Monday, April 23, 2007

Everything's better with biscuits

biscuit recipe Texas Southern

I make good biscuits. Are they the best biscuits? I have no idea. But I enjoy them and when others are around they seem to rapidly disappear. For instance, one time when I had people over for breakfast, I made a batch and left them out on a plate while I busied myself with other things. When I returned, a friend had eaten them all! I asked him why he didn’t save any for the rest of us, and he said they were just so tasty he couldn’t stop. Fortunately, they don’t take long to make, so I quickly whipped up more so my other guests could eat some, too.

Last spring, my grandfather was in poor health. While his spirits were high and his mind sharp, his body required round-the-clock care. My grandmother had taken on the task of tending to him, which left her little time to do other things, so I flew down to Texas to help out for a few days. While I’m not much use outside on a farm (my tractor-driving skills notwithstanding), I can cook and clean, which is how I decided to ease her load. Before I started preparing meals, however, a trip to the grocery store was in order. As I surveyed what was needed, I saw a suspicious-looking cylinder in the refrigerator.

biscuit recipe Texas Southern

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Monday, April 16, 2007

In the kitchen with Robb Walsh

I have been a longtime reader of Robb Walsh. Starting when I lived in Austin in the early ’90s and he was the food critic at the Austin Chronicle, I’ve followed his byline as he moved to my former stomping grounds (where I was a young intern), the Houston Press. In the meantime, he’s come out with several books that all occupy prime real estate on my bookshelves. So imagine my surprise a few months ago when I found a certain Robb Walsh had left a comment on my blog.

I was convinced it was a joke, a reader playing a prank. Nevertheless, I emailed Robb and it was indeed he who had stopped by my site. I was shocked: one of my favorite writers is reading me? Needless to say, I was honored. So we began emailing each other occasionally, which lead me to take the bold (and perhaps somewhat rude) step of inviting myself into his home to watch him cook. I had noticed he had a new book coming out and its release date nicely dovetailed with my trip to Houston. So I asked him if we could meet to chat about the book and perhaps let me take photos of him preparing a dish from it. Unbelievably, he said yes.

And that’s how I found myself a couple of weeks ago in the home of Robb, his lovely wife, adorable baby and playful dog. And with my only restriction being I couldn’t photograph his face (he is a restaurant reviewer, after all), I spent a few hours watching him prepare a recipe from his excellent new book, The Texas Cowboy Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Home sweet (and savory) home!

There’s that old cliché—you can never go home again—which is partly true because what you once knew as home inevitably will change. Of course, some things stay the same, but on my recent trip to Houston I was pleasantly struck by the merging of the familiar with the new.

When I arrived in Houston late on a Friday night, I was certain that since all the restaurants were closed (save for Whataburger and Taco Cabana), I would be going straight to bed. But my magnificent mother had stopped by one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Amalia’s, and ordered my usual dish, enchiladas verdes (carnitas stuffed into corn tortillas, drowning in tomatillo sauce, sliced onions and avocados) to go. Plus she had thrown in a pint of green sauce and a batch of fresh flour tortillas—a wonderful welcome indeed! Even though it was after midnight and I had to wake up early on Saturday to drive to Austin, I stood at the kitchen counter devouring my meal, not even taking the time to heat it up. “Do you want to sit down?” Mom asked me. “No,” I replied, “I just want to eat!” I was very happy. She acknowledged the comfort of the familiar and in between stuffing my face I agreed.

I spent less than 24 hours in Austin at my friend’s catfish fry to celebrate her marriage, and that was a whirlwind of catching up with old, dear friends. And even though we’re all a few years short of 40, the lot of us piled up in two hotel rooms, sleeping in all sorts of crazy arrangements such as four in a king-sized bed. The slumber party took us back to our college years, even though I eventually decided that four to a bed was bit much and that the floor was probably a better option. I had to return to Houston very early on Sunday, so by nine o’clock in the morning I was on the road making a stop in Elgin, home of some of the best sausage in Texas. Even at that hour there was already a long queue at Southside Market, but it was worth the wait as I loaded up on fresh links to bring back to NYC.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Stop and smell the flowers

I apologize for the silence, but I just can't take my eyes off these bluebonnets! Yes, I'm hanging out in a field between Houston and Austin, and because it's not often I get to see wildflowers such as bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and DYFs (which stands for, according to my grandpa, "damn yellow flowers"), I'm going to savor the colors of a Texas springtime for a few more days. But I'll be back in the kitchen soon enough. In the meantime, why don't you have a seat next to me and enjoy the view!

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