Posts Tagged ‘tex-mex



25
May
10

link round-up

More Questions of Authenticity and Fusion
Members of the Daring Kitchen take on Robb Walsh’s recipe for stacked green chile enchiladas. Australian suggestions for simulating tomatillos include gooseberries with sugar and green tomatoes mixed with tamarind paste, lime juice, and prune juice. Robb Walsh’s report on the results of the challenge links to recipes from London, the Netherlands, and Canada.

Taste of Beirut reminisces about a childhood favorite, chocolate salami: a French confection made from American and Middle Eastern ingredients and exported back to the Middle East. In which of those locations is it most authentic?

The National Museum of American History’s cafe celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May) by adding Asian flavors to the menu at each of its stations. You’ll find pizza with Asian plum sauce and black rice used in a recipe that actually called for purple rice, but the title of their blog post about it proudly proclaims the exclusion of one of the oldest Asian-American fusion dishes (one with a history similar to chili gravy’s): No Chop Suey Here.

Locavores Tackle Meaty Questions
Culling the pest population in a deer-hunting class (actually, a deer skinning and processing class) in Charlottesville. Thanks to Jon of Audrey and Jon for the tip.

Mission hipsters consume another kind of pest at a cricket- and mealworm-tasting.

More Things Hipsters Do
Sell coffee from a bicycle-mounted stall.

Sell seed packets (seed bombs) from old gumball vending machines.

Follow-up: More on Arizona, Tavern on the Green, BP
Arizona’s racial profiling law raises worries about this fall’s lettuce harvest in Yuma.

New York City has revoked Dean Poll’s contract to re-open Tavern on the Green after he failed to reach an agreement with the restaurant’s workers’ union. The city is looking for a new new operator.

It’s about time: the BP oil slick has made Cake Wrecks.

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19
May
10

diner chili

Lest you think my Texas Red relies too much on canned and otherwise preserved foods, let me share my method for vegetarian diner chili. (I did say vegetarian chilis were a whole nother thing, didn’t I?)

You’ll need:
cooking fat
1 sweet yellow onion; chopped medium
4 cloves garlic; minced
1 can (abt 15 ounces) each of red, black, and pinto beans; drained
1 similarly sized can diced tomatoes with green chiles; undrained
some spicy tomato/vegetable juice
several tablespoons chili powder
a teaspoon or so ground comino
pickled jalapeños, chopped medium
salt

Chop the onion medium and soften in hot fat. Add the minced garlic for a minute or two before you add the beans, tomatoes, and juice. Add the spices, jalapeños, and salt to taste. Let simmer about half an hour. Serve with the usual accoutrement: grated cheese, chopped scallions, saltines.

18
May
10

My Texas Red Algorithm

There are two reasons I don’t make chili very often. One is that it takes a honking lot of beef, the other is that I always remember it as being harder than it is. There’s no solving the former problem (vegetarian chilis are a whole nother thing), but recording my method can solve the latter, and keep it from feeding back into the infrequency of my chili-making. So.

Thaw 1-1.5 pounds ground beef. Assess its fattiness. Heat an appropriate amount of fat in a stockpot or Dutch oven. (This weekend I used about a tablespoon duck fat, in the stock pot, as the Dutch oven needed reseasoning.)

Soften two medium-sized sweet yellow onions, chopped medium, in the fat. Add one large ancho/pasilla (long, wide, green, moderate heat) pepper, chopped medium. Add six-ish cloves of garlic, minced, and the ground beef. When the beef starts to look cooked, add 3-4 tablespoons of San Antonio chile powder from Central Market. When you’re just about ready to add tomatoes, first add two teaspoons ground comino and one teaspoon dried oregano. Then add two 15-ounce-ish cans of diced tomatoes, juice and all. It’s ok if they have (appropriate) flavorings–this weekend, I used one can with green chiles (Muir Glen brand, aka Hippie Rotel) and one with roasted garlic.

Once the tomatoes have been added, throw in a couple cloves more minced garlic. Add about half the chiles from a 12-ounce can of chipotles in adobo, and most of the adobo. Keep adding adobo and chile powder until the stew is as spicy as you like and the right color–a deep, serious red. Taste for salt–the adobo has a lot, so you won’t need much. And add just a teaspoon or so of cocoa powder, which mellows things and marries the flavors. I’m not kidding.

Let this simmer down. Meanwhile, someone has been making cornbread according to J-P’s algorithm, and someone else has been grating a mound of cheddar, colby, or jack cheese. Serve the three together, et voilà–dinner.

17
May
10

Corn tortillas and Bay to Breakers

Chez Cervantes-Ferguson was culinarily busy, and full of runners, this weekend for Bay to Breakers. All of which partly explains how I found myself, at 5:50 yesterday morning, breakfasting on two stale corn tortillas and some cherries because they were the most readily available food in the house.

A little over an hour later, I was standing at the corner of Howard and Spear, corn tortillas whizzing through the air around me. Apparently this is a Bay to Breakers tradition. It took me three tries to get the hang of making one fly like a frisbee.

The tortillas got me to telling Courtney about atol and the changing availability of fresh corn masa in my grandparents’ neighborhood in Houston when I was growing up. When I was very young, there was a woman in the neighborhood who had a wet mill and ground her own nixtamal. She would make extra for any neighbors who wanted to buy it. Usually there wasn’t much demand, except in December, when everybody wanted to make tamales. Maybe someone would buy fresh corn masa if they were making a big batch of enchiladas, but almost everyone preferred flour tortillas and thought of corn tortillas as poverty food.

The holidays were also the only time I experienced champurrado–a sort of hot chocolate thickened with fresh corn masa. I had no idea that champurrado was part of a whole matrix of drinks known as atol: sweetened milk or water thickened with a grain, usually corn masa or old corn tortillas, but sometimes fresh corn, rice, or oats. Like champurrado, horchata and my grandmother’s sweet, milky preparation of Cream of Wheat also belong to the atol matrix, but I didn’t know what to call it until I lived in Guatemala for a while as an adult. When I came back and mentioned it to my grandfather, he said that atol was often all his family had to eat during the Depression, and that he couldn’t stand the stuff, or the memory of it. So it was no wonder neither I nor my mother had ever heard of it.

When a Fiesta supermarket opened up at the end of my grandparents’ block in the early-to-mid-80s, its mill put the neighbor lady out of business. It was able to run at large volume all the time because of a fresh wave of immigration–the newcomers preferred corn over flour tortillas. I’m sure they knew all about atol, too.

11
May
10

sciencing the frozen margarita

Duke University Press’ blog post about Gabriela Soto Laveaga’s Jungle Laboratories says that the book “challenges us to reconsider who can produce science.”

In a much lighter vein, I was reminded of that challenge this morning while reading Robb Walsh‘s recounting, in The Tex-Mex Cookbook, of Mariano Martinez’s invention of the frozen margarita machine. In 1971, Martinez relayed his diners’ complaints about his restaurant’s inconsistent margaritas to his bartender. The bartender, “sick of squeezing all those limes,” threatened to quit. Martinez found inspiration at a 7-11 the next morning and decided to automate–but he couldn’t get his hands on a Slurpee machine. Instead, he bought a soft-serve ice cream machine and began experimenting–or holding “a lot of tasting parties,” as he put it. The problem was how to get the alcoholic mix to freeze. Adding enough water to cause freezing diluted the drink too much, but adding more sugar… It turns out that “with a high enough brix level (the scientific measurement of sugar content), you can freeze quite a bit of alcohol.”

Mexican campesinos can certainly produce science, and so can tipsy Tex-Mex restaurateurs. Martinez never patented or trademarked his method, but his first margarita machine does have a place in the National Museum of American History.


In more serious news, US federal courts have been voiding clauses of BP’s exploitative clean-up contracts with Gulf fishermen left and right, preserving the fishermen’s rights to sue BP for damages from the Deepwater Horizon disaster and to talk freely about the situation, even if they do accept clean-up work from BP.

21
Apr
10

link round-up

Labor
My friend Guille came back yesterday from a week of pressing OSHA and DOL officials for better legal protections for domestic workers, day laborers, and farm workers. It looks like Secretary of Labor Solis is on board.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, federal marshals are trying to keep H-2A guestworkers out of a Friday court hearing that could affect their working conditions. They’re being excluded, presumably in the name of homeland security, because they don’t have US-issued IDs, though they all have their Mexican passports and H-2A visas.

Cuisine
Robb Walsh catches Mi Abuelita’s Homestyle Mexican Restaurant in Galveston mixing restaurant and homestyle versions of Tex-Mex by offering a chile relleno served with beans and fideos. Fideos are pasta, usually vermicelli, for those not in the know–like commenter Mary, a life-long Texan who nevertheless had to Google the term.

Mexconnect reports that “creative Mexican chefs” are now using hibiscus juice “in a variety of both sweet and savory dishes, including marinades, sauces, sorbets, granitas, jellies and trendy cocktails.” The article makes me think about how the status of the people doing the cooking–in this case, “creative,” “trendy,” and “Mexican”–affects what we think about the food’s authenticity. It also makes me wonder how long before the jamaica craze sweeps north.

And more east-meets-west Tex-Mix from Taste of Beirut: Lebanese quesadillas.

01
Apr
10

My latest Tex-Mex heros

Our household has had a lot of out-of-town guests lately, which means that we’ve been making a lot of trips to Burma Superstar. That means a lot of chili lamb, okra tofu curry, coconut rice, and Burmese salads. Mmm-mmm.

The long wait for a table at Burma Superstar also means a lot of trips to Green Apple Books, just down the street. On Monday night, I leafed through a copy of The Border Cookbook by Bill and Cheryl Alters Jamison. I’m a very indecisive book buyer (there’s always the library), but I was so pleased by the love and respect this almost 500-page monster shows for border cuisine that I lugged it all around the store with me and finally decided to buy it.

“The combination plate is purely Texan in origin … but the critics ignore both its Mexican roots and its abiding appeal. … [Chili gravy] transformed the taste of [antojitos] and, when it was done well, added a layer of lusty intensity.”

This cookbook offers a lot more than recipes for antojitos (Mexican snacks and street foods like tacos, tamales, and gorditas), but it recognizes and respects their centrality to border cuisine. “They are not the essence of Mexican food anywhere, but they are a proper part of the soul in the Hispanic borderlands.”

With that, along with what appears to be a very solid collection of recipes, they join Robb Walsh and Marilyn Tausend on my short list of food writers who appreciate Tex-Mex and the border’s other hybrid cuisines on their own merits.

Tausend’s book Cocina de la familia explores how Mexican Americans cook in our own kitchens, and what influences affect the recipes they use. I think she would love the way Joumana of Taste of Beirut is mixing Lebanese and Mexican ideas in her cooking. Check out her Lebanese Nachos and Chiles Rellenos with Roasted Green Wheat. (Thanks to Notions Capital‘s occasional round-up of Blogs with Bite for the tip.)




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