Texas cooking is a pastiche of Deep South favorites and Mexican flavors, all tempered with a substantial amount of beef. Though American favorites such as sausage, eggs, and pancakes (usually buttermilk) are standard breakfast fare, huevos rancheros—eggs poached in a mild, red tomato-onion sauce and served with corn tortillas, refried beans, and fried potatoes—are a weekend favorite. Busy commuters rely on picking up breakfast tacos on the way to work. These consist of anything from simple scrambled egg in a white flour tortilla to elaborate concoctions including beans, sausage, salsa, and cheese.
Later in the day, popular Texas appetizers include salsa (either red or green) and corn chips. Though it's possible to find fiery, complex Mexican salsas, many Texans prefer a strongly tomato-onion based sauce seasoned with modest amounts of cumin, coriander, and chiles. Cheese dips are also popular. Chile con queso is white cheese melted with sautéed onion, garlic, and sautéed or roasted chiles. Queso flameado often includes spicy sausage and tomato, and the cheese is melted by adding alcohol and igniting it rather than simply melting it on the stovetop. Both are served with chips, as is guacamole or avocado dip, which is sometimes substantially diluted with sour cream. Stuffed jalapeños are another popular starter or snack. They're normally stuffed with cheese, battered, and deep-fried. Tortilla soup is chicken soup with coriander and lime, with strips of corn tortilla or crushed corn chips in place of the noodles. Chiles are usually added according to taste.
Though fried chicken and fried catfish are both certainly popular, chicken-fried steak is a regular meal in Texas homes and diners. The steak is pounded thin, coated with a milk-egg batter, and deep-fried. It's usually served with milk gravy and mashed potatoes. Smothered steak topped with a mix of onion, celery, peppers, and tomato is a Southern-leaning favorite also often served with mashed potatoes.
Barbecue is extremely common. Pork is certainly an option, but beef brisket is the barbecue of choice in Texas. Sugar-spice rubs tend to use cumin, coriander, and some smoky or spicy peppers. Brisket is generally slowly smoked and then sliced for serving. Fajitas, especially steak fajitas, are extremely popular. Skirt steak is marinated in mild Mexican seasonings, grilled with strips of peppers and onions, sliced against the grain and eaten with tortillas. Enchiladas—corn tortillas wrapped around cheese, chicken or beef, topped with red or green sauce, and baked—are a common Mexican favorite. Pork is more commonly simmered into spicy Mexican-style stews with an assortment of peppers. Along the coast, seafood is also popular. Crabs, for example, may be coated with Cajun spices and fried whole.
Pinto beans are an almost ubiquitous side. Alongside barbecue, they're usually mildly seasoned, simmered with a bit of smoked pork, and served whole. With Mexican food, more cumin and chilies are added. It's common for pintos to be pureed and sautéed in lard or bacon fat with onions, a side dish called refried beans. Another popular side is Texas caviar, a black-eyed pea salad with onions and peppers tossed in a garlic vinaigrette. This salad is also served as an appetizer with corn chips. Minced jalapeños, either pickled or fresh, are a common but not obligatory addition. Okra, pickled or coated in cornmeal and deep-fried, is also popular. Soul food such as collards or turnip greens cooked with vinegar and pork certainly appear, but broccoli and spinach usually get a cream-bacon-cheese treatment. Grits are sometimes served—cheese grits in particular are a favorite side at lunch or dinner.
Southern-style layer cakes (sometimes featuring more coconut, nuts, and dried fruit than cake) are popular desserts. Given the state's high temperatures, most home cooks and professional bakers prefer solid icings made of cream cheese and butter beaten with powdered sugar over traditional butter creams, which are far less stable in hot weather. Pink grapefruit is an important crop in the southern part of the state, where vanilla sheet cake with cream cheese icing is commonly topped with sections of the fruit for a barbecue dessert. Chocolate sheet cake, sometimes called 1886 cake, usually gets a fudge-like pecan topping. Pralines—caramelized sugar discs studded with local pecans—pop up everywhere in Texas. For coffee breaks, kolaches, little round jam- and cheese-filled pastries, are an extremely common Czech import. Given the state's German-Czech background, light-colored lager beer is often the drink of choice. Iced tea is also extremely popular, and is rarely pre-sweetened.
-World Trade Press