Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Green chile scalloped onions

Green chile scalloped casserole | Homesick Texan

Spring is always a late arrival in New York. While I’ve been hearing about people in Texas enjoying the bounty of bluebonnets over the past few weeks, it’s remained cold and lifeless up here in the North. This week, however, the temperature rose and as I walked down the street I saw that the trees were finally in bloom. At last.

While the signs of a new season have been slow to arrive, due to the miracle of transportation we can now get produce from just about anywhere in the world. There is an argument for eating locally, but when it’s been cold and grey for the past few months and the farmers market is still only selling the same tired apples and winter squash, you take what you can get. So, when I saw a huge display of Texas sweet onions at my grocery the other day it was cause for celebration.

Texas sweet onions, also known as Texas 1015s, were developed in the 1980s by some onion-loving Aggies. They are related to other American sweet onions such as the Walla Walla of Washington and the Vidalia of Georgia, but I believe that Texas sweet onions are the best. And my store must also agree, as the display was prominently placed. I grabbed as many as I could.

Green chile scalloped casserole | Homesick Texan

My grandma used to grow onions back when she kept her garden, and they have long been family favorites. We slice them into salads, sprinkle them on top of enchiladas, and batter and fry big, wide onion rings. These are all fine applications, but as I was doing some research I came across a series of scalloped onion recipes in Texas newspapers from the early 1900s. The gist of each story was that scalloped onions are a mighty fine addition to the springtime table.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tortilla-crusted shrimp

Tortilla-crusted shrimp | Homesick Texan

“Did you know that if you dip a Frito into ketchup it tastes like fried shrimp?” asked my aunt. I told her I did not. She explained that she’d been at a party where everyone brought strange concoctions and this was one of the dishes on offer. “I was doubtful,” she said, “but it’s surprising how your mind is fooled.”

Curious, when I returned home I grabbed a bag of Fritos, squirted some ketchup into a bowl, and began to dip. It wasn’t a perfect substitution, but if I closed my eyes and hadn’t been aware of what I was eating, I might have believed it was fried shrimp. Amazing. But as much as I love Fritos I might love fried shrimp even more. Sure, that trick of the mind had been initially pleasing, but ultimately all it did was make me crave the real thing even more. It was time to make a batch and get some true satisfaction.

Tortilla-crusted shrimp | Homesick Texan

Inspired by the corn chips, instead of doing my usual flour or saltine dredge I opted to coat my shrimp in crushed tortilla chips. Now, in my second cookbook I have a recipe for a tortilla-crusted fish, so taking a lead from that I applied it to my shrimp. First, I lightly seasoned the shrimp then coated them with flour to help everything stick. Next the shrimp were given a quick dip in some eggs and then dredged through crushed tortilla chips seasoned with black pepper, garlic, and cayenne.

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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Red chile cheese enchiladas

Red chile cheese enchiladas | Homesick Texan

In the spring of 2009, I visited El Paso. While I’d been there before, for this trip my plan was to fly into the city, rent a car, and then continue to Marfa like I’d done in the past. But when I told a friend that I would be in her hometown, she insisted I spend a few meals in the city before hitting the road. “The food is unlike any you’ve ever had,” she said.

She gave me a list of places to try and one of them was Carnitas Queretaro. As the name implies, this is a pork-centric restaurant that specializes in said little meats and my plan was to try the namesake dish. The morning I visited, however, a server walked past me carrying a plate of enchiladas. They were bright red and smothered with white molten cheese, and it was so fragrant that as she passed I turned my head to follow the plate to its destination. A few minutes later, the server approached my table to take my order. I nodded to where she’d dropped off the enchiladas and said I wanted the same.

Red chile cheese enchiladas | Homesick Texan

When my enchiladas arrived, a light steam rose from the hot plate. On it were two soft corn tortillas smothered in that rich, vibrant sauce along with a blanket of melted cheese. I took my first bite, and they were earthy, chewy, and creamy with a touch of heat. The red chile sauce made them distinct from other cheese enchiladas I’d had in Texas, but they were still familiar. They were excellent and I loved them.

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