Thursday, September 14, 2017

Green chile cheeseburgers

Green chile cheeseburger | Homesick Texan

During a trip to El Paso a few summers ago, I got in my car one morning and drove the 80-something miles to Hatch, New Mexico. My goal was to take photos of its famed long green chiles growing in the field. While I didn't see many farms, there were plenty of shops selling chiles and such, along with restaurants offering chile-based cuisine.

After all my time on the road, I was hungry. So, on the advice of a friend I pulled into a joint called Sparky’s and ordered its green chile cheeseburger. The seasoned patty was topped with a mixture of chopped chiles and melted American cheese, all layered onto a squishy, sweet bun. It was my first-ever green chile cheeseburger and it was outstanding.

In Texas, green chile cheeseburgers are served in many places, especially this time of year when the fresh chiles are at their peak. Texans, of course, love heat so it only seems natural we would enjoy a juicy burger topped with peppers. But as much as Texans enjoy spicy food, their love for the green chile cheeseburger has nothing on New Mexicans’ deep and abiding passion for the dish.

Green chile cheeseburger | Homesick Texan

Indeed, if you ask a New Mexican where to find the best green chile cheeseburger, chances are no two answers will be the same as opinions on the matter are strong. For instance, besides Sparky’s, you’ll hear people say other New Mexican burger joints such as Blake’s or Buckhorn Tavern or Santa Fe Bite offer the best. There are also fevered debates on the correct way to prepare the burgers. Some prefer a thick patty topped with chiles before smothering the meat in a blanket of melted cheese. Others prefer their meat to be topped with cheese before adding the chiles.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Peach cobbler

Peach cobbler | Homesick Texan

“Next time you visit, you’ll get to cook here,” said my mom as she showed me her new kitchen. Because her house had flooded in Houston’s heavy rains of 2016, she had spent the most of the past year rebuilding her house. When I was there in April, it wasn’t quite ready for her to move into yet, but I was giving her advice on how to organize her new space. Everyone has gifts to offer and as a kitchen person, I reckon one of mine is good ideas about where pots and pans should go in relation to the oven and stove.

Since my mom’s an Episcopal priest, her house is a rectory. This means that it’s not only her home but also a space where people in her church gather for meetings and celebrations. Shortly after my visit, she moved back and it seemed like every time I talked to her she was having another party, sometimes several in one weekend. When they restored her kitchen, she had opened the space by tearing down walls and lengthening the counters so it was more conducive to people visiting as they served themselves from a long line of dishes, bowls, and plates.

Now, my mom’s not only a Texan who loves her home state’s cuisine, but she’s also proud of her kids, so she enjoys cooking from my blog and books and bragging about where she got the recipe. I had put her on testing duty last year for Queso!, so she’s been serving lots of dishes from that over the summer, as melted cheese always makes for a fine party food, though for potlucks she also enjoys sharing Aaron Franklin’s pinto beans and the peach cobbler recipe from my first cookbook.

Peach cobbler | Homesick Texan

That cobbler is an adaptation of one made by my great-grandmother. Of course, I’ve tinkered with it a bit and besides being seasoned with the traditional cinnamon I also stir in a dash of ginger, too. That makes it a little exotic, but it’s still a homey, classic dessert that can feed lots of people easily. Mom says it’s not only a cinch to make but it’s always a hit.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Green chile creamy avocado salsa

green chile creamy avocado salsa | Homesick Texan

The first time I had the creamy green salsa found on many Houston Tex-Mex tables, it was an eye-opener. It was cool, creamy, and bright with just a hint of spice. I was in love and it became my favorite thing about the whole dining-out experience in Houston.

Mama Ninfa Laurenzo of Ninfa’s fame was the one who popularized this style, as she was among the first to make this salsa a common accompaniment to chips along with the usual red. Her recipe has been published many places, and in the early days of this site I ran the one that had been in the Houston Chronicle.

Now, her version calls for sour cream, though along the border and in Mexico, Mexican crema would be more common. For years, I made it this way and was pleased. A few years ago, however, I came across an avocado salsa that had all the tang and spice of hers, yet it was dairy free. I published a recipe for this in my first cookbook, and while sometimes I go back to the sour cream version, more and more I prefer to make it without.

green chile creamy avocado salsa | Homesick Texan

This style of creamy avocado salsa is a popular condiment to tacos, flautas, and steak in Northern Mexico and along the border. A healthy handful of tomatillos is mixed with avocado, cilantro, garlic, and chiles to form a silky blend. This allows the avocado to go further than it would in guacamole, which makes for a cost effective yet tasty sauce.

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