Thursday, February 23, 2012

Creamy chipotle shrimp with mushrooms and wild rice

creamy chipotle shrimp with mushrooms and wild rice

“It’s time to be good,” said the menu, which was showcasing a special section of seafood dishes. It was carnitas that had lured me to this West Texan Mexican restaurant but I’m always a fool for good seafood, especially Texan seafood. A plate of chipotle shrimp seemed especially promising, but when I placed my order the waiter told me the special seafood menu was available only on Fridays. “It’s for cuaresma,” he explained, which means Lent in Spanish. As it was Tuesday, I stuck with my original plan of carnitas instead.

On Fridays during Lent, Catholics and many Protestants don’t eat meat, hence special Friday menus offering seafood at places where it’s not usually served. Now Lent is known as a time of abstention, repentance and reflection. But despite the serious mood I find there’s much to be joyful about during this season, namely the food.

Sure, I enjoy meat but I’ll take any excuse to eat more Texan seafood, which is widely on offer during Lent. For instance, on Fridays you’ll find many churches holding fish fries. Of course, churches in other parts of the country have Friday fish fries, but in Texas they’re frying up catfish instead of say, cod. Then there are those who have their Friday crawfish boils, as crawfish just happen to be in season during the spring. And how convenient is that?

Gulf shrimp

But as fun as a Friday fish fry or crawfish boil may be, my favorite Texan Lenten tradition is the aforementioned cuaresma menu found at Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants. On offer you’ll find Veracruz-style fish, shrimp quesadillas and the excellent Mexican bread pudding known as capirotada for dessert. And of course, you’ll also find chipotle shrimp like I saw in West Texas but was unable to order that day.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pancakes and Louisiana

pancakes

This past week, I was on the road working on a freelance project. And while the job involved two of my favorite things—Texas and food—it prevented me from spending any time in the kitchen cooking.

Now, it’s just occurred to me that it’s the final few days before Lent, a time when some are going to indulge in lots of Louisiana dishes to celebrate Mardi Gras, or pancakes to celebrate Shrove Tuesday.

As I’ve said in the past, I come from a long line of pancake eaters. But I do have some homesick Cajun friends here in New York, so I’ve been known to indulge in the occasional bowl or two of gumbo before Ash Wednesday as well. And since I didn’t an opportunity to cook this week, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite pancake and Louisiana-style recipes from others and myself instead.

Happy cooking!

Recipes from Homesick Texan:

Pancakes
Gingerbread pancakes
Grandpa’s special pancakes
Uncle Austin’s Mexican pancakes with coconut
Apple Dutch baby with green chiles

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Chocolate-cherry scones with cinnamon-orange butter

chocolate cherry scones

Sometimes you get a craving. For me, it was a slice of chocolate-cherry bread, that sweet yeasty loaf from Central Market riddled with chunks of bittersweet chocolate and tart, juicy berries. When I lived in Austin, it was a favorite of mine and while I’ve had other chocolate breads since, there's something about their version that's uniquely addictive.

It was summer and fortunately a trip to Houston was planned. When I arrived, I immediately visited Central Market so I could reacquaint myself with this long-favored bread. Now, it had been a while since I had bought a loaf, but I was surprised when I went to the bread department and couldn’t find it. I asked the baker about its whereabouts and he said, “Come back tomorrow—we should have it then.”

The next day, I returned to the store and went to the bakery. Again, I didn’t see the bread. I asked the baker about it and he repeated what he had told me the day before. “Come back tomorrow—we'll definitely have it then.”

chocolate cherry scones

I was scheduled to return to New York the next day, but before I left, I dropped by the store one last time to see if they had the chocolate-cherry bread. And sadly, it wasn’t there. A different baker was working and I asked him why they didn’t have it. He told me that it was a special bread only sold around Christmas and Valentine’s and if I wanted a loaf I should return during those holidays.

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

red chile seafood chowder



For the Super Bowl, my friends and I usually serve food that represents the teams. And with Boston and New York playing this year, clam chowder seemed like the perfect fit.

But since I’m not committed to either the Giants or the Patriots, I couldn’t decide which style of chowder to offer. Did I want to serve the comforting cream-based New England style or did I want to serve the more lively tomato-based Manhattan style instead? Or perhaps I could offer both, and have people choose their favorite in a match called The Chowder Bowl.

It was a tough call and I was having a difficult time making a choice. Fortunately, my fishmonger made the decision easier for me. When I paid her a visit, all she had on hand were littleneck clams. I asked how many I’d need for chowder and she said, “With littlenecks, it’s not worth it. They’re too small. They’re not good chowder clams.”

“But it’s the Super Bowl this Sunday!” I said. “What should I do?” She looked at me and said, “When we watch the game, we like to eat dip.”

littleneck clams red chile seafood chowder

With that in mind, I took my bag of not-chowder clams and decided to follow her advice. There was a cream-cheese clam dip recipe in one of my Junior League books, but even after I spiced it up with some chiles and bacon it didn’t thrill me. Clearly, I still had chowder on the brain so I returned to my original plan. But this time, instead of just making chowder with clams, I also threw in some fish and shrimp to make seafood chowder instead.

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