More Mexican Cookery for American Homes

Don’t worry, parts 2 and 3 of “Oh, Mapleine!” are coming soon. But I found a couple more things that I thought would be of interest, and didn’t want to wait to post them.

Last year I posted about the cookbook Mexican Cookery for American Homes (1936 edition), and later tried a recipe from the book for “Enchiladas, Mexican Style” that turned out to be excellent.

Flickr user Eudaemonius has posted a complete version of the 1932 edition of the same cookbook. It is much more colorful and flamboyant in design than the 1936 copy I have—mine, perhaps, reflects a bit more Depression-era austerity. It doesn’t include the bilingual titles that the later edition contained. The 1932 copy also does not contain all of the recipes. It may be shorter (I can’t find mine to double-check at the moment), but it definitely doesn’t include the stacked enchiladas I made from the other book. It does have recipes such as “Mexican Rarebit,” “Chili and Rice Cones,” and “Mexican Chop Suey.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Here you go!


  • 4 T. butter
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 3 pieces celery, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 lb. hamburger
  • 1 No. 1 can tomato puree
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 No. 2 can Gebhardt's Spaghetti

Cook onions, celery and green pepper in butter until tender; add hamburger and continue cooking until partially done.

Add tomato puree, salt and simmer until meat is tender.

Turn into a greased casserole, cover with contents of No. 2 can Gebhardt's Spaghetti and Chili and bake in moderate oven 20 min.

Mexican? Probably not so much. But it reminds me of some of the casseroles my mom cooked in the 1970s.

One other site I wanted to point you to is La Cocina Historica, a project of the University of Texas at San Antonio Special Collections Department. The blog features recipes from the university’s Mexican Cookbook Collection. They have more than 900 Mexican, Texan, and Southwestern cookbooks in Spanish and English, dating from 1789-2010. The collection includes printed cookbooks and also handwritten manuscripts. The bloggers (multiple people contribute to the site) try out the recipes and describe how they turned out.

I think “Huevos al Estilo Español” (1908) sounds lovely, but that’s probably because it’s pretty close to my breakfast burrito recipe already. I’d just mix up that filling and wrap it in tortillas.

(Editorial note: This post was changed slightly on May 17, 2011 to include new recipe formatting to be compatible with Google’s Recipe View system.)

The Huevos con Queso experiment

Such a terrible blogger I am. In May, I ended my last post with “We had some leftover chili sauce and onions, and used that to resurrect another recipe on the next day. Stay tuned for a post about that one.” And you are still waiting. I apologize.

I didn’t waste all the time in the meantime, though. I spent part of it doing two more Master’s thesis drafts as well as a couple of research projects (one food-related, yes indeed). The thesis is now done (done! really!), so I hope I can get back to the business of recipe resurrecting.

I’ll start with a brief one I promised back in May. The last recipe I posted about was “Enchiladas, Mexican Style” from Gebhardt’s 1936 cookbook, Mexican Cookery for American Homes. This book, however, was not Gebhardt’s first cookbook for the American kitchen—that would be Mexican Cooking, published in about 1908. (Unfortunately, Google Books doesn’t have it freely available online even though it is in the public domain. It has been reprinted, though, and you can buy it here.)

This book is probably the first ever Mexican-American cookbook, and includes recipes such as “Tostadas de Queso—Cheese Toast (A Sunday-Night Supper)” and “Quesadilla Mexicana—Mexican Rarebit,” all featuring Gebhardt’s Eagle Chili Powder. It also has Enchiladas, but they are different from the flat stacked enchiladas in the 1937 cookbook. They are rolled, include homemade tortillas (called only “thin cakes” in this recipe, not tortillas), and it is suggested that “sardines cut into fine pieces are sometimes added.”

In the introduction, “To the American Housekeeper,” the book promises that:

“…We have spared neither labor nor expense in our efforts to give dishes that are pleasing, novel, and easily prepared.

While of the most simple nature, these recipes are those used by some of the most famous chefs of Old Mexico, and a careful reading of the following pages will enable you to surprise and please your friends and family with dishes that have graced the table of President Diaz and have made Mexican cooks as famous as those of France.”

Well, then. Let’s try some presidential cuisine. Page 31 features this recipe:

Huevos Con Queso—Eggs with Cheese

To six eggs use three tablespoonsful of grated mild cheese, one large tablespoonful of butter, one teaspoonful of onion juice or a small chopped onion; one half-teaspoonful of Gebhardt’s Eagle Chili Powder and salt to taste. Mix the cheese, butter, onion, chili powder and salt in a hot pan and stir until cheese is melted. Break the eggs into a bowl, adding the cheese and cook slowly, stirring until done, and then stir in chopped parsley and serve hot.

This is pretty straightforward despite being 102 years old. We had almost every ingredient available either from leftovers from the previous night’s enchilada experiment (such as the onions, cheese, chili powder, etc.) or because we had it on hand anyway (the eggs). The only ingredient we didn’t have was the chopped parsley, and I decided I could easily live without it.

Following the directions, I mixed the cheese, butter, leftover onion, Penzey’s chili powder, and salt in the pan. I beat the eggs and then stirred them into the cheese mixture. (I think the recipe may be missing a word when it says “Break the eggs into a bowl, adding the cheese and cook slowly.” Perhaps “adding to the cheese” is what was meant. But that part could certainly be phrased more clearly.)

More vintage cookin': Huevos con Queso

The recipe just says “serve hot.” When looking at modern versions, though, I saw that the dish is often served on tortilla strips. I cheated and used tortilla chips I had on hand. I piled huevos on the chips, then put a dollop of chili sauce (made for the previous night’s enchiladas) and a smaller dollop of sour cream on the top, and a tiny sprinkle of grated cheese. I ate it with a side of beans and spicy sauce.


It was good. It was not as spicy as I would have liked it, so if I make it again, I may experiment with more spice. Considering that the recipe is from 1908 and was written for an audience that may not have been as comfortable with hot and spicy foods as we are, I’m not surprised that it was a little mild. It was still tasty and I would certainly cook it again.

It was not, however, as good as the enchiladas from the previous night, which were tremendous.

More vintage cookin': Huevos con Queso
Yum. Looks pretty tasty, hmm?

The Enchiladas, Mexican Style experiment

When flipping through Mexican Cookery for American Homes (1936) last week looking for a recipe to try that we would also be willing to eat for dinner, I saw a recipe for Enchiladas, Mexican Style. “Sounds good,” said Jason. “Make that.”

Here is the recipe as it is in the book:

ENCHILADAS, Mexican Style

18 tortillas 1 c. grated cheese
1/2 c. fat 1 c. chopped onion
Chili Sauce (recipe p. 36) 6 eggs, fried
Salt to taste

If tortillas are cold, heat in hot fat until they are softened and are golden brown in color. In a saucepan, heat the chili sauce. Dip the hot tortillas in the hot chili sauce and remove to plate; sprinkle each with cheese and finely chopped onion. Serve in stacks of three, topped with a fried egg and two or three tablespoons of Chili Sauce.

Wait, what? Stacked, flat enchiladas? I had never heard of such a thing. When I’ve made enchiladas before, they have always been filled, rolled, and baked in chili sauce. (Yum, I might add.) This odd “flat enchilada” piqued my interest.

As it turns out, is not exactly a resurrected recipe—flat enchiladas are still commonly made in New Mexico, Sonora, and a few other places. In New Mexico, it’s considered a local specialty. Up here in the Seattle area, though, enchiladas are usually rolled, at least in the restaurants I’ve visited.

Barry Popik’s website, The Big Apple, discusses the history of the flat or stacked enchilada, giving several recipes including a recent one by Bobby Flay that is fairly similar to our 1936 recipe, and one dating back to 1950.

The flat enchilada can be found earlier than 1950, however. Here it is in “A New Mexico Supper,” American Cookery, October, 1921:

Las Enchiladas, for instance, are unlike anything else under the sun. You may follow, if you like, the fascinating process of concoction of this piece de resistance of your meal. The senora is frying tortillas, the corn pancake which is the foundation of the enchilada.

“From a snowy mass of corn meal dough she pinches a ball which she spins and pats between her plump hands into a thin wafer about six inches in diameter. She browns this on top of the stove, rotating and turning it with her moistened palm. When three tortillas have been beautifully browned they are next dropped into a kettle of boiling fat where they bubble and turn until the real building process begins.

“First a tortilla in the center of a plate. Then a flood of rich red chile sauce from a near-by kettle, a layer of grated cheese, another tortilla, more chile and more cheese sprinkled between in layer-cake fashion, and the whole topped with a high crown of chopped onions in which nestles an egg, which has been broken for a minute into the hot lard. An artistic and cooling garnish of lettuce—and behold an enchilada!”

The flat “Mexican Style” enchilada recipe in Mexican Cookery for American Homes is on the same page as a recipe labeled “American Style.” The “American” version is the rolled style: tortillas stuffed with hot chili from a can and then covered with chili as well, then sprinkled with grated cheese and placed in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.

The “Mexican Style” sounds much more appealing, so I went with that. The first step was to turn to the Chili Sauce recipe on page 36.

(Chili Sauce)

2 T. butter 2 T. flour
1 onion, chopped 1/2 t. salt
1 green pepper, chopped 1 T. Gebhardt’s Chili Powder
1 clove of garlic, minced 1 c. tomatoes
1 c. meat stock or water

Cook onion, green pepper and garlic in the butter until soft; add flour, salt and Gebhardt’s Chili Powder and stir until smooth. Add tomatoes and meat stock or water. Cook until thickened and smooth. Strain if desired.

Cooking enchiladas from a 1936 recipe

This is reasonably straightforward. The only changes I made to the recipe were using chili powder from Penzeys (their Medium Hot) instead of Gebhardt’s, and using vegetable stock instead of beef stock or water. I made the full recipe.

Chile sauce

The chili sauce ready to go, it was time to make the enchiladas. I was only making one stack because Jason is currently not eating tortillas — he was going to use the chili sauce to make himself some huevos rancheros instead. The original recipe serves six, so I reduced the quantities as appropriate.

I heated up olive oil in a pan, and when it was hot, dipped each tortilla in the oil for about 5 seconds on each side, then dipped it in the sauce, then laid it out on the plate. The one problem I tended to have here was that I couldn’t stack neatly, since the tortillas kept wanting to fold in on themselves while I was trying to get them on the plate.

Neatly or not, I got each tortilla, now coated in saucy goodness, onto the plate, where Jason sprinkled cheese and onions on top of each layer.

Enchiladas from a 1936 recipe

I quickly fried an egg sunny-side up, and placed it on top of the stack, then sprinkled on some more cheese, onions, and a few spoonfuls of chili sauce, and a dab of sour cream. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a good photo of the finished eggy version.)


This was excellent. I don’t think it is necessarily the healthiest thing I’ve ever cooked, what with the quick-fried tortillas and the egg and the cheese, but darned if it wasn’t one of the tastiest. I would cook and eat this again any time.

The chili sauce had a lot to do with the success of this recipe. I did let it thicken and reduce just a bit more than I should have, I think, but it was delicious. I chose not to strain it, so it was a bit chunky, but that wasn’t a problem at all. It wasn’t outrageously hot chili sauce, but it wasn’t exactly tame, either — you would take a taste and think “this isn’t hot at all, just flavorful,” and then a minute later the burn would hit you. And it was a good burn, not the kind of macho “more pain than flavor” burn you get from a lot of spicy foods these days. Of course, it might just be that the chili powder we used is really tasty.

We both felt that the sauce needed a bit of salt, but that wasn’t a big deal. Some of the information I found online about Gebhardt’s chili powder indicated that it might be as much as 40% salt, which would explain why our version that didn’t use Gebhardt’s needed some salt — the Penzeys powder we used contains only Ancho chili pepper, red pepper, cumin, garlic and oregano, but not any salt.

I can’t speak for authenticity or whether this really is “Mexican Style.” What I do know is that it’s pretty good, and I think I’ll introduce it to a few Seattle friends who may never have enjoyed a stacked enchilada before.

We had some leftover chili sauce and onions, and used that to resurrect another recipe on the next day. Stay tuned for a post about that one.

Mexican Cookery for American Homes

Last week I acquired a copy of a small cookbook, Mexican Cookery for American Homes, published in 1936 by the Gebhardt Chili Powder Company of San Antonio, Texas. This was an updated version of a 1923 cookbook also published by Gebhardt. (In 1908, Gebhardt published another book called Mexican Cooking; there’s a reprint now available.)

In the early 20th century, Mexican food has become a staple of the American diet, though it’s been Americanized to some extent. It’s no longer exotic in any way. We all know enchiladas, tacos, and tamales. In 1936, however, Mexican food could still be a bit more of an unusual treat unless you lived in areas such as the Southwest U.S.. The cookbook’s foreword alludes to this when it says “Mexican foods are as interesting and appetizing as they are exotic” and stresses that “Americanized recipes are also included.”

Indeed they are. Along with the enchiladas and tacos, the book includes Sopa a la Creole (Creole Gumbo), Torta de Carne Enchilada (Chili Meat Loaf), Rarebit a la Mexicana (three versions of Mexican Rarebit — basically, Welsh Rabbit with with such additions as chili powder, corn, and Gebhardt’s Deviled Sandwich Spread), Huevos Endiablados en Aspic (Deviled Eggs in Aspic) and Chili Scrapple.

My favorite recipe, for its sheer silliness, is the recipe for Gebhardt’s Chili con Carne:

(Gebhardt’s Chili with Meat)

No. 2 can Gebhardt’s Chili con Carne

Place the can of Gebhardt’s Chili con Carne, either plain or with beans, in a saucepan and cover with hot water. Allow to boil gently for 20 minutes. Turn into hot bowls and serve at once.

Yes, you read that correctly. This recipe is telling you to heat up a can of chili. If that’s not enough, it’s telling you to boil it unopened. That’s not something we see much in modern cookbooks, is it? (Though I admit to making dulce de leche that way once or twice — you boil a can of sweetened condensed milk for 3 hours. Problem is, if the pan runs dry, your can explodes.)

Many of the other recipes are a bit more complex and don’t require products out of a Gebhardt can, though most of them do require Gebhardt chili powder, which makes sense since that was the company’s flagship product. This week, I made Enchiladas, Mexican Style and Salsa de Chili from this cookbook. I’ll report how those recipes turned out in my next post. In the meantime, however, you might enjoy Gebhardt’s recipe for tacos.


Place slices of cooked meat of chicken on a tortilla, spread with pickle relish and fold over, fastening each tacos with two toothpicks so as to hold together. Fry in deep hot fat (390 F.) or toast on a hot griddle, until throughly (sic.) heated and a golden brown in color.

Have ready a salad of shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes dressed with Gebhardt’s Salad Dressing (page 39). Top each hot tacos with the salad and serve at once.

Note: Tacos is the Mexican’s Sandwich. It is generally thought of as made of roast meat of chicken, either sliced or minced but cheese and sweet fillings are rapidly gaining in popularity. The Mexican enjoys his Tacos and Hot Chocolate as does the American his Doughnuts and Coffee.

An interesting thing about the Gebhardt recipe is how the text uses the word “tacos” — it uses it as a singular noun: “Top each hot tacos with the salad.” Other old cookbooks and magazines from before this time don’t do this. For example, Table Talk, “The American Authority upon Culinary Topics and Fashions of the Table,” discussed Mexican cooking in October, 1913 in the article “Mexican Kitchens and Cooks,” and said: “A taco is the Mexican sandwich; it is a tortilla in which are rolled meat, frijoles, salsa, or nata (curd of boiled milk).”

As a bonus, here’s one more early 20th century recipe for tacos, this one from the Castelar Créche Cook Book, published in Los Angeles in 1922:


Put the tortillas in boiling lard and put in tomatoes mashed with onion and bits of garlic, cheese, cooked pork meat, alligator pear, salt and strips of peeled chiles. Roll and cover with a clean tortilla, hold together with toothpick and fry in very little lard, in fact, just enough not to burn. To eat, take off the first tortilla.—Carlota L. Algara.

Next post — The Enchiladas, Mexican Style experiment. Stay tuned.

Mexican Cookery for American Homes