As the food correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America, I’m always looking for new tastes and cuisines in different regions of the country, especially those that involve local culture. We went in search of big Tex-Mex cooking, which San Antonio is known for. I chose Los Barrios from the many Tex-Mex restaurants in the city because I fell in love with Diana Barrios Treviño and the entire Barrios family. They’ve survived a rocky start and difficult times, all the while remaining true to their family business and the home-style Tex-Mex food they serve. The dishes they have created contain amazing combinations and flavors that many people don’t get to experience. I wanted the rest of the country to sample what I was tasting. I wanted people to realize that true Tex-Mex cooking isn’t just fajitas and burritos.
We did the segment from the Arneson River Theater on the Riverwalk. We were surrounded by mariachis and thousands of San Antonio fans. Diana brought platters and platters of enchiladas and tamales, and prepared a traditional Mexican dish that her mother makes, Pollo con Calabacita, a hearty home-style chicken dish with tatuma squash and oregano. After only a few minutes, my mouth began to water from the awesome aromas coming from
Later that day, I went by Los Barrios with my then girlfriend—now wife—Alden. What began as a late-afternoon lunch turned into a true feast. I managed to taste almost everything on the menu, which is no easy feat! The whole Barrios clan joined us at the table to help polish off the great food. The more food they brought, the more people showed up—our table just kept growing and growing. I felt right at home, because Los Barrios is all about family, and I now felt like a member of Diana’s welcoming family.
Now, with the Los Barrios Family Cookbook, I am excited to know that people across the country can easily prepare and taste all of the delicious dishes I experienced on my visit. Whether you like your food hot, medium, or mild—and these recipes have it all—you’ll love the food in this book. So go ahead, kick it up a notch San Antonio style!
Enchilada Gravy Sauce
Makes 3 quarts
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
11/2 tablespoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 quarts water
1. Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is browned (this mixture is called a roux); be careful not to let the flour burn. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Gradually add the water, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat and boil gently for 15 minutes.
Use this sauce for enchiladas stuffed with cheese, beef, or chicken. Top them off with Chili con Carne (see page 115) and grated cheese. You can assemble them ahead of time and freeze them for future use. To serve, thaw them in the refrigerator, then heat in a conventional oven or the microwave.
Homemade Corn Tortillas
Corn and flour tortillas (see page 6) are a staple in our home. They are eaten with every meal and used in many different recipes. The tortilla is to San Antonio as the bagel is to New York. It is the third utensil: the knife, the fork, and the tortilla!
Serve these with butter, and use them to mop up the flavorful sauces on your plate.
Makes eight 4-inch tortillas
2 cups corn masa mix (see Note)
11/2 cups warm water
1. Combine the masa mix and warm water in a medium bowl, mixing until a soft dough forms. You can use a wooden spoon for mixing, but you will have better results if you use your hands. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until it is smooth.
If the dough seems dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, as necessary.
2. To form the tortillas, one at a time, pinch off small handfuls (about 3 tablespoons) of the dough and roll each one between the palms of your hands into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a damp cloth as you form them, to keep them from drying out.
3. Cut a quart-size resealable plastic bag open down both sides, to form a rectangle. Use the bag to line a tortilla press as you shape the tortillas, so they do not stick: Lay one side of the plastic over the bottom of the press, place a ball of dough in the center, and fold the other side of the plastic over the dough. Shut the top of the tortilla press firmly down on the dough to shape the tortilla. (See Note.)
4. Heat a griddle until hot. Place a tortilla on the griddle and cook for 11/2 minutes. Using a spatula, flip it over and continue to cook, flipping it occasionally, until both sides are covered with small brown spots. Transfer to a plate and cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm while you cook the remaining tortillas, stacking the finished tortillas on the plate. Serve immediately.
Note: If you can’t get your hands on a tortilla press, a clean countertop will do. You will still need the plastic so that the dough does not stick to the counter. Place a dough ball on one side of the plastic, cover with the other side, and use a heavy skillet to press out the tortilla. Masa mix can be found at Latin markets and some larger supermarkets.
Homemade Flour Tortillas
Making tortillas from scratch can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a little frustrating. My eleven-year-old son, Jordan, rolls his tortillas out into perfect circles, but mine end up looking like the state of Texas! Don’t give up if they don’t come out right on the first try. Once you get the hang of them, everyone will be asking for more. These will keep, well wrapped, for up to 1 week in the refrigerator and up to 2 months in the freezer.
Makes sixteen 6-inch tortillas
21/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup hot water, or as necessary
1. Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the shortening and hot water, mixing until a soft dough forms.
2. Divide the dough into 16 pieces and shape each into a ball (these are called testales). On a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out each ball to a 6-inch circle.
3. Heat a griddle until hot. Place a tortilla on the griddle and cook until the bottom is lightly browned in spots, 1 to 2 minutes; the tortilla will puff up. Turn and cook until lightly browned in spots on the second side. Place in a towel-lined basket and cover with the towel to keep warm while you cook the remaining tortillas. Serve immediately.
Variation: For extra flavor and crunch, add 1 cup finely chopped pecans to the dough, mixing thoroughly.
Los Barrios Salsa
This salsa is great with Tortilla Chips (see page 12). The only problem is that it quickly becomes habit-forming—you just can’t stop eating it. We serve a bowl of this salsa and a basket of warm tortilla chips to every table in our restaurant, and people always ask for more. I have even seen customers eating it with a spoon, like soup. It goes with everything, from breakfast to dinner, and it accompanies every meal at Los Barrios. It will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Makes 4 cups
One 16-ounce can whole tomatoes
One 4-ounce can jalapeño chiles
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Combine the tomatoes, chiles, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend to a chunky puree; do not blend until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Variation: You can make this hotter by increasing the amount of chiles. Stir this salsa into individual servings of soup, or use it to top Shrimp Quesadillas (see page 136) or as an accompaniment to fajitas.
Make-Me-Crazy Grill Marinade
This is a great marinade for chicken fajitas, fish, or shrimp. I seal everything in a Ziploc bag, place it in the refrigerator, and marinate for 2 to 4 hours, to ensure that the flavor soaks in. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes to 1 hour before grilling.
Makes 11/2 cups
1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup orange juice
11/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Los Barrios Salsa (see page 7) or your favorite store-bought brand
2 tablespoons olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend well.