Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pork Tacos, Dallas Gas Station Style & Austin-Style Black Beans {The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight & Cook-Off}

When I was offered the chance to host a Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off featuring the upcoming cookbook by Lisa Fain, The Homesick Texan, I jumped at the opportunity!  I have been a fan of her blog and her food for a long time now...and most of  you know of my affinity for Tex-Mex food (it sits pretty close to Mexican as my favorite).  While I want to make pretty much every single thing in the book, I figured I needed to start somewhere, and where better to begin than with some tacos.  Fain's description of "Dallas's gas station taco belt" with offerings that range from picadillo to tongue reminded me of the taquerias in my own town.  Stuffed with flavorful, savory fillings and sprinkled with the usual cilantro and onion...with the addition of a roasted jalapeño like we often include at home...I had a hunch these would go over well at our house.  And they did.  These little cubes of porky goodness just melted in your mouth.  With a side of some tasty black beans (done Austin-style), we happily licked our fingers at the picnic table while washing everything down with cold cervezas and Jarritos.
Pork Tacos, Dallas Gas Station Style
adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook
makes 4-6 servings


for the pork
4 pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into ½" chunks
1 canned chipotle in adobo
4 garlic cloves
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. ground cumin
small pinch ground cloves
¼ c. orange juice
¼ c. pineapple juice
1 Tbs. white vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
salt, to taste
1 Tbs. vegetable oil

for the tacos
6 jalapeños
tortillas, flour or corn
cilantro, chopped
yellow onion, small dice
1 lime, cut into wedges/slices
Toast pasillas in a dry skillet over high heat for ~10 seconds per side, or until they start to puff and change colors.  Fill skillet with enough water to cover chiles and bring to a boil.  Turn off heat and let chiles rehydrate until soft, ~30 minutes.

Place re-hydrated chiles in blender (discard soaking liquid) along with the chipotle, garlic, oregano, cumin, cloves, orange juice, pineapple juice, vinegar, and olive oil.  Blend to a smoth purée.  Add salt to taste.  Toss pork with purée (I put everything into a gallon ziploc bag).  Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

Before cooking, let pork sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Fry pork in the skillet for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Now...when it comes to pork shoulder, my personal preference is a longer cooking time, otherwise the meat is a bit chewy and tough. So, after the pork cooked down for 15 minutes, I added two cups of water, covered the pan and let it simmer down.  I repeated this for one hour, adding more water as needed, until the pork wound up just coated with the "sauce" as it was after the first 15 minutes.  The pork was super tender and retained the fantastic flavor that (I believe) was intended.

While pork is cooking, place jalapeños under broiler and cook for ~10 minutes, or until blackened, turning once.  Serve pork in warm tortillas, topped with cilantro and onions, along with the roasted chiles and lime wedges...and salsa, if you like.
Austin-Style Black Beans
from The Homesick Texan Cookbook
makes 8-10 svgs.


1 lb. dried black beans
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
½ c. cilantro, divided
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbs. tomato paste
¼ c. lime juice
salt, to taste

Rinse and sort through beans, discarding any stones or shriveled beans.

Place beans in a large pot and cover with 1" of water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes.

Drain and rinse the beans in a colander in the sink.

Return the empty pot to the stove and on medium-low heat, warm the vegetable oil.  Add onions and carrots to pot and cook until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally, ~8 minutes.  Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds.

Return beans to the pot along with the chipotles and half of the cilantro.  Cover with 2" water, bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low and simmer uncovered for ~1½ hours.

Add remaining cilantro, cumin, tomato paste, and lime juice.  Season to taste with salt.  Cook uncovered for another 30 minutes, or until beans are tender all the way through (will vary depending on the freshness of your beans).  When done, smash a few beans against the side of the pot with a spoon to thicken, if you wish.  Stir and serve.
*This post is part of The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off sponsored by Hyperion and hosted (right here!) at girlichef*

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Monday, August 29, 2011

book tour: Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog


Author: Hal Herzog
Publisher: Harper Perennial
soft cover: 368 pages
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"foodie" elements: yes

random excerpt: "Then he tells me about the time he was having dinner witha a woman who was a turtle rescuer in Texas.  When he ordered the shrimp special, she broke out into tears.  It turns out that the woman was in a fight with local shrimpers over the use of TEDs - turtle excluder devices - that help loggerheads to escape from shrimp nets.  Despite the TEDs, she believed that every shrimp cocktail translated into a dead loggerhead."

summary/synopsis:  (from TLC site) Does living with a pet really make people happier and healthier? What can we learn from biomedical research with mice? Who enjoys a better quality of life—–the chicken destined for your dinner plate or the rooster in a Saturday night cockfight? Why is it wrong to eat the family dog?

Drawing on more than two decades of research into the emerging field of anthrozoology, the science of human–animal relations, Hal Herzog offers an illuminating exploration of the fierce moral conundrums we face every day regarding the creatures with whom we share our world. Alternately poignant, challenging, and laugh-out-loud funny—blending anthropology, behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology, and philosophy—this enlightening and provocative book will forever change the way we look at our relationships with other creatures and, ultimately, how we see ourselves.
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my thoughts/review: I was thoroughly fascinated, thrilled, and enthralled by this book.  Culture and upbringing and moral conscience.  From careers to eating habits to how one persons pet is another persons pest.  Anthrozoology is such a diverse field...one with the possibility for endless studies and numerous teaching/thinking paths to follow.  Herzog captured my attention and made me slow down...made me contemplate.  A few instances made me cringe.  Some made me laugh.  Not only was I entertained by his experiences, they were something to savor.  Something to learn from.  Studies that illustrated a point, yet left me wondering.

My mom stopped by for a visit this weekend and I turned around to find that she had picked up my copy of this book and (like mother, like daughter) was already lost in the pages.  She made me promise I would pass it on to her as soon as I was finished with it.

Points to ponder: Would you be more likely to order a Patagonian Tooth Fish or a Chilean Sea Bass for your next meal?   Would you rather have a dog or a beetle as a pet?  Do dolphins have curative powers?  If it is okay to run tests on rats, is it okay to run tests on dogs?

And it's true...this book will make you stop and ponder your own actions when it comes to the way you look at animals.  If you enjoy science, psychology, animal/people studies, you may enjoy this book.

about the author:  Hal Herzog has been investigating the complex psychology of our interactions with other species for more than two decades. He is particularly interested in how people negotiate real-world ethical dilemmas, and he has studied animal activists, cockfighters, veterinary students, animal researchers, and ex-vegetarians. An award-winning teacher and researcher, he has written more than 100 articles and book chapters. His research has been published in journals such as Science, The American Psychologist, The Journal of the Royal Society, The American Scholar, Anthrozoos, BioScience, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Ethology, and Developmental Psychobiology. His work has been covered by Newsweek, Slate, National Public Radio, Scientific American, USA Today, The London Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and many other newspapers.

Author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals, Hal Herzog is also Professor of Psychology at Western Carolina University and lives in the Smoky Mountains with his wife Mary Jean and their cat Tilly.

Visit Hal at his website, and read his blog at Psychology Today, Animals and Us.


*I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sweet Corn and Shrimp Chowder

I'm not complaining, but I seem to have cobs of corn coming out the wazoo.  I actually look forward to my wazoo overflowing about this time every year.  I've been a corn on the cob fiend ever since I was able to pick it up with my own two hands.  I can still remember how distraught I was when I was able to eat it because my teeth were either too loose or missing altogether.  My youngest is experiencing that right now.  I do think it's kind of fun to break out the knife and shear sheets of corn from the cob, though.  But it's so much more fun to go typewriter on a few good cobs.  While the whole family prefers it over an open fire or on the grill, there are times when we cook it inside, as well.  Preferably under the broiler (just something about that smoky, charred taste), but occasionally steamed or simmered.  The other day, with a dozen and a half ears waiting to be eaten, my neighbor handed a huge brown bag over the fence...and it was filled to the rim with more corn.  She said she couldn't look at another cob for awhile.  I will happily be on the receiving end of that!  So, we've been not only eating it from the cob, but slicing it off to make creamed corn and casseroles and soup!  

While I had high hopes for this bowl of chowder, it wound up being just okay.  We liked it.  We ate it.  But it probably won't be something we make again.  But if I do, I'll use at least double the shrimp and the corn.  It wasn't the pretty yellow I imagined it would be either.  Oh well.  It wasn't our favorite meal of all time, but it was pretty good...totally edible.
Sweet Corn and Shrimp Chowder
adapted liberally from Jamie's Food Revolution
serves 4-6


1 medium onion, diced
1½ lb. potatoes, peeled & diced
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, & diced
1 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 Tbs. fresh thyme)
1 quart + 1 pint chicken broth
~7 oz bacon, diced
2 c. fresh sweet corn (from ~3 cobs)
½ lb. shrimp, raw
1¼ c. heavy cream
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
oyster crackers
cilantro or parsley, chopped
Peel, clean and tail your shrimp and cut the corn from the cobs.  Place the shrimp shells and tails, and the cobs (milked with the back of a knife) into a pot with the chicken broth.  Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer ~15 minutes.  Strain out the solids and return to heat to keep warm.

Heat a large Dutch oven (or other heavy soup pot) over medium heat and add your bacon.  Cook until done, and lift out with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Set aside.  Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the bacon grease, then return pot to the heat.  Add onion, potatoes, jalapeño, and thyme to pot and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, 3-5 minutes.  Add corn and about a quart of the hot broth.  Bring to a boil, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  Add shrimp and cook another five minutes.  Stir in the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.  If you wish, pulse with an immersion blender a few times.

To serve, ladle into serving bowls and sprinkle each with the reserved bacon, some oyster crackers, and some fresh parsley, cilantro, or other green herb of your choice.
It's Soup, Salad, and Sammie week at IHCC!
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off: The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain {event announcement}


 Many of you already know and love Lisa Fain and her blog, The Homesick Texan.  I'm going to venture to guess that you are going to love her new cookbook just as much...maybe more!   I am SO EXCITED to announce that I will be hosting a Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off featuring this upcoming release right here.  With final copies of this stunning cookbook graciously provided to myself and a great group of bloggers by Hyperion, our greedy page-flipping is about to come to fruition on the page!  Together we will be cooking the same recipe in our individual kitchens for the first couple of weeks.  The third week each blogger branches off to cook up something to suit their fancy.  We will round off the month with our own reviews of the cookbook and the food.  I will keep track of everybody's posts right here on this page and post a mouthwatering round-up once we've filled our plates and our bellies with some delicious food from Texas.

This is a list of all of the bloggers who are joining me in The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off (in no particular order):

Denise - Creative Kitchen  
Erin - EKat's Kitchen 
Leslie - La Cocina de Leslie  
Dave - Year on the Grill  
Brandy - Nutmeg Nanny 
Bonnie - Sweet Life  
Danielle - Cooking for My Peace of Mind 
Natashya - Living in the Kitchen with Puppies  
Bo - Bo's Bowl  
Helen - Miz Helen's Country Cottage 
Tina - Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor  
Meredith - Anchovies and Butter 
Deb - Kahakai Kitchen 
Kim - Stirring the Pot 
Christy - Fudge Ripple 
Gerry - Foodness Gracious
Jenn - Rook no.17  
Maria - A Platter of Figs  
MirandaMangoes and Chutney 
Heather (me) - girlichef
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This spotlight will go on for the next four weeks.  Please check back weekly to find links to individual posts from each participant.  This way you won't just get one opinion (mine) on each recipe and on the book in general - you'll get at least 20 separate, honest reviews and posts...weekly!  

week one: Austin-Style Black Beans &/or Pork Tacos, Gas Station Style
(August 28-September 3)

week two: Poblano Macaroni and Cheese &/or Sopapillas
(September 4-10)

week three: Blogger's Choice
(September 11-17)
girlichef: Pasilla Garlic Shrimp + Fried Catfish & Hushpuppies
Kahakai Kitchen: Green Chile Chowder
EKat's Kitchen: Seven-Chile Texas Chili
Stirring the Pot: Mexican Fried Potatoes + Carnitas, Jalapeño Pinto Beans, & Red Chile Rice + Breakfast Tacos & Refried Beans + Chorizo Stuffed Jalapeños + Chipotle Pimento Cheese
Sweet Life: Fried Shrimp
Miz Helen's Country Cottage: Pasilla Garlic Shrimp  + Tomatillo Cheese Grits
Mangoes and Chutney: Cheese Enchiladas w/ Chile con Carne
Foodness Gracious: Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
Cooking for My Peace of Mind: Pan de Campo
Nutmeg Nanny: Sweet Potato and Fig Muffins  
Fudge Ripple: Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas
Rook no. 17: Pumpkin Empanadas
Year on the Grill (posting at other blog): Corn Chowder w/ Roasted Jalapeños & Bacon
Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor: Tomato Cobbler
Creative Kitchen: Migas
Anchovies and Butter: Smoky Deviled Eggs
A Platter of Figs: Mexican Chocolate Chewies  
Bo's Bowl: Carne Guisada   
La Cocina de Leslie: Homemade Chorizo   

week four:  Cookbook Review
(September 18-24)


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And for fun, check out Lisa's video: "How to Make Cookies The Homesick Texan Way"!


Check out the article about Lisa in The New York Times!

The Homesick Texan Cookbook will be released on September 13, 2011.  Pre-order your copy now! is now available!


*This post is part of The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off sponsored by Hyperion and hosted (right here!) at girlichef*

Check out my interview: 5 Questions w/ Lisa Fain!


Friday, August 26, 2011

50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #12 Lidia Bastianich - Struffoli

In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 women...one per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.
the "Gourmet" prompt...
12. Lidia Bastianich (and her brood)- Everybody’s nonna, Lidia founded an empire, and she does it all: cookbooks, TV shows, restaurants, and wines galore. Then last summer—with son Joe, Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti—she opened Eataly, the cucina italiana Manhattan multiverse and, basically, took over the world.
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I feel all twisted inside this week.  I really enjoyed Lidia.  For years.  Her show was in the line-up I watched years ago on PBS before I got cable.  I have a few of her books.  But I'm a very emotional, compassionate being, and just hearing the accusations* swirling around her right now, I feel sick.  Character is a pretty big deal to me.  I have always tried very hard to stick to what my mama taught me: If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all.  So.  I wonder if people can lose their spots?  Anyway.  While it saddens me, I'm not going to say anything further since I can't conjure up the will to give her accolades right now.  I will still share a recipe.  Because cooking eases my mind.

Please don't get all huffy if you love Lidia.  Of course I believe in innocent until proven guilty...and I hope that it is simply tabloid fodder.
Struffoli
Honey Balls
slightly adapted from Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen
serves 10


dough
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. sugar
grated zest of ½ lemon
grated zest of ½ orange
pinch of salt
4 large eggs
2 Tbs. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

syrup
2 c. honey
½ c. sugar
⅓ c. water

oil, for frying
candy sprinkles
dough:  Combine flour, sugar, lemon and orange zest, and salt in a bowl.  Make a well in the center and add eggs, butter, and vanilla.  Stir them around with your fingertips, then work the wet ingredients into the dry until smooth and evenly blended.  Gather dough into a ball, lightly flour a work surface, and knead until smooth, 3-4 minutes.  Form into a disk, wrap in plastic, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Divide into eight pieces.  Roll each piece out into a ⅓" thick rope.  Cut each rope into ⅓" sections.  Lightly form each section into a ball the size of a marble.  Or don't...you can leave them as-is.

Heat ~3" of oil in a deep pot to 350° F.  I just guesstimate.  It'll be all shimmery.  Drop in a ball to test it.  Once the oil is ready, fry balls about a quarter at a time (or as many as will fit in comfortably without crowding) for ~3 minutes, or until golden.  Lift out with a strainer and place on a sheet tray lined with paper towels.

syrup:  Put honey, sugar, and water in a pot wide enough to hold all of the struffoli.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Syrup will foam up a LOT.  Continue to cook until foam dies down and mixture becomes a shade darker, ~5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat and immediately add all of the fried dough balls to the syrup.  Remove them with a slotted spoon or skimmer and mound them on a serving plate, letting excess drip off first.  Scatter as many sprinkles as you like over the top and eat!  Will keep for several days loosely covered with plastic wrap.
Lidia Bastianich ( February 21, 1947 - present)

Tutti a tavola a mangiare.  (Let's all go to the table and eat.)  ~Lidia's signature sign-off

Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?
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