Tijuana Train Wreck

Mexican Sloppy Joes meets Nachos: Tijuana Trainwreck | BoulderLocavore.com
I would be lying if I were to say I did not squirm a bit then hitting ‘post’ due to the title of this recipe.  Knowing this recipe was conceived of in an era before fear of being sued and being ‘PC’ were guideposts for decision making makes me feel a bit better about its origin, BUT I’d like to go on record to say ‘trains are safe’ and though I’ve never visited, I’m sure Tijuana is a lovely place.
Setting aside potential tsk-tsk’s for being tasteless or insensitive, I will say when I pulled this out of the family archives it could not have screamed the 1970’s louder.  I imagine at the time it was considered ‘alternative’, even bohemian and ‘risky’ to serve at a dinner party being as free form as it is.  So much left to chance in the layering which is not firmly specified in the measurements.  Definitely a ‘do your own thing, Man’ kind of meal.
I love this time of year and the flavor profiles that define it.  However as we careen headlong into cooking marathons of predictable foods, having something free, easy (‘easy, like Sunday morning’…..) and smacking of completely untraditional holiday fare offers a nice reprieve.   I like to mix it up a bit. 
After making it I’d describe this to be a precursor to current day Nachos in a ‘Sloppy Joes meets Nachos meets the inside of a taco’ type of way.  The consistency of the sauce (the only part you cook) is closer to a thick Sloppy Joe texture with Mexican food overtones. 
Mexican Sloppy Joes meets Nachos: Tijuana Trainwreck | BoulderLocavore.com
My first question in reading the recipe?  ‘How the heck do you eat this?’  After doing so I would say both by hand and a fork.  The lower chips need a boost from a fork where those on top can be used to dig.  My mother remembers my Grandmother serving it to ‘company’.  My Grandparents were cultured, though not pretentious people.  Knowing them I’d guess the appeal was the novelty of this dish in comparison to traditional buffet-cocktail party-dinner party food of the era.
Rest assured in my vintage recipe resurrection I have not derailed my locavore sensibilities nor am I tempted to paint my kitchen Antique Gold with Burnt Orange and Avocado accents (or begin wearing Nehru collars).  I used organic, non-GMO locally made corn chips from different colors of corn.  Local meat, lettuce from my CSA farm, locally grown organic heirloom tomatoes, hormone free sour cream from a dairy coop (same with the cheese).  In the spirit of the dish, you make it how it fits for you.
You can make the sauce ahead of time.    You can make the sauce and freeze it so it is available to bail you out when meal prep time wears thin.  You can alternate turkey for the beef.  You can do anything you want (man)!
Tijuana Train Wreck

Yield: Serves 8-10

The original recipe seemed a bit pedestrian to me (sorry Nana). In consulting with my local butcher I mixed the meat equally with beef and pork instead of all beef. I also pumped up the spices. When making new dishes I always start conservatively on the addition to ‘heat’ spice. After simmering the requisite 2 ½ hours this could have been hotter for me. Always taste and feel free to add more of what makes it taste good to you!


    Ingredients for the Sauce:
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound 85% fat ground beef
  • 1 pound unseasoned ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder (I used half Ancho Chile Powder and half Mild Chimayo Chile)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2-15 ounce can tomato sauce (or equivalent volume of home canned tomato sauce)
  • 3-6 ounce cans tomato paste
  • 1-4 ounce can mild green chilies (or fresh equivalent, chopped)
  • 3 cups water
  • Layering Ingredients:
  • Corn chips (originally recipe specified ‘Doritos’)
  • Chopped lettuce and tomatoes
  • Sliced black olives
  • Grated sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese (mixed equally; use Pepper Jack if you want to spice it up)
  • Sour Cream


    Instructions for the Sauce:
  1. In a large skillet sauté onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes until translucent.
  2. Add ground beef and ground pork to skillet and brown. Drain if needed.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer over medium-low heat, uncovered for 2 ½ hours. Stir occasionally.
  4. Assembly Instructions:
  5. On plate place a layer of corn chips, covered by the sauce, chopped lettuce and tomatoes, olives, cheese and top with a dollop of sour cream.
Mexican Sloppy Joes meets Nachos: Tijuana Trainwreck | BoulderLocavore.com


  1. says

    Don't we just call those Tex-Mex nachos now? One of my favorite dishes, in fact. Yours looks more beautiful than any nacho dish I've made or ordered though. I agree about needing more heat too.

  2. says

    This looks delicious! My fiance loves sloppy joes and I love anything that has to do with Mexican food, so this sounds like a match made in heaven for us. I am definitely going to give this one a try!

  3. says

    I love the name of the dish. I know that I would look like a train wreck after eating it since I even eat tacos with a fork and knife. I know that sounds pretty weird.
    Love that you stick with using local and organic ingredients.One question. Where do you purchase your organic ground pork. I can only find preseasoned organic ground pork.
    Are you sure you don't want your kitchen repainted? I am still in the painting mode and would be more than happy to help! I am almost done here, only one more bathroom.

  4. says

    The name made me smile! I'm sure the “train riding Tijuanians” won't be offended;) Whatever you call it…it looks delicious and colorful! The photos are nicely styled! Good work you clever little food blogger you!

  5. says

    When I saw this earlier I knew I had to come and have a closer look. I like the way you've described it as bohemian. I can also imagine it's both hilarious and a pain to eat. Looks great. Also, can I just say I am loving the new cocktails being thrown around your blog. I need to get myself a spirit stash!

  6. says

    Wow, the fact that you even had to think about the PCness of the title makes me sad. I saw it and was excited, happy and curious to see what awesome dish you were going to bring to the post. To think you may have needed to rename it just to not offend someone, then where would my anticipation be? :( boo hiss to PCness! (i kid… kind of….)
    Either way! I say we tackle this dish one messy bite at time because it sounds great.

  7. says

    LOL@ your intro. This is what I need to tonight for marathon movie watching – lots of napkins, dig in with your fingers (even the bottom) 'nachos extraordinaire'. The sauce sounds killer. I think this is in line for next weekend.

  8. says

    Mom Chef: ARE these called Tex Mex nachos? I was so traumitized over the name I did not investigate!

    Kirsten: I buy most of my pork from our CSA farm where a number of varieites are available. Also my butcher a the small neighborhood grocery store I shop with is great. If you work with a butcher ask them to save you some ground pork before they season it for sausage. Throw some in the freezer, ready for you when you need it!

    Cucina49: Don't you love fondue?!

    Tartedujour: Thank you (wink)!

    All I'm Eating: Yes you do (need a spirit stash).

    Carolyn: Thank you and of course you know I love you too!

    Kita: Such is life in today's society. It does not stop me though so no worries!

    Burwell General Store: Thank you!

    Lisa: Love your idea! I too love falling into mega movie marathons during the holidays.

  9. says

    Newestobesession: I'm SO glad! I just was given a new cookbook from the 50's made by a group of women who would be close to 100 years old now. A version of this recipe was in that cookbook too. You've served up a piece of history!


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