Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chocolate chip pecan cookies...with bacon grease

Does the world really need another chocolate chip cookie recipe? I’d say probably not. But when someone mentioned to me that they made their chocolate chip cookies with bacon grease, well, my curiosity was piqued.

Do you cook with bacon grease? I use it all the time for savory applications—in my refried beans, in my cornbread, in my cream gravy and in my okra, to name just a few places this fat is most welcome. Why do I use it? Well, I just love how with just one dollop you can propel a dish from mundane to magical. But using bacon grease for something sweet? For some silly reason, this had never crossed my mind.

Now, if you’re not already saving your bacon grease and you’re a bacon eater—I highly recommend this practice. You know that coffee can your great-grandmother always kept by the stove? Yep, that’s where she stored her bacon grease, within easy reach for cooking. I’m not so brave, however, so I keep my bacon grease in a Mason jar in the refrigerator; I recommend you do the same. I reckon it keeps for a few months, though I use it so often I’ve never had the chance to test this theory.

As for the cookies, I’d wanted to make a recipe that I found in my great-grandma Blanche’s collection that called for buttermilk, which also seemed like an unusual ingredient. And as our great-grandmother’s were the arbiters of thrift, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that perhaps she made cookies with bacon grease as well.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chipotle chicken taco recipe

chipotle chicken taco

If you’re like me, you’ve been sneezing nonstop the past few days. I thought I had a cold until I looked at the calendar and realized what was really happening with my nose—it was an attack of the histamines. Howdy seasonal allergies, you’re right on schedule! And that means it’s time for chipotle chicken tacos.

I’ve had bad allergies all my life. When I lived in Houston it was the spring that made my nose explode and eyes water for two weeks. My mom would provide me with those little purse-packs of tissues, but that was never enough and you’d soon find me walking around with a roll of toilet paper that I’d grabbed from the school bathroom. I concede that wasn’t very ladylike but at least the toilet paper was softer than the lunchroom paper napkins.

When I lived in Austin, I got slammed in the winter with the dreaded cedar fever. It affected me so badly that one day my boss thought I had the flu and told me to go home. “But it’s just allergies from cedar pollen. I’m not actually contagious,” I said, but she insisted I leave, which was a very kind thing to do.

I thought when I moved to New York that I would finally escape the plight of allergies and for a few years I did. But a few years ago one fall morning I woke up almost unable to breathe and it’s been an annual curse of autumn allergies ever since.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chiles en nogada

chiles en nogada

I used to be scared of chiles en nogada. Not to eat them—heck, I’d devour this dish anytime it was on offer. But making chiles en nogada seemed like a very frightening proposition. I’d read stories about people spending days soaking the fruit for the piccadillo filling. I’d hear tales about how difficult it was to peel the walnuts for the sauce. And I’d see people argue about how one’s interpretation of chiles en nogada wasn’t nearly as authentic as another’s version of the dish. It was enough to put me off from ever making it.

If you’re not familiar with chiles en nogada, it’s a Mexican dish traditionally served in late August and early September that’s said to have been created by Pueblan nuns back in the 1820s. The dish is comprised of a poblano chile that's stuffed with a sweet and savory pork picadillo that’s studded with nuts, in-season fruits and dried fruits as well. And then the filled chile pepper is draped in an elegant walnut-cream sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds that sparkle like rubies.

Because of the dish’s seasonality, gorgeous presentation and its Mexican-flag color scheme of red, green and white, it’s the traditional dish served on Mexico’s Independence Day, September 16 or as its known in Spanish, Diez y Seis de Septiembre. And this year’s celebration marks Mexico’s bicentennial, which means it’s a very big day.

Even though Texas successfully fought for its own independence from Mexico, we were once a part of this splendid country and so I definitely plan on celebrating this momentous holiday. And, well, because a bicentennial is quite an anniversary, I decided it was time to take a stab at Mexico’s national dish.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Apple dutch baby with green chiles

green chile apple dutch baby

There’s something about this time of year that makes me feel fresh and crisp, like a first-of-the-season apple. Perhaps it’s the cooler air or perhaps it’s the shorter days, but I feel an urge to get things done

I used to have a high school teacher who would always say to us, “Don’t squander your time!” Of course, when you’re 16 you feel like you have all the time in the world so we’d just laugh at him. But these days, with a serious manuscript deadline pointing at me, I finally understand—make every moment count.

The day after Labor Day was always the first day of school when I was a kid. I miss the anticipation, hope and joy that always came with a return to class. And even though these days most kids have been in school since August, I still think of Labor Day as summer’s last hurrah. It’s a time to slowly slough off the longer, lazier days of the season so you can reveal something more direct and purposeful.

The farmers market reflects this transition with its bounty of both late-summer chile peppers and early arrival autumn apples; it’s a time of two seasons. And while you might not usually associate chile peppers with apples, this is the reason why I think that two go together so well.

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