When you talk to Vianney Rodriguez about cooking Tex-Mex food in the slow cooker, you understand why she was the right person to write the book on it. For her, there's a Tex-Mex recipe that works as a delicious answer to all your eating conundrums — what to make for family gatherings, for dinner when you don't feel like standing over a pot, and for those South Texas days when "it's 100 degrees in the shade" and just too hot to turn on the oven.
New Tool, Same Pot of Beans
Every Monday, Vianney makes a big batch of frijoles de la olla, just like her mami did — except for Vianney, the pinto beans, onions, garlic, and bay leaves go into a slow cooker and simmer away for hours. Her kids grew up knowing the same smell of the beans wafting through the kitchen, and will eat them refried or as a side of charro beans — a dish Vianney makes using frijoles de la olla as the base, adding bacon, sausage, and a mix of onions, tomatoes, and garlic to the beans to give them a fresh and savory punch of flavor.
Essential Tex-Mex Recipes to Make in the Slow Cooker
The slow cooker is a tool in Vianney's kitchen and she reaches for it to make the workhorse pot of beans at the beginning of the week and the base for a few cocktails at the end of it. (When's the last time you made a red wine peach spritzer with the help of your slow cooker?) But in between the basics of beans and the clever takes on drinks, Vianney uses the slow cooker to make the everyday Tex-Mex classics she ate growing up in South Texas.
- Fajitas: There are classic margarita fajitas. They get a healthy cup of tequila along with orange and lime juice to create a whole mess of juicy, tender flank steak. This recipe makes three pounds of meat so it's either destined for a party (bookmark this one for the Super Bowl) or the freezer for the ultimate emergency meal.
- Brisket: In the same realm of meaty masterpieces, there's a beer-braised brisket — this is Texas we're talking about, after all. Modelo is Vianney's beer of choice for this recipe and, when coupled with the gentle, steady heat of the slow cooker, a five-pound brisket is transformed into something that's tender enough for shredding and slicing. If you're going to make a meal of this, now is a good time to reheat those charro beans you made on Monday.
- Rice: If you want a side that's even more dynamic, look no further than elote rice. Vianney takes the hallmark ingredients of the popular Mexican street food of corn on the cob slathered in crema, queso fresco, chiles, and lime, and incorporates them into a pot of fluffy rice for a dish with the same vibrant flavors. The whole thing comes together in the slow cooker, which means you can make enough to feed a hungry table.
- Migas: For a hungry breakfast table, the slow cooker churns out a migas casserole. Vianney makes her own tortilla chips for this recipe, but if you're not up for the task of frying look for freshly made, thick-cut tortilla chips at your local Mexican grocery store. This dish delivers on the cheesy, gooey promise of a breakfast egg casserole, so do like Vianney and make a pot of coffee, invite over a few friends, and turn this slow cooker breakfast into the reason for a lazy Sunday brunch.
The Tex-Mex Slow Cooker Cookbook
Every recipe in The Tex-Mex Slow Cooker draws on Vianney's Mexican heritage and her Tejano culture. The slow cooker is her contribution to the story — taking this tool of modern-day kitchens and using it as a way to cook the foods she wants to make for her family in a way that works best for her. It has encouraged a creativity that led to reimagined dishes like slow cooker elote rice and streamlined ways to make a big mess of brisket and fajitas.
Tex-Mex cuisine exists as a blend — it can take on the influences of many traditions while remaining distinctly itself. And because Vianney grew up surrounded by both the "Tex" and "Mex" elements of Tex-Mex cuisine, she's a natural expert on its most admirable quality: a hospitality towards thoughtful interpretation. "Tex-Mex cuisine is a blend of two incredible food cultures I love," says Vianney. Now she's living out that love with the help of the slow cooker.
Meet Vianney Rodriguez
Vianney Rodriguez is the author of The Tex-Mex Slow Cooker: 100 Delicious Recipes for Easy Everyday Meals (Countryman Press, $19) and the founder of Sweet Life Bakes, a blog dedicated to the delicious food cultures of South Texas.
We fell in love with Vianney's recipes — and style — and wanted to carry that spirit into this story, so if you've got a big crush on the oilcloths in this story, you can find them here.