Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums

There was once a town in North Texas known as Cathron’s Store. In the late 1800s, a grocery, a grist mill, and a post office could be found in this small Lamar County community, though by 1905 the name had changed to Tigertown and Cathron’s Store was no more. Most people, I reckon, have never heard of this place; it is forgotten. But because of a most unusual potato salad recipe by one of its residents, the town and its legacy continue.

Now, I realize that potato salad may seem an odd subject for contemplation, but Texan-style potato salad—which is typically yellow and tangy with mustard and often mashed to the point where you can’t tell where the potatoes end and the other ingredients begin—is not usually seen outside the state. It’s a unique dish.

Curious as to its beginnings, I began to do research and delved into a collection of recipes from the 1800s to see how it was made in the state’s early days. Most of the potato salad recipes followed a familiar fashion with hard-boiled eggs, pickles, and onions all bringing color and spark to the dish. Surprisingly, mustard was the preferred dressing even then, and while some recipes were prepared with cubed or sliced potatoes, mashed potatoes were used, too. The potato salad that Texans eat today has deep roots.

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums

As I was reading, I came across a mashed potato salad by a Texan named Mrs. Lissa Gardner Bowman. She lived in Cathron’s Store. Her version started with leftover potatoes that she mashed and then mixed with the usual suspects. But just when things were becoming predictable, Mrs. Bowman encouraged the cook to go out into the garden and pick some nasturtiums for garnish. Not only was her hometown new to me, but also was her directive to add flowers to one’s potato salad.

Keep reading...
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ancho chile and cocoa-rubbed flank steak tacos

ancho chile and cocoa-rubbed flank steak tacos|Homesick Texan

The path to Houston from DFW is direct once you make your way to I-45 from the airport. But in search of Truth Barbecue in Brenham, after landing in Dallas I consulted my map and took I-35 instead. My phone had me exit the freeway a few miles south of West and while I wasn’t quite sure where I was, it was still early enough in the day I figured I could arrive at the restaurant before they were sold out of meat.

To shorten a long story that involves a patch of bluebonnets, a swarm of love bugs, a white car, and a good hour without any phone reception, let’s just say I ended up in Snook, where nothing was open, even its famed restaurant Sodolak’s Country Inn, “Home of the Chicken-Fried Bacon.” At this point, Truth was closed and I was going to be late for the evening service at my mom’s church. So, I got on Highway 290 and made my way towards Cypress. We had tacos for dinner instead.



Now it’s a given that I miss Texas often. But after being back in New York for a couple of weeks and then reading about all the great barbecue in Texas via Texas Monthly’s latest Top 50 list (on which Truth landed in the top 10), my homesickness has been strong. Sure, there’s now decent barbecue in New York. But taking the subway to a restaurant is not the same as an early morning road trip along Texas back roads in pursuit of a butcher paper-lined tray piled high with brisket, sausage, and ribs.

Keep reading...
Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bacon pecan cinnamon roll biscuits

Bacon pecan cinnamon roll biscuits | Homesick Texan

Around midnight, I heard a knock at my bedroom door. “Are the biscuits done?” asked my grandma. I told her the batch I had made after she went to bed were indeed ready to be reheated in the morning. When she didn’t reply, I got out of bed to see if she had heard me. I opened the door but she wasn’t there, so I went looking for her and found her in the kitchen pinching off a piece of biscuit from its storage container. She took a bite, smiled, and said, “I couldn’t wait until morning. These are oh, so good!”

When I travel, I usually prefer other people to cook. But when it comes to biscuits, I am always happy to bake up a batch. Most folks will have on hand the necessary ingredients and they are not difficult to prepare. Making biscuits is a fun thing and the small amount of effort always yields much joy.

Bacon pecan cinnamon roll biscuits | Homesick Texan

My basic biscuit recipe is my most popular, as it’s a fine vehicle for honey or homemade jam. But I also like to adapt with whatever I have on hand. This has led to jalapeƱo cheddar biscuits, sweet potato biscuits, and tomato, cheddar, and bacon biscuits. And that’s just the ones that I’ve shared here, as there are quite a few more variations that I’ve made. A biscuit, while superb on its own, is an excellent blank canvas.

Keep reading...