"I'm going to need a box!"
Although no two Tex-Mex restaurants are exactly the same, there are certain qualities that we’ve all come to expect from this style of cooking. For example, regardless of what entrée you order, it will probably be topped with large amounts of yellow cheese. Fajitas will nearly always be served sizzling hot. And at any Tex-Mex restaurant worth its (margarita) salt, the portion sizes will be generous.
If you often find yourself having to request a box for your remaining food at the end of the meal, you’re definitely not alone. But while leftovers can be a delightful way to enjoy restaurant-quality food the day after you eat out, a lot of us find it tricky to reheat Tex-Mex leftovers without reducing the food to a greasy, chewy mess.
Now, obviously, Mattito’s fare is meant to be eaten and enjoyed fresh. But if you’re constantly being befuddled by your leftovers, here are some tips for getting the upper hand:
First things first: you must understand that some things will reheat better than others. It’s a (sad) fact of life. Fried entrées often get limp or oily, cream-based sauces nearly always break, and certain vegetables take on a decidedly unappetizing texture (or flavor). More often than not, these foods are still safe to eat…but at a certain point, you start to wonder, “Why bother?”
In light of this information, if your first thought when a plate gets put down in front of you is, “There’s no way I’m going to be able to finish all of this,” then act accordingly. Focus on filling your belly with the stuff that won’t be the same reheated, and save the more resilient morsels for later. Your beef or chicken flautas may lose some of their appeal after a spin the microwave, but your rice and beans will probably still be in fine shape!
That’s not to say that you should only order an entrée if you think you can finish it all in one sitting, or you should abandon what remains of your meal to avoid having to deal with leftovers entirely. After all, holding yourself to such rigid standards while eating is not in the spirit of Tex-Mex dining! We just think that if you can save yourself some trouble later with a little forethought, then there’s no reason not to.
Microwave with Care
Microwaves are convenient, so much so that many of us can’t imagine navigating our daily lives without one. Edibles that would take nearly an hour to heat in an oven can usually be “nuked” in minutes, making them valuable time-savers. Still, there’s a reason that most frozen / heat-and-eat entrées list oven-cooking or deep-frying as their “preferred” cooking method. We’re not really here to get into the science of microwave cooking, but most folks have had a least one bad experience with a microwave heating their food unevenly, ruining a food’s texture, or super-heating a plate to the point where the food got scorched or “splattered” everywhere!
Whenever possible, try to avoid microwaving your Tex-Mex leftovers. Baking the food in a preheated oven will nearly always yield much better results, as will a quick session in a toaster oven or a few minutes on the stove in a skillet (fajita meat lends itself particular well to that last option!). If you’re concerned about the tortillas on your enchiladas getting too dry, try wrapping the dish in foil before placing it in the oven.
If you can’t avoid microwaving your leftovers (or just really, really want to eat them for lunch at work instead of for dinner at home), our best advice is to heat the food slowly and gently. Instead of simply nuking your lunch in the microwave for two minutes straight, heat it for 30 to 40 seconds, give the food a good stir, and—if it still feels cold—put it back in for another 30 to 40 seconds. Repeat as necessary. Also, consider draping the food with a damp (not dripping) paper towel before heating, as this will help prevent any meat in the dish from drying out.
There’s no law on the books saying that leftovers must be eaten in the same style or format as the original entrée, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box! One popular “use” for Tex-Mex leftovers—especially burritos—is ingredients for breakfast scrambles. Just plop whatever you have in a pan and add a beaten egg or two. Once the whole thing is hot and bubbly, top it with sour cream, cheese, and/or salsa. You’ve now got yourself an amazing way to start the day! A similar technique can be used to make nachos; simply skip the eggs and add tortilla chips.
Speaking of tortillas, never underestimate the power of these corn- or flour-based snack wraps! If you have any leftover tortillas from the night before (or have some in your fridge or pantry), you can roll up practically any Tex-Mex fare inside of them to create quick, portable goodies.
Eating leftovers is a great way to save money, but it’s only worth it if you can enjoy what you’re putting in your mouth. And while it’s true that most foods lose some of their quality once they’ve been chilled and reheated, there’s no reason that you can’t turn your leftovers into a great meal. With a bit of forethought, wisdom, and creativity, you’ll create an entrée that you’ll be able to enjoy as much as your favorite fresh Mattito’s morsels.