Move over Taco Tuesday, it’s Enchilada Everyday. In The Enchilada Queen Cookbook, Sylvia Casares, owner of Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen in Texas and dubbed “The Queen of Tex-Mex Cuisine” by Texas magazine, introduces home cooks to traditional techniques and offers recipes for dishes with fresh ingredients infused with bold flavor.

The cookbook blends food history, interesting stories about Sylvia’s life, and hearty recipes. Sylvia takes the mystery out of Tex-Mex cooking as she shares the treasured recipes from her grandmother and mother’s kitchens for entrees, appetizers, sides, breakfast, soups and stews, beverages, desserts, and more. Sylvia defines Tex Mex as the “original fusion food” in the U.S.

“Since research indicates Tex-Mex is the one of the oldest regional cuisines in the U.S., I believe the classic flavors introduced by European immigrants settling in Tejas in the mid 1800s paired with the flavorful recipes by native Tejanos, created an appealing, humble, and homey food that people quickly learned to love,” she explains. “These ingredients include cheddar cheese dishes, ground beef, beef fajitas, flour tortillas, frozen margaritas, chile gravy, spicy salsa, fried and crispy corn tortilla chips, or tacos. On top of being tasty and affordable for families, Tex Mex is almost always typically served in a casual, fun family-style restaurant, which create wonderful memories for family and friends.”

The Enchilada Queen Cookbook includes the popular dishes served at Sylvia’s restaurant plus personal recipes. “Most of these recipes are what I refer to as traditional and/or classic recipes served in our homes in south Texas or at my restaurants,” she says. The book features entrees such as Pork or Chicken Tamales, Grilled South Texas Ranch Quail, Mesquite Grilled Shrimp, Stuffed Poblano Peppers, Tortilla Soup, and the well-known Huevos Rancheros. In addition, classic side dishes include Pan Fried Corn with Cilantro, Refried Beans, Green Rice, and Fresh Chopped Cactus Leaves Salad. End your meal on a sweet note with Chocolate Tres Leches Cake, Pumpkin Empanadas, or Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream. Quench your thirst with Abundio’s Prized Sangria, Mexican Hot Chocolate, or the Perfect Margarita.  

 Full-color photos bring the recipes to life and the book is full of Sylvia’s flavor tricks, engaging geography lessons, equipment information, food definitions, and even tutorials on making handmade tortillas. The book is informative and entertaining. “I highly recommend to just carefully follow the recipes, being certain to measure accurately, and to follow the process without taking shortcuts or making ingredient substitutions,” says Casares. To help cooks new to Mexican cooking, the book includes a list of resources for locations that sell Mexican ingredients.

In the book, Casares shares facts about her life and reveals some cooking secrets, such as her Holy Trinity spice paste (hint: it’s garlic, cumin, and black pepper), 14 key sauces, and her marinating technique that flavors and softens corn tortillas.    

Sylvia has been teaching cooking classes in her restaurant for 11 years. “My students and many customers kept asking me when I planned to write a cookbook and share my knowledge with others. I finally set a goal to do it! I am thrilled to share this knowledge with those who aspire to create these flavors in their homes.”

White Cheese Enchiladas with Salsa Guajillo
(Recipe courtesy of Sylvia Casares, The Enchilada Queen Cookbook; Makes 12 enchiladas)

Morelia, deep in the center of the country, is a typical small Mexican town and this is a very classic, very rustic enchilada sauced with a deep, red sauce made from guajillo chiles. The combination is a favorite all over Mexico, New Mexico, and the Texas border region. My mother used to call these “Mexican enchiladas.”

This recipe uses traditional white Mexican cheese, queso fresco, which literally means “fresh cheese.” Mild and milky in flavor, it is a great complement to the smoky dried chile sauce. The characteristic salty-sour kick, similar to very mild goat cheese or feta, is a favorite in Mexico and along the Rio Grande. Because it is low in fat, queso fresco does not melt.

2 cups shredded queso fresco
1 white onion, diced
12 spiced and softened corn tortillas (page 54)
3 cups Salsa Roja (page 29), warm
2 cups thinly shredded Romaine lettuce
6 to 7 radishes, thinly sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray a 9×11-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine 1½ cups of the cheese and the white onion. Place about 2 tablespoons of the mixture in the center of a tortilla. Roll and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat until all the tortillas are filled, arranging them in the baking dish with ⅛ inch in between.

Pour ¼ cup sauce over each enchilada. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until bubbly. (Queso fresco will not melt because it is very low in fat.) Garnish with the remaining ½ cup cheese, the lettuce, radishes, and red onion. Serve immediately.