Sunday, March 11, 2007

Southern Bar-B-Que

"Have you tried Mesquite?" I asked.
"Yes and nobody liked it. Hickory is sweeter and mesquite can have cresote taste if you don't watch out," was the reply.
Was it from some Bar-B-Que God that this came from?
No. Well, let me rephrase that. Yes to me, he has the best. My first post on this discussed Bar-B-Que, but that was not from my father. No. That was from Buster's Bar-B-Que.
Tonight I had my dad's Bar-B-Que. Nothing has compared to my Dad's ever. Every slice of brisket doesn't taste right. Why? Maybe because in Texas they use Mesquite wood instead of Hickory, which my Dad uses. Or maybe its because he trims the fat. Or maybe because it was the first brisket I remember ever having.
I can never tell you a palate reason why I don't like Bar-B-Que establishments brisket. I have no valued reason. And no I'm not saying it's bad either. I just am biased. Its the fact that I've made a connection between my father and brisket.I don't remember, when exactly happened. Back in public school, I remember about getting in car and the comment from my father would be, "Jerry, I made your favorite tonight for dinner."
I'd light up. That meant brisket. That meant a good dinner. And at least a day worth of brisket in the fridge.
Nigella Lawson talked about nostaligic meals today on "Nigella's Bites," where she discussed foods that remind her over her family. For her it was bread pudding, soft-boiled eggs with asparagus spears, whitebait, and italian sausages with lentils. Which besides the bread pudding, I'd like to try. She had cooking journals from her grandmothers and mother. I was intrigued by this.
"You need to get your grandmother's recipe," my mother often suggests, when I tell her of my new endeavor.
Watching this episodes, made me think that maybe I should. My grandmother can make great pie crusts, rolls, and baked goods. Her recipes come from the grassroots, growing up on the farm and coming out of the Depression. She knows how to make egg noodles and I know how to make pasta. Really I should think about what my mother has suggested to me. Because my father learned things from my grandmother and I learned from my father.
But I hope, I can continue my dad's food legacy. With friends and neighbors, of course.
So what's your favorite home-cooked meal?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Happy Birthdays

Birthdays should be celebrated. At least this is what my mom tells me. Most of my life was spent with birthdays alone, especially in high school. This all changed this year with a wonderful outing with friends. With that experience and memory, I promised to share that with others on their birthday. And yesterday was no different.
Marcy has always given on her birthday and often not received. I told her that this is not how birthdays work. It is the birthday person who should receive. So I told her to come over Wednesday and I would cook dinner and dessert.
Was I in over my head? Yes.
I was to make Mexican fair. Ok not real Mexican, Tex-Mex. Enchiladas, Jicama Salad, and Tres Leches Cake.
A must stress the Tres Leches Cake. I'm not a fan. Sponge Cake of any kind to me have no flavor, but it was what Marcy requested and I was terrified. I was worried of the mess it would make with the liquid. However, I was determined to make it.
And the cake caused me problems on Tuesday night. One thing is it calls for soft peaked egg whites folded in. I had never made a light meringue before, but I know what it would look like from TV and my dad's lemon meringue pie. It didn't happen. No peaking. After 15 minutes, it was foaming, but nothing. What to do? Call the iron chef, my dad.
"Was the bowl clean?" he asked.
"Yes, Dad," I replied.
"Was there any yolk in the whites?" he asked, again.
I paused, thinking. 'Sure there was some.' I hesitantly replied, "Yes."
"Jerry, there can't be any yolk in the cake," he answered.
There were cuss words going off in my brain. He told me to toss out the whites, use hot water to clean the bowl, and try again.
I didn't. I was not wasting another 9 eggs for whites. No, no. So i folded the foaming whites into the cake, praying that it rose and didn't taste horribly. And if I failed there was always HEB.
But it rose and I was relieved. I cut it in half, poured the milk (which by the way makes a huge mess, make sure your using a large plate), covered the cake with whipping cream and let it set. I must say there is nothing better than icing a cake with whipping cream. (Then again, I could say that about chocolate mousse, lemon curd, raspberry sauce, ganache, etc.) My fears of a liquid mess in the fridge disappeared in the morning, when I saw that it solidified.
The evening came and everyone filed in. Before dinner, I mentioned the cake to Marcy. Her eyes got big and she asked if she could have it before dinner. I laughed and declined.
All in all it was a success. Was it the best cake? No. Will I try again? Yes. I haven't made great things this week. I promise Marcy to make you a better cake.

Tres Leches Cake From Cafe Central, El Paso (from Texas Monthly)


9 eggs (room temperature)
11/2cups sugar
12 tablespoons butter (softened)
2 cups all-purpose flour
11/2teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate egg yolks and whites, keeping whites at room temperature. (Make note - DO NOT GET ANY YOLK WITH THE EGG WHITES, THEY WILL NOT PEAK!) In bowl of an electric mixer, cream sugar and butter together until pale yellow and fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat until fluffy again, 2 to 3 minutes on medium-high speed. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking powder. In a third bowl mix milk and vanilla. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter mixture (a fourth at a time) until all are combined. Beat until smooth after each addition.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form and, using a large spatula, gently but thoroughly fold into flour-and-butter mixture. Grease bottom of a 9- by 13-inch metal baking pan. Pour in batter and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool. (May also be baked in an 11.5- by 17.5-inch sheet pan for 20 minutes; this size rises very evenly, helpful for inexperienced cooks.)

Three Milks

2 cups heavy cream
1 five-ounce can (5/8cup) evaporated milk
1 fourteen-ounce can (7/8cup) sweetened condensed milk

Stir the milks together thoroughly; do not beat. Do not refrigerate canned milks before using.

Cream Icing

2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar

Whip cream and sugar together until stiff. When cake is cool, slice or peel off the thin top crust. Ice sides first, creating a small lip on top to catch milk mixture. Pour milk mixture evenly over top of cake (if necessary, poke holes in cake with a knife or toothpick to facilitate soaking; you will probably need only 3/4of mixture). Finish icing top. Refrigerate. (If using an 11.5- by 17.5-inch pan, cut cake in half to make 2 equal pieces. Soak first layer, ice top if desired, and place second layer on top of it. Proceed as above.) Serves 12.

*Suggestion: Caramel Sauce or syrup would be a great drizzle overtop.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


Not everything I cook comes out... well... good, tasty, or actually edible. I know. SHOCKING!
Today I made rice WITHOUT setting it aflame. Thankfully. I'm mastering rice. No more microwaving. However, the eggplant and green bean curry was soupy, spicy, and nothing like a curry. Sad really. I was looking forward to curry. Does that mean I won't try it again? God no. I feel that since it did not come out well this week means that next week I will learn from my mistake and enjoy it. I think that is how I will continue to do recipes. If at first you don't succeed try, try again.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Saturday Fish Eye

Well, this Saturday has been a culinary experience.
The day began with no heat, which called for pancakes. Something about cold weather calls for pancakes. Or maybe it calls for oatmeal. Well, it calls for one at least. So I made whole wheat buttermilk pancakes. Slightly healthy, but still ubber good. Yummy.
Lunch not so fancy, a turkey pita.

Snack, chili. Unconventional yes. But was it good? That is the more important question. Background information. Yesterday was Texas independence day. So to celebrate, Whole Foods had a chili cook-off. I went and documented it for fun because I could. I had permission, which as I was told very rare. So I took advantage of it. I'm going to add the photos to my website. (Which will be changing soon. Maybe tomorrow?) Anyways, best chili, (the suspense) Jim's. Oh yummy. One had buffalo and Guinness in it. Umm? Chili shouldn't taste like beer. Seven Alarm Chili was more like 2. The Turkey Chilis were definately missing flavor. The Vegitarian Chili had no taste. No I didn't try the one that said Texas Road Kill Chili. I was very much afraid. Venison. Never had it. Plus by the time I was able to fight through the crowd, after taking pictures, I felt like throwing up. So Jim's 5 and 3 Chili, the BEST! Why? 5 different kind of chiles and 3 beans. Meat was a mixture of pork and beef marinated for a very long time. As Jim called it, the chili was meditterean. A mixture of Spain and Italy. The mix had a very good courtship and ended in marriage.
Dinner was spent with a very lovely girl. She loved my cooking. (Who doesn't?) Made a pasta primavera with red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, zuchinni and fusilli pasta.
Then, my date suggested Amy's. Now how could I resist? Haven't been in about a month. Sad really. It's like bad withdrawl. Oh how I've been craving it. So we go, see Joel, who is the ice cream extrodinar. Order Strawberry Ice and Dark Chocolate ice cream mixed with dark chocolate bits. Yummy! My date and I look at our bowls, wanting more, but know that I shouldn't.
The night ends with popcorn and Merlot. A very good Merlot and I don't like Merlot. Actually, I usually despise red wine. However, this Merlot was exquisite. Veronika has a great taste in picking a good wine without any help or knowledge. I highly recommend it. It is Fish Eye and it is under $10.
Now I must waddle to bed.