On The Range: Mexican Breakfasts

Beans for breakfast? Are you kidding?

Ah, but according to the indispensable tome The Tex-Mex Cookbook, here in the Lone Star State a pot of beans was often used to break a cowboy's fast on the long trail, whether plain (as preferred by eminent Texas writer J Frank Dobie) or with a little bacon and chile added.

At some point, an enterprising mamacita got the bright idea of mashing them into a paste and frying them up with lard or bacon grease to create that Tex-Mex staple, refried beans.

Janie Garza was born on the grounds of Mission San Francisco de la Espada in San Antonio, which to this day features a thriving community of residents surrounding the grounds. She recalls eating such classic fare as beans and nopalitos (cactus pads), but also crawfish caught in the nearby acequia (irrigation system, built in 1731 and still in use today), along with fresh-picked raspberries, mulberries, onions, and pecans. Her family also staked out an agarita bush, which they literally had to hit with a stick to gather the berries--which they made into jelly.

Robb Walsh reprints Garza's recipe for nopalitos with eggs in the cookbook, along with authentic recipes for chorizo, café de olla, corn and flour tortillas, and many, many other dishes--including huevos rancheros. Every respecting Tex-Mex chef worth his salsa has made a variation of this breakfast favorite, adding everything from vegetable beef soup to ham slices to chorizo. In fact, huevos rancheros is a marvelous dish to make with any handy leftover meat, even barbecue. Other sources such as Joy of Cooking use chili con carne in their rendition, calling it Cowboy Eggs.

But so many basic Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes can be adapted for breakfast. Down in the depths of Deep Ellum, where blues luminaries such as Blind Lemon Jefferson and Leadbelly once wandered the streets, Pepe's and Mito's Mexican Café is rarely crowded on the weekends and is thus a great choice for Saturday or Sunday Brunch. For this meal they stuff tacos with featuring chorizo, rice and beans, and papas fritas. Deep-fried beef and chicken taquitos make great starters. And then there are beef fajita tacos, seasoned with poblano wine sauce. Washed down with bracing, lime-infused margaritas, these are truly dishes worthy of Los Caballeros Nortenos, who first wandered this land they called El Norte more than four centuries ago. Vamanos, compadres!

Breakfast waits for no hombre.

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Chris Meesey