Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chocolate gravy and biscuits

chocolate gravy

A friend and I were comparing notes about our favorite childhood treats. As I was raving about my grandma’s chocolate pie, my friend said, “So how’s your grandma’s chocolate gravy?” Huh? Chocolate gravy—is that like mole, I asked. Nope, it’s spooned on biscuits, she said. I had to admit that I’d never heard of chocolate gravy; clearly I’d been deprived.

Curious why I had been denied the joys of chocolate gravy all my life, I called my grandma and demanded an explanation. “Why don’t you make chocolate gravy?” I asked. She replied, “Because I don’t know what it is.”

I see. Apparently, my grandma was in the dark on this secret as well. My only consolation? At least I wasn’t alone.

chocolate gravy

So what’s the provenance of chocolate gravy? Because I know everything, I assumed that if I hadn’t heard of it, then it must not be Texan.

I was wrong.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Queso flameado

queso flameado

I know that somewhere in my head there are eloquent words to describe my love of queso flameado, but right now I’m just too tuckered out from work to find them. Yes, I am very fortunate to have a job—I’m not complaining. But perhaps I’d find my staid desk job a bit more invigorating if there was an element of risk involved.

Take my stint as a Mexican restaurant waitress during college. Sure, I worked there mainly for the endless baskets of chips and salsa and after-work margaritas, but I have to admit the occasional opportunity to serve queso flameado had its appeal as well.

Queso flameado, which you might know as queso fundido, is a bubbling dish of melted white cheese, such as Monterey Jack or asadero, that’s mixed with chiles and often chunks of chorizo or strips of fajita meat as well. Unlike its cheesy cousin chile con queso, queso flameado is rich and thick, which makes it awkward for chips but perfect for spooning into a soft, warm tortilla.

poblano chile

The name translates to flaming cheese, though it’s not necessary to set it on fire for the dish to be successful. But try explaining that to the restaurant I worked at in college, which decided that if a customer was going to request something called flaming cheese, well, that was exactly what they’d get.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beef flautas, how to make the best

beef flautas

When I lived in Iowa City, a fellow homesick Texan was tired of the lack of good food, so he opened a Mexican restaurant called La Perlita. The name means little pearl in Spanish and this small restaurant was indeed a gem. The salsas were fiery and bright, the refried beans had depth and flavor, and the tortillas were patted out by hand. But I have to say my favorite dish on menu were the freshly fried flautas.

Not familiar with flautas? Perhaps you know them by another term: some refer to them as taquitos and in parts of Mexico they’re often called tacos dorados. But the basic premise is the same—it’s a rolled taco that’s been fried.


Flauta (which means flute in Spanish) is what I grew up calling them, so I was a bit flummoxed by the variation in names. When I asked my non-Texan friends, they insisted that it was a flauta if it was made with flour tortillas, a taquito if it was made with corn. I have to disagree as I’d never even had flour tortilla flautas (though I don’t doubt their existence). And the Mexican street-food vendors here all sell tacos dorados, but they look just like flautas to me.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Five things I love about Houston

I was born in Dallas and my family has been in the Dallas area since the early 1800s. But when I was nine we moved to Houston so that’s what I consider my hometown. Sure, Dallas may be in my ancestral lineage but it’s Houston that makes my heart explode.

For some reason, however, as much as I adore Houston I feel that it doesn’t get the respect and love that it deserves. My friends at the Houston Press and the Chronicle , as well as a host of Houston-based food and chef bloggers, do an excellent job of sharing the bounty of this diverse city with the wide world. But I wanted to say a few things as well, so here are five reasons why I love Houston and why you should, too.

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