thought about, Paula's bad thai. Ina does make a mean sagaponek corn pudding to go with her tex mex tequila lime chicken. :)

                1. re: pdxgastro

                  I had to scurry off and look up this tragedy, and it's true :( She did make "Pad Thai".

              2. This widely enjoyed food and drink doesn't have canonical versions--thankfully--and that's what makes them popular. With respect, Ina wasn't pitching to you or trying to upstage your take on what's what in Texas, OK? They make "flipper" chili in Newfoundland--that's seal flipper, pard, not the finny TV star--that skips the beans, too. Not sure if you'd go for it, either. Enjoy those shrimp while you can--hope the currents don't shift.

                27 Replies
                1. re: Kagemusha

                  "This widely enjoyed food and drink doesn't have canonical versions--thankfully--and that's what makes them popular"



                  It's like complaining that California Pizza Kitchen pizzas aren't authentic California-style pizza ...

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I believe she used the term Tex Mex chili at least once. I'm not going to argue whether there are canonical versions or not, the bottom line this stuff wouldn't fly in Texas. I like SanityRemoved's clam chowder analogy.

                    1. re: James Cristinian

                      Which Ina program was this? What year? I found a Tex-mex episode on FN website - from 2002. If this is the one you saw, it's an old rerun.

                      1. re: paulj

                        It aired Friday and will re-air tomorrow at 5 eastern. I was reading the comments on her recipe, and a heated debate was raging pretty much split on regional lines, although at least one person from Texas said they loved it. Devon Fredericks, who made the chili, called it New York chili, but in her final comment Ina called it award winning Tex Mex chili. To be honest, I had forgotten the New York chili remark, what got me was Ina's award winnig remark, when chili with beans is not allowed in contests down here. It seems to have been a new show, as Devon's chili recipie is copyrighted in 2010 and indeed, I just checked my dvr to record it and it is a 2010 show. I'm going to give her tequila lime chicken recipie a try, although it is not something I've seen indegenous in Tex Mex restaurants.

                      2. re: James Cristinian

                        Yep. I am gonna have to side with James on this. There are some things that are regional and although there may be variations or tweeking the basic elements that MAKE IT UNIQUE like no beans in the chili makes it what it is. Can a Carolina pulled pork sandwich have a substitution of say... red leaf lettuce instead of coleslaw? Nope. Imagine the harumphing!

                        Fingers crossed on your remaining oil free. Ditto that for the Florida Keys please.

                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                          Look, Garten and/or any other non-"My Ancestors Fought and Died at the Alamo" cook is just doing `covers` of the originals--BIG DEAL!

                          1. re: Kagemusha

                            I'm not from that camp, second generation Polish here, so there is no chance. However, my wife is a different story, as she is of Mexican ancestry. Although a remote chance, many good men of Mexican descent died fighting for both sides, so maybe she had an ancestor there. I wouldn't make light of the Alamo, as you walk in there is a plaque admonishing the cell phone crowd to turn them off and to be quiet. It reads something like this, "This is a shrine, men died here." It moves me to tears every time.

                            1. re: Kagemusha

                              Tex-Mex has enough criticism (and an identity crisis) without being "covered" poorly.

                              It's frequently poo-poohed as "not Mexican" as if that is somehow a pejorative statement rather than simple fact, and not treated as the important original indigenous American cuisine that it is.

                              So I'm with James all the way. If you're going to call it Tex-Mex, then make and respect it as such.

                              If I made a soup out of chicken, kielbasa, rice and ketchup and called it New Orleans Gumbo it wouldn't be a "cover" - it'd be sacrilege. Because like Tex-Mex, Cajun & Creole are original indigenous cuisines that should be respected as such.

                              1. re: shanagain

                                That's just pure chauvinism--not reverence. Besides, there are great covers and bad covers--the point you chose to ignore. I'm sure Ina will be moved to tears reading your post. BTW, you and James need to get down with the meaning of "canonical." Hint: I'm not using it as a compliment.

                                1. re: Kagemusha

                                  Except, it does have a canonical basis in the cuisine created here as a mixture of Mexican and Texan heritage. No one is saying that Texan chili is the only type of dish called chili (yet, though many of us willingly would get into that in another post, I'm sure), only if you're going to call it TexMex, then make it TexMex. What's the problem with that?

                                  Just because I make something with lime & cilantro doesn't make it Thai. Same thing.

                                  Also, it's really not chauvinism, not even close. I never said that the TexMex to which I'm referring is the be-all-end-all of cuisines, only that it's treated as a culinary stepchild rather than an original American cuisine - and as such, if you're going to call a thing TexMex, it probably needs some roots in actual TexMex. And I'm a bit baffled why you're so.. intense about it.

                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                    Yeah, yeah, I know the meaning of the word, however if you make a dish and call it Tex Mex, doesn't make it so. I have not seen any of her recipies in any of the dozens of Tex Mex places I've eaten at in Texas. Nothing against Ina by the way, I just finished eating a shrimp scapmi in linguine of hers. It was delicious.

                                    1. re: southernitalian

                                      Sure - while they were influenced by other cultures & cooking techniques, they developed as a byproduct of their environment, evolving into a specific cuisine and culture. Do you disagree?

                                      1. re: shanagain

                                        Nope. That makes perfect sense. Thanks for explaining.

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              A more than usually interesting analogy, ipsedixit. Neat!

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Most of the stuff from CPK is flatbread not pizza...WTF is Thai Pizza and pineapple pizza... :-))

                                sorry, hands start to shake and cannot stop jfood when he sees these things called "pizza."

                              2. re: Kagemusha

                                If they used the term TexMex then it should have some regional authenticity, if they said chili then there isn't a problem.

                                If I made New England clam chowder, you would not be impressed if it resembled Manhattan clam chowder.

                                1. re: SanityRemoved

                                  You're all correct, but I am beyond caring after I saw Food Network chefs make stir fries with techniques that would make my Chinese grandmother spin in her grave.

                                  1. re: SanityRemoved

                                    agreed. if you're making fish tacos, i don't care if you use flour tortillas, or if you grill the fish instead of frying can even top them with shredded cheese and tomatoes if you want to. but if you tell me they're *Baja* fish tacos, they'd better be fried fish, cabbage, and a white sauce on corn tortillas.

                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      Is there an authoritative source that describes fish tacos as served throughout Baja? Or are you focusing on the stereotypical version that got imported to southern California? How about the LA chain that calls itself 'Baja Fish Tacos'?

                                      Here's what Wiki (spanish edition) says:
                                      "Tacos de pescado: originarios de Baja California, se preparan con pescado empanizado en un tipo de tempura y frito en aceite. Se acompañan con pico de gallo, salsa verde, aderezo en base de crema y mayonesa, y repollo finamente cortado."

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Is there an authoritative source that describes fish tacos as served throughout Baja?
                                        i'm sure there is somewhere, but i was speaking from my own experience. when you get fish tacos from a street vendor in Baja, you're going to get battered, fried fish in a corn tortilla with a cream- or mayo-based white sauce and shredded green cabbage...probably garnished with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime, and maybe topped with pico de gallo. true street fish tacos in Baja don't consist of grilled fish, shredded cheese and a flour least not any that i've had or seen down there. but that's often what passes for a "Baja fish taco" north of the border.

                                        anyway, fish tacos aren't the point of this thread. i was simply trying to illustrate that when it comes to a regional specialty, it's usually better not to assign the specific regional name to your own version of the dish if it's not an authentic recipe...if Ina had simply called hers "chili" instead of Tex-Mex chili, no one would have batted an eye.

                                      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        Bingo. I am SO not a member of this cult of "authenticity" some folks seem to get real worked up about, but if you're going to say you're making a particular regional dish or type of cuisine (Tex-Mex, North Carolina BBQ, Boston clam chowder, etc.), it probably should be what you're calling it. Why not just call it "chili" or "bbq" or "chowder" otherwise?

                                    2. re: Kagemusha

                                      We eat dolphins in Texas. They're delicious, especially the little ones, called chicken dolphin. They're also called dolphin fish, dorado, or most places, mahi mahi. As for flipper and cousins, I see them while I'm wade fishing all then time. Kinda startling when one surfaces ten feet behind you and blows out its air hole. At least it's not a shark, I see plenty of those too.

                                      1. re: James Cristinian

                                        Mahi Mahi is not dolphin. Commenting on an old post - but looked at it because the show was on today.

                                        I live in NC - we have a lot of fish and one of them is Mahi Mahi - I'll have to research your Texas dolphin claims. I was born there and lived there for 12.5 yrs - still have friends there.

                                        1. re: Jeanne

                                          It is indeed dolphin -- the large, blunt headed fish, not the mammal. I've seen them caught. I've eaten them after.

                                          1. re: jmckee

                                            Yes, you are correct. It is dolphin. Ditto your post.

                                            1. re: chloebell

                                              The are "dolfin" "dolfin fish" not dolphin... dolphin the mammal - flipper. Dolfin = Mahi = Dorado. Ah I stand corrected. Hubs tells me I have been spelling it wrong all these years - smirk. Dolphin fish is not the mammal, but Dolphinfish = dorado = mahi mahi. Lordy

                                    3. Texas chili is only one 0f many variations, not any more authentic than others.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        No one said any different, but if you're going to call it Tex-Mex, it should indeed be a Tex-Mex version.

                                      2. Maybe she did butcher it, but i'd still give a day's pay to go to one of her seafood beach picnics.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                          Me too -- because that's her thing, it's what she's great at. Tex-Mex? Not so much. I'd have the same issue with the Neeleys trying to do shi-shi spa cuisine or Michael Chiarello making, I dunno, Korean food. Just doesn't jive.