Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shrimp queso flameado with ranchera salsa

shrimp queso flameado ranchera salsa

There’s that big game happening this week, and in honor of the host city New Orleans, I thought that it would be a fun idea to make a Cajun-inspired chile con queso. Shrimp, andouille sausage, melted cheese, jalapeƱos, and tomatoes—it was going to be good!

Well, I was wrong. Terribly wrong. The queso just seemed strange. How can these ingredients not work together, I wondered. After much thought, I concluded that perhaps it didn’t taste all that bad, but trying to come up with a dish to fit the occasion felt false since I don’t have much of an investment in this particular game. Matter of fact, the last time this season I felt any real thrill about professional football was a Sunday back in early November, when I was in Houston waiting to return to New York after Hurricane Sandy.

It was an exquisite Texas fall day with a bright blue sky, a cool breeze, and an upbeat energy in the air. Now, I assumed this good feeling came from the beautiful weather, as these clear crisp days are rare in Houston. But as I drove around town and saw flags waving from cars and everyone sporting a jersey, I realized it was a Texans game day, and part of what made the city feel so alive was that Houston was clearly in love with its home team.

Football, at its most basic, is about community—a group of people connected by a common passion. It had been a while since I’d been in Houston on a game day, but the joy I saw people exhibit for the Texans was contagious. Of course, it helped that the team was playing well, but still—seeing a city so large and diverse as Houston united made me smile.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chicken tortilla casserole

chicken tortilla casserole

For the past few weeks, like many folks this time of year, I’ve been sneezing, coughing and feeling wretched. But while this year may be off to a slow start, I ended last year in the best way possible—flying around the country, visiting those that I love.

It’s unusual for me to go over a week on the road eating only home-cooked meals, as usually when I travel—especially to Texas—I find myself in restaurants more often than home kitchens. Even when I’m visiting family, we’ll often pack up the car and head to our favorite Tex-Mex spot—old, familiar places where the staff gives us such a warm welcome it feels like calling on a friend.

But not this trip. Every place I stopped, people cooked and then we sat around a table and enjoyed a meal or two. Sure, that sounds simple and often it was. Though it being the holidays and all, there were plenty of fancy meals, as well. The best thing about all of this cooking, however, was that I didn’t do any of it. Nope, I let everyone else do the cooking and took it easy. That may have been the best gift I received all year!

As I’ve been on the road the past few months for work and joined people for dinner, I’ve joked that the theme of my next book is that I will go to someone’s house, have them cook for me, and then I’ll write about it. And I’ve been served some incredible meals! Of course, I love to share food that I’ve made, but I have to admit that it’s been fun being able to kick back and simply enjoy time with those that I love.

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