Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bob Armstrong Dip: queso with taco meat, guacamole, and sour cream

Bob Armstrong Dip, queso with taco meat, guacamole, and sour cream

About 43 years ago or so, Robert “Bob” Armstrong walked into Matt’s El Rancho in Austin and asked the owner’s son, Matt Martinez, Jr., to surprise him with something new. Bob Armstrong was the Texas Land Commissioner at the time, and was not only a powerful guy but also a regular customer. Matt wanted to make him happy.

The story goes that Matt went into the kitchen, grabbed a large bowl and ladled into it some taco meat. Next, he hid the taco meat under a generous helping of creamy chile con queso and finished with dollops of guacamole and sour cream on top. He then took the bowl out to Bob and presented him with his kitchen creation.

At first Bob looked at the bowl, wrinkled his nose and said, “That’s just queso. I wanted something different!” But Matt insisted he try it and when Bob dipped his chip into the queso and discovered the layer of taco meat, he grinned and proceeded to eat the whole bowl without further comment.

Bob Armstrong Dip, queso with taco meat, guacamole, and sour cream

The next day, people came into Matt’s El Rancho asking for a bowl of Bob Armstrong’s dip. None of the wait staff knew what the heck they were talking about until Matt Martinez, Jr. figured out they were asking for the off-the-menu queso he’d made for Bob the day before. Apparently, Bob Armstrong had returned to the Texas state capitol and told everyone they had to try Matt’s queso with taco meat, guacamole, and sour cream. And at that moment, a chile con queso legend was born.

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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Chicken posole verde

Chicken posole verde with kale (chicken pozole verde)

The other day I went to the store to buy some collard greens, but the store was sold out. In the produce department there was a large, colorful sign that said, “Collards are the new kale!” which may explain why there weren’t any left—everyone wanted to try this new, hip green. There was, however, plenty of kale.

Of course, like most Texans, I’ve been eating collards all my life. But I have to admit that prior to that day I’d never bought kale. Heck, I’m not even sure that I’d even eaten it despite its popularity and ubiquity the past couple of years. Mind you, I’m not averse to greens, but I usually opt for the ones that we grew—such as said collards, along with spinach, turnip greens, or Swiss chard—all of which made frequent appearances on my family’s table.

Because there weren’t any collards available that day, I decided it might not be a bad time to finally try kale. (I’ve always been a late adopter.) And since the store had plenty of it available, I picked up a bunch of lacinato kale, which is also delightfully known as dinosaur kale. (I imagine this green’s name is very popular with the under-five set.) I left the store with visions of kale salads in my future.

Chicken posole verde with kale (chicken pozole verde)

After a couple of crunchy, chewy meals with the kale, however, I still had a mess of the greens in my refrigerator and was getting kind of bored. It was time to do something different. Now, my first thought was to cook them with bacon. But since it’s the New Year and I’m trying to eat relatively light for a few weeks, I opted instead to throw a handful of the kale into a pot of chicken posole verde I had simmering on my stove. Wouldn’t you know? My mountain of kale seemed a lot more manageable, plus my soup looked festive with the greens swirling around the pot.

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