Fajitas for Friends
When I moved to Texas in 1975 I was introduced to lots of wonderful foods I'd never had before that have since become common all over the US. Fajitas, corn tortillas, Spanish rice, Charro beans, and Guacamole are now favorites of everyone! Tex-Mex comfort food at its best. So what better menu for long-time friends. I chose Redwing dinnerware in the Chuckwagon Round-up pattern made in the 1950's.
For a base cloth I used a brown cashmere throw with a fringed edge, a color and style that seemed to fit the cowboy theme. On top of that was a vintage cloth in browns and light green with gray-blue flowers, all colors in the Redwing.
The 7" plate I used for our guacamole and semi-homemade chips has a cowboy by the campfire while the 10" dinner plate has three cowboys wrestling a bull.
Additional pieces included a cereal bowl that I used for the soupy "Beans a la Charra" and a rather odd Bakelite-era spoon with a gray handle. It doesn't quite look or feel like Bakelite but I can tell by the joint between the handle and metal part that it is the same time period.
For napkins I used new brown linen hem-stitched with vintage silver and turquoise baby bracelets as rings. These are fairly common at antiques malls and fairs and of course less expensive than adult-size. I get a lot of the jewelry I use on the table from Lewann Sowersby, one of the Missouri Gals who sell out of the Blacksmith Shop in Warrenton.
I used antique wood-handled flatware in mix and match designs. The metal parts are steel, not stainless, so they will rust and even when clean, the metal parts will have dark spots.
Water glasses are new etched glass and the blown glass wines were new when I bought them but by now could be called vintage. They have a kind of leopard print bowl and blue-green stems and bases. A bunch of grocery store sunflowers was our centerpiece in a new footed glass apothecary jar without the lid. When choosing a centerpiece, either make it short or quite tall so it doesn't interfere with anyone's view of another guest.
I used two sets of salt & pepper shakers. A vintage set of bulls and a newer set of flowering cactus.
For our flan dessert I used Jadite restaurantware plates and the Redwing cup and saucer. If you're in the process of collecting a dinnerware set and don't have all the pieces you need for a meal, mix and match! Solid sets like a plain white china, LuRay pastels, Jadite green, and bright Fiesta or Vistosa all come in handy for this purpose.
Recipe for Beans a la Charra
6 strips of bacon, cut into 1/4" pcs
2 large onions, diced (keep each separate to add at different times)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4" dice
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound dried pinto beans
3 Tbsp EVOO
5 fresh Roma tomatoes, diced
4 fresh jalapenos
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Saute bacon in a soup pot or dutch oven until almost crisp. Add 1 onion and carrots and saute on med-low heat untill soft but not browned, apx 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute or two.
Add beans* and enough water to come 3" above them. Simmer, covered, until soft, apx. 2 1/2 hours. Only stir once or twice during cooking time. Check and add hot water if needed - you want the beans to turn out soupy.
Meanwhile, saute second onion and tomatoes in EVOO until they have extruded all their juices. Add to beans at the end of the cooking time with 1 Tbsp salt or to taste. Add jalapenos whole. (If you like heat, dice one or two of them.) Simmer an additional 30 mins. Remove whole jalapenos and stir in cilantro just before serving.
*I never bother to soak beans but it will cut down on cooking time.
Recipe for "Semi-homemade" Chips
Stack corn tortillas* and cut into 8 wedges or into 1" wide strips. Fry a few at a time in 325 degree oil until bubbling stops. Don't let oil get too hot or chips will get brown before they get crisp. Salt immediately upon removing from oil. Two whole tortillas per person should be enough for a first course guacamole salad.
*Don't use the thick "homemade" kind.