While promoting their new book, Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush stopped by our studio to talk Southern traditions, style, and enchiladas. Many Southern families’ traditions revolve around holidays. The Bush family has a couple of those, too, and they let us in on one of them. On Christmas Eve, the Bush family always serves enchiladas.

Barbara told us a not-so-secret cooking tip for enchiladas: Be sure the meat inside the enchiladas is cooked before you put it inside the tortillas. It’s okay Barbara, Southern cooking faux pas happen to the best of us sometimes (except Mama). The Bush’s enchilada recipe calls for ground beef, red sauce, and a helping of cheese on top (“the most important part” of the recipe, per Jenna), but enchiladas offer a lot of freedom in the kitchen. You can make them vegetarian, fill them with chicken or another meat, and top them with a red sauce, green tomatillo sauce, or cheese sauce. Both the Bush sisters agree that lime goes well with all Mexican food, and they’re also fans of cilantro in Mexican cooking—although not every cook agrees.  

One reason why the Bush family eats enchiladas on Christmas Eve, aside from their tastiness, is the recipe’s ease. Enchiladas are made like a casserole, and every Southern cook knows that a one-dish casserole that can freeze beautifully, travel well, and feed a crowd is a winner. As Jenna says, “enchiladas are a relative to the lasagna.” While that may be a little far-fetched, she’s got a point—the two casseroles are perfect for Christmas Eve dinner.

The sisters agree that enchiladas pair well with rice, beans, and cheese dip, and of course, margaritas. The twins both think a margarita shouldn’t be sweet, and a traditional, no-fuss margarita with lime juice, tequila, and ice is their way to go. Jenna adds sparkling water to hers, with salt around the rim. Cheers to that, ladies!

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