Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fried oysters with a chipotle-lime dipping sauce

fried oysters

I have to admit that I’m not in love with raw oysters. Nope, if I’m going to eat an oyster, I prefer that it be fried.

It all began when I was seven. My family and I were on a trip to New Orleans, and the minute we pulled into town, my dad dragged us to an oyster bar. We lived in Dallas where fresh oysters weren’t always available, and as my dad loves these bivalves—he insisted that eating oysters would be our first order of business.

(Actually, this is a lie—our first order of business was a big bag of beignets and cups of chicory coffee as we waited in the early-morning line for King Tut tickets. But later that day, we did indeed go get oysters.)

In any case, I’d never seen an oyster before, so when my dad’s icy tray arrived, I said, “What is that?” The shell’s pink and white interior was appealing, but the slick blob sitting inside was a bit strange. I was game to try it, however, so I watched my dad dip the shell into his mouth and slurp out the meat. I followed his lead, and felt the oyster slide down my throat. It was creamy and cold, and tasted a little bit like the sea.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sour cream pound cake with ruby red grapefruit

sour cream pound cake with ruby red grapefruit

Christmas Day, you could find my family and me driving along Highway 6 so we could have dinner with cousins in College Station. The view was wonderful, filled with rolling pastures, barbecue joints, and barns painted to reflect either the owner’s love of the Texas state flag or their preference for Aggie football.

We kept stopping so I could take photos of all the Texana, until at last my uncle said, “Hey, can we get there already? I’m hungry!” Of course, he was correct to insist we keep moving, as our potluck dinner comprised of Tex-Mex, Southern and Cajun dishes promised to be a feast.

“I bet there will also be a ton of incredible desserts,” said my mom. And when we walked into the kitchen, her prediction proved true, as the first thing you saw was the buffet lined with cookies, pies and a gorgeous, round cake standing proud and tall. “Is that a pound cake?” I asked my cousin Susan. She replied that indeed it was, adding, “Pound cake is so Southern. The secret to this one is it has sour cream.”

ruby red grapefruit

Pound cake—it’s such a simple thing, but I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten one, nor could I remember the last time I’d even baked one. When we were leaving that evening, I grabbed an extra slice for my plane ride back to New York the next day. But I accidentally left my slice of pound cake in Texas, and have been missing it ever since.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sopa de lima (Mexican lime soup) recipe

sopa de lima, Mexican lime soup

Whenever I get together with my Texan friends in New York, we’ll usually cook our favorite dishes from back home. Enchiladas, chicken-fried steak, brisket and chile con queso all make frequent appearances—the Texan cuisine we serve is comfortable and familiar. I don’t mind this at all.

But on a recent visit to a friend’s house, he served me a flavorful chicken soup that was topped with fried tortilla strips, Monterrey Jack cheese, lime slices and avocado. It was a bit like tortilla soup, but tangier and lighter. “Is this Texan?” I asked. “Sort of,” he said. He then explained that this soup—which is called sopa de lima or Mexican lime soup—originally hails from the Yucatan region of Mexico. But he used to eat it growing up in San Antonio, and it reminded him of home.


I loved that soup, but I didn’t think about it again until I began to feel a tickle in my throat and a heaviness in my chest; if I wasn’t careful, a cold could be coming. Clearly, I needed a quick fix, and I figured that sopa de lima—which is chock full of vitamin C from the lime juice—was what I needed to stave off getting sick.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Armadillo eggs recipe

armadillo eggs

Once a year, a reader shoots me an email asking when I’ll be writing about armadillo eggs. At first I said, “Uh, armadillos are mammals—they don’t lay eggs!” But soon I realized that he was talking about a certain jalapeño appetizer. Unfortunately, however, writing about armadillo eggs isn’t as simple as it may appear, as there are several different thoughts about what this finger food should be.

My reader’s interpretation of the dish is that it’s a baked jalapeño that’s been stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon. I’ve seen others label these bacon-wrapped jalapeños as armadillo eggs, too. But I was always taught that the name for this dish was ABT. (I’ll let you discover on your own what the letters stand for, as it’s a bit too colorful for me.) ABTs also can be grilled or smoked, the latter of which makes them a popular snack on the championship barbecue circuit. While you’re waiting for your brisket to become tender, you can keep people happy with a plate of ABTs.

Then there are the cheese-stuffed jalapeños that have been breaded and fried, which are also known as armadillo eggs. I, however, have always thought of that snack as a jalapeño popper.

armadillo eggs

So what’s my idea of an armadillo egg?

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