Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spicy pecan brittle

spicy pecan brittle

This is the season of giving, and one of my favorite things to give is candy. Texans have a long tradition of making and sharing candy at the holidays, and my family is no different. When I was young, a Christmas visit wasn’t complete until a tin of homemade candy had been passed around, and we’d enjoy everything from pralines to divinity.

One of my favorite candies, however, is nut brittle. Typically in the past, I’ve usually made it with peanuts. This, of course, is the traditional nut brittle and it’s no wonder as those nuts go very well with the crisp candy coating. That said, there are a couple of people on my list this year who can’t have peanuts because of allergies, and so I decided that my nut brittle this year would have to be made with something else instead.

spicy pecan brittle

Texas’s state nut is the pecan, so it didn’t take me long to decide to make pecan brittle. While you don’t see it quite as often as you do peanut brittle, pecan brittle definitely has its place in the pantheon of Texan confections. Matter of fact, when I was doing research I found a host of candy-store advertisements from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and whenever they mentioned pecan brittle, they showcased it as an especially rare treat.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Texas turkey chili

Texas turkey chili

The other day someone asked me what I always keep in my refrigerator. After going through the usual list of things such as salsa, cilantro, and jalapeños, I added that you will usually find a jar of chili gravy in my refrigerator, as well. “What do you do with it?” he asked. I then explained that I use it for impromptu batches of enchiladas, drizzle it on eggs, or pair it with leftover meat to make a quick and flavorful stew.

Now, speaking of leftover meat, one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the few days afterwards when you have a refrigerator loaded with food. Not only does this mean you get to enjoy cold slices of pecan pie for breakfast, but there’s also a mountain of leftover turkey begging to be made into new and exciting dishes, too.

Enter my jar of chili gravy. When you take shredded cooked turkey and then cook it in a sauce that’s rich with chiles, onion, garlic, and spices, you soon have an easy Tex-Mex dish that can be served in a bowl, scooped into tortillas, or even rolled into cheesy chili enchiladas. For lack of a better name, I like to call this marriage of chiles and meat Texas turkey chili.

Texas turkey chili

Now, typically Texas chili is made with beef. That said, there are a handful of recipes out there for something called Texas turkey chili, yet these dishes are not very chili like at all. For instance, when it comes to spice they only have a slight shake of chili powder along with perhaps a jalapeño slice or two. There are also always beans, along with tomatoes and bell peppers. Matter of fact, the final result seems more like a turkey, tomato, and bean soup.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jalapeño creamed corn

jalapeño creamed corn

“It’s all good, but whatever you do, you must get the creamed corn,” said the woman waiting in line behind me at Killen’s Barbecue. It was my first time to visit this new Pearland, Texas smoked-meat hot spot, and she and I had been discussing the menu. I’d heard good things about owner Ronnie Killen’s brisket, beef ribs, sausages—heck, all of the smoked meats had been lauded as some of the best new barbecue in the state. So her recommendation surprised me.

“I don’t usually order sides at a barbecue place,” I said. She shook her head and said, “Trust me. You don’t want to miss this corn.” She was correct. While I did enjoy the ribs, the turkey, and the brisket, it was the corn that I kept dipping into, savoring each sweet and creamy bite.

After my visit to Killen’s I went to visit a friend, and when I told her where I’d been the first thing she said was, “Did you try the creamed corn?” Then two weeks later, when I was back in New York, another person who’d eaten there said the same thing. Clearly, Killen’s much-lauded creamed corn merited investigation so I could cook something similar in my own kitchen.

jalapeño creamed corn

A little research lead me to his recipe. Ronnie Killen had generously shared his technique with several Houston media outlets, and I discovered his method is quite simple. He uses fresh cobs of corn and after he removes the kernels, he infuses cream and milk with the cobs for a spell, so the cobs’ sweet corn flavor will enrich the dish even more. Lots of butter and a bit of sugar also add to the dish's rich appeal.

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