Thursday, May 29, 2014

Vietnamese fried chicken

vietnamese fried chicken

For me, nothing says summer more than fried chicken. I can’t tell you how many picnics, family gatherings, and weekend lunches I’ve had in my life where we served fried chicken. It’s one of my main dishes of the season.

A few days ago, a group of us were sitting around discussing all the different styles of fried chicken, and one friend mentioned that recently she’d had Vietnamese fried chicken. While it wasn’t the like the fried chicken her grandmother made, it was still terrific.

Curious, I asked what made Vietnamese fried chicken different from the usual. She then explained that the chicken was glazed in a sweet and sour sauce. While the sticky sauce made the dish a little messier, you didn’t mind as that sauce was so, so good.

vietnamese fried chicken

Now, I have to admit that the first time I had Vietnamese food wasn’t in Texas but on a trip to Washington, D.C. when I was nine. Back then, there just were a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in Houston. But over the years, as the Vietnamese population in Texas has grown, Vietnamese restaurants have become quite common throughout the state, and it's now the odd place that doesn’t have at least one restaurant offering Vietnamese cuisine.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pork chops with jalapeño peach barbecue sauce

jalapeño peach barbecue sauce with broiled pork chops

There have been lots of stories about homesick Texans in New York throughout the years, but some of my favorites are about Bud Shrake. He was a Texan writer who lived in New York in the 1960s when he worked at Sports Illustrated and a few years ago Texas Monthly published some of his letters to his friends and family back home.

He was a wild guy, so the letters are colorful and lively, filled with lots of anecdotes about both the writing life and the New York nightlife back then. He also had a voracious appetite and liked to write about food. Like so many homesick Texans in New York, he would lament the dearth of good Texan food and whenever he did find something that reminded him of home, he and his fellow Texans in New York would rejoice.

When discussing his beloved dishes from Texas, one he goes on about is pork chops. He loved pork chops. And it was his passion that reminded me I also love them and it had been too long since I’d had one. When I was young, we ate them fairly regularly at home but I realize I don’t make them nearly enough, and that’s a shame, as they’re not very expensive and yet when cooked well can be as succulent and satisfying as a steak.

jalapeño peach barbecue sauce

There are several different ways to make pork chops but one of the quickest and easiest I’ve found is simply broiling them. You just season the chops, slide them under the broiler for a spell, flip them once, and in almost no time they’re done.

While a good, thick pork chop doesn’t need much more than a light dusting of salt and pepper, this time of year when people take to their backyards and fire up their grills, I like to spread some barbecue sauce onto my chops before broiling in order to introduce some of that smoky, sweet, outdoor flavor into my indoor dining experience. And since nothing says summer like peaches, one sauce I like to use in the warmer months is my jalapeño peach barbecue sauce.

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Friday, May 09, 2014

Lemon bread

lemon bread

When I first moved to New York, about once or twice a year my mom would send me a loaf of lemon bread. It was my favorite thing. The bread itself is a tender buttery loaf studded with lemon zest and pecans. It's pleasant enough but not obvious in its charms. But what takes this bread over the top (and makes you reach for slice after slice) is the tangy and sticky glaze, which sweetly shatters with each bite.

The glaze is made with sugar and lemon juice and it’s generously spread all over the loaf after it’s cooled. The bread then goes into the refrigerator for a spell, which not only allows the bread to absorb some of the juice but also hardens the glaze. Each slice of bread is then sweet and tart with the glaze lending a satisfying crunch.

While I feel like I’ve been eating this bread all my life, I don’t think that’s the case as the recipe wasn’t passed along to my mom until I was in high school. We were on our way to Baylor for a spring school visit, and we stopped at my great-aunt Mary’s house in Bryan along the way. As we sat at her kitchen table listening to stories about Aunt Mary’s lively days as a Baylor Belle, she passed around slices of the lemon bread for us to enjoy.

lemon bread

Perhaps a recipe was exchanged that day or maybe my mom asked for it soon after, but it wasn’t until after that visit that she started making the bread in our own home. The bread is very sweet, so at first it was only served on special occasions, such as Christmas morning. Then she started making it for birthdays but because our family loved it so much, before long there was almost always a loaf in the refrigerator, waiting to be sliced and enjoyed along with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

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