A Tentative Ode to Tex-Mex's Sour Cream Sauce

This is bad. Between decadent meals (for work, of course), I try to temper my eating with dishes I think are at least a little healthy. I could argue that chicken wings are low in carbohydrates and high in protein. And that pizza I love to indulge isn't too bad for me. Why not load it up with some prosciutto -- but just a touch. My latest obsession, however, is slightly more difficult to rationalize.

On Saturday I headed over to Mia's on Lemmon Avenue for a light, pre-dinner lunch. It was just after 1 p.m. and and a mother herded her children out the front door while I walked in, taking a table at the direction of the host, "Would you like a seat Señor?" I barely scanned the menu. I knew exactly what I was looking for. Sour cream enchiladas are pure evil. And I'm happy to say I've found the perfect way to eat them.

Start by pushing a portion of the sauce off the rolled tortillas and toward the beans, which in some Tex-Mex joints warrant savoring but here are rather flat. Then work at the enchiladas with your fork and knife until they are gone. Into the trough that remains between those boring beans and rice, pour the remains of the gratis salsa your waiter dropped off just after you ordered and four minutes before your food arrived (man, this is fast food). What results is the greatest tortilla chip-dipper I have encountered in some time.

Use each chip like a bulldozer, working left to right to scoop up spent sour cream sauce, salsa and a big mound of beans. Repeat. Repeat again. Do this until your plate shines clean, casting a chromatic reflection from the pink walls upon your gluttony. That sour cream shouldn't be as good as it is, but I'm compelled by it.

On my way out I asked my waiter, "What's in the sauce?" He shook his head. "It's a secret."

"Come on," I countered, "tell me how you make it."

But his face was serious this time. "I'm sorry, it's a secret," he said, and grabbed a few menus to seat his next table.

The sauce is not a secret, really. Many Tex-Mex joints simply whisk sour cream into chicken stock over a low and steady flame, cook until it comes to a simmer, and then ladle the stuff with reckless abandon over a number of dishes. A kitchen with a bit more mettle might fashion a roux from butter and flour, before adding the stock and cream. When they do this you get a thick, more viscous sauce. I'd love to see one flecked with green chillies but I haven't yet.

Either way, the concoction is one of those simple acts of kitchen wizardry that shouldn't taste quite as good as it does. Supplemented with melted cheese, red chile powder and the acidic bite of pickled jalepeños, the resulting dish invokes comfort food of the highest order. If only it was a little easier on my arteries.

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