Sunday, September 11, 2011

Poblano Macaroni and Cheese ala The Homesick Texan


Have you missed me???

It's been awhile since I posted here, but not awhile since I posted to a blog.  Come and visit my new blog
in fact, I've posted everyday for the last 45.  Come and see what I've been cooking up.

In point of fact, this very same post is located over there (and truth be told, I wish you would click THIS Link and read the post there... it, my new home after all and if you want t o visit me, you need to head there).  Go ahead, no difference at all, you would just be visiting my new blog.

But, I am following through on an obligation I made to my dear friend,GirliChef while I lived here with this fun post by posting it here as well...

This post is part of The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off 
sponsored by Hyperion and hosted  at girlichef


The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off Banner


so....




I am back, Deep in the Heart of Texas!!!

Remember last week when I made Pork Tacos, Dallas Gas Station Style from the Homesick Texan Cookbook?

All part of a cookbook spotlight and cook-off hosted by Heather (of the GIRLICHEF Blog).  19 of the best and brightest (well, 18 and me) bloggers have agreed to really put fellow blogger, Lisa of the Homesick Texan Blog (and author of the The Homesick Texan Cookbook) to the test.  Rules are pretty simple, we all cook the same dish two weeks in a row, we all blog the results, next week, we all pick our own dishes and really test the book.  And finally the last week of the month, we do a book report.


So, we are in week number two of the spotlight.  It's time to test out a side dish.  And what is more Texan than a big skillet full of Macaroni and Cheese?  Well, almost anything would be.  You see, the origins for Mac and Cheese are not Italian or Mediterranean at all, but are British.  For the most part, pre-1820's Texas was explored, settled and populated by Hispanic Europeans and native born Mexicans.  Texas (actually a part of Mexico at the time) loosened their immigration laws allowing land ownership by non-Mexicans for the first time. was almost 100% populated by Mexicans. But in the 1830's, led by Steven Austin and his gang of "Old Three Hundred", huge parcels of land were sold to citizens of the United States (with British and French origins).  These immigrants (some legal, most illegal) brought with them, fraudulent land speculations and the slave trade.


Which brings us to Jim Bowie, Slave Trader, land Speculator, Indian Fighter, nasty horrible man and one of the most admired figures in Texas history.  He is also the designer of the famous Bowie Knife.  But unlike all of the information above, the knife has very little to do with Poblano Macaroni And Cheese.

But Jim Bowie the man does.  Not as a cook, but as an example of the melding of cultures.  Bowie's roots can be traced to Maryland, which traces it's roots to English immigration.  In order to secure his ability to thrive as a land speculator, he bought his way into a marriage with the daughter of the vice-Governor of the provence (a shade over $300,000 dollars buys a bride half your age, Mexican citizenship and a government title).


But (and I am now getting to the food), a funny thing happens when you sat down roots in a new culture.  Jim Bowie fell in love with his wife.  he learned the language and the history of the area.  He was accepted as a respected mover and shaker and leader of men.  And with that love and respect came a desire to adapt recipes to meld the cultures (keep everybody happy at home).


The six flags that have flown over
TEXAS
Tex-Mex food is different from the traditional foods served in Mexico, and even New Mexico and Arizona.  Texas has a unique culture and cuisine because of Jim Bowie and the like who moved to a land, adapted the best and brought with them their best.


The heavy creamy cheesy dish, Macaroni and Cheese is from England. Sure, roots in Italian pasta and French sauces, but the heavy cheese dish we know (and that disgusting blue box) was born in English kitchens.

The Poblano chili (along with the spices Lisa brings to her recipe) are all part of the native Mexican and Hispanic Europeans who settled in Texas prior to their immigration crisis of 1830.


Melding Jim Bowie's English/Maryland roots and his financial arm candy wife (whom he went to his historic death loving dearly), Lisa has created a perfect example of Tex-Mex cuisine.


The dish comes together in about an hour.  By roasting the peppers first, the full flavor is brought out.  Adding Cayenne pepper spice along with smoothing it out with some mustard powder, cumin and lime melds the Mexican side.  No English kitchen would serve this and Mexican homes could not imagine these combinations.


Only in Texas could a slave trading, land grabbing, back woods fighter become an honored founder of a country, state and...Cuisine!


And that's what makes this dish a perfect example of Tex-Mex Cuisine...




Poblano Macaroni and Cheese 
adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook
serves 8... note, I doubled this recipe.  I love leftovers, but also I wanted to use up the pasta, not have leftover cheese to spoil and it makes such a great presentation in a big cast iron skillet

4 poblano chiles
16 oz. elbow pasta Note: I used Fusilli Pasta (the corkscrew type).  I liked that pasta as it soaks up teh cheese sauce so well, every gap has the cheese oozing into the nooks.
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
10 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbs. all-purpose flour
3 c. whole milk
2 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. ground cumin
lime zest
1 c. chopped cilantro
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
24 oz. grated white cheddar cheese (I used half white, half yellow)

for serving:
Cotija cheese

Roast the poblanos under the broiler until blackened, ~5 minutes per side. Remove and cover them to let them steam, for ~20 minutes. I like to roast them right on top of a large sheet of foil, then just bring the foil up and around the chiles. Peel/rub off the skins and remove the stems and seeds, then dice into ~1" chunks.

Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until just al dente. Preheat your oven to 375° F. Grease a large baking dish or cast-iron skillet (personally, I'd choose an 8"-10") and set aside.

In a pot set over low heat, melt the butter. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and cook until light brown and toasty smelling, ~1 minute more. Whisk in the milk and stir until thickened, 1-2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and stir in mustard powder, cayenne, cumin, lime zest, cilantro, and prepared poblanos. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, as needed.

Stir half of the cheese into the sauce until melted. Throw in the pasta and stir until coated. Pour into prepared dish. Top with remaining cheddar cheese and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbly and slightly golden. Sprinkle with Cotija

I just LOVED this dish... so rich, thick and cheesy.  But just enough spices to make it very interesting.  I paired this with a grilled steak and grilled corn on the cob!  In fact I actually finished the dish in the grill, simple matter of moving the skillet onto the side of the grill, indirect heat, everything comes out hot from the grill and ready to serve!


Now that's a meal!

If i have tweaked your interest in anything Texan, and all things Texas Cuisine, The Homesick Texan Cookbook will be available for sale on September 13th.  And Lisa's blog is up and ongoing at HOMESICK TEXAN.


This post is part of The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off 
sponsored by Hyperion and hosted  at girlichef


The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off Banner

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pork Tacos Dallas Gas Station Style ala The Homesick Texan


Have you missed me???

It's been awhile since I posted here, but not awhile since I posted to a blog.  Come and visit my new blog
in fact, I've posted everyday for the last 35.  Come and see what I've been cooking up.

In point of fact, this very same post is located over there (and truth be told, I wish you would click THIS Link and read the post there... it, my new home after all and if you want t o visit me, you need to head there).  Go ahead, no difference at all, you would just be visiting my new blog.

But, I am following through on an obligation I made to my dear friend, GirliChef while I lived here with this fun post by posting it here as well...

This post is part of The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off 
sponsored by Hyperion and hosted  at girlichef


The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off Banner


so....


The stars at night - are big and bright
Deep in the heart of the suburbs of Kansas City.
The prairie sky - is wide and high
Deep in the heart of the suburbs of Kansas City.
The sage in bloom - is like perfume
Deep in the heart of the suburbs of Kansas City.
Reminds me of - the one I love
Deep in the heart of the suburbs of Kansas City.
The cowboys cry - ki-yip-pie-yi
Deep in the heart of the suburbs of Kansas City.
The rabbits rush - around the brush
Deep in the heart of the suburbs of Kansas City.
The coyotes wail - along the trail
Deep in the heart of the suburbs of Kansas City.
The doggies bawl - and bawl and bawl
Deep in the heart of the suburbs of Kansas City.

Yeap, last night the stars were bright as we celebrated all (well some) things TEXAS!

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by one of my favorite bloggers (and regular contributer to eRecipeCards.com), Heather, the GirliChef about participating in a Cookbook spotlight and Cook-Off invitation.  Exciting enough, I love this type of contest -spotlight- giveaway.  More than just a random number drawing, if you want the freebie, you have to earn it.

So, the deal is we get a book for free, and we post 3 recipes and a review of the book.  OK, I can do that.  Then I read that there will be 19 participants.  Each of those 19 will be cooking and posting the same recipe.  Now that is intriguing.  I not only cook a recipe, but I can take a look at the different photography skills with the same recipe, read over the different writing styles of the same recipe and get introduced to new blogging buddies!

Well, Yippee Ki-Ay !!!



But then I got even more excited by the concept...
The book in question is, 
The Homesick Texan Cookbook, written by Lisa Fain. 

Dig a little deeper into Lisa Fain and you see another reason to howl,
YIPPEE KI-AY and hoist a drink in toast to a legend in my mind...

She made it!

Maybe it will help if you hit play on this youTube video...



I think everyone in life deserves a theme song, And for me at least, this should be Lisa's.  The video starts wiht a very lonely girl unpacking her boxes after moving to the big city (then it gets weird with swirling Abba heads, so only watch the first couple of minutes and then come back and read more while the music plays).

That's what Lisa was.  Lonely homesick Texan moving to the big city (New York).  But she certainly made the best of it.  She used Texas cuisine to introduce herself to her new friends, then started a blog!  Yeap, she is indeed ONE OF US (see, that's why she gets a theme song).

Click the logo to magically be taken to the Homesick Texan blog
Homesick Texan is indeed a food blog, telling the story of one expatriated Texan in the big city.  It is very personal, telling stories of her friends (taste testers) and family but mostly of herself and her struggles to find ingredients, adapt to more seasonal cooking and her hunts for authentic Texas faire in the land of nouveau cuisine.

I love food bloggers.  In fact, I have made a blog (Inspired by eRecipeCards.com) just using recipes that I was inspired to make provided by food bloggers.  But how much inspirational can a story get than going from eater to foodie to food blogger to food blogger that has found her voice to published author.

OK, that's the who of the book... Here's the who of my little dinner party...

My good friend Herme (neighbor as well as frequent taste tester for my efforts) is also a homesick expatriated Texan.  Forced out of her native land to the wilds of big city (suburban) life, she was very excited when I simply sent her an email saying, "dinner party for homesick Texan, bring props".

I probably should have checked with her prior to the party, as I made a pitcher of Sweet Tea to serve with the Texas meal.

Herme informed me that, in fact, the "House wine of the South" is in reality not a common Texas drink.  Sure enough, when I double checked the index in the book, as well as the search function on Homesick Texan the blog, Lisa has never done a post on sweet tea.

Of course, after reading the forward to the book and reading over her blog, I realized that she had moved before that bitch Katrina had displaced thousands of New Orleans residents to eastern Texas.  I suspect that these immigrants influenced more than one Texan to give this a try.  So, I blame the ever evolving Texas cuisine for not catching up with Lisa during her all too brief visits home.  Yeah, that's it, ever changing, not my poor research.

BTW, real quick, make a pitcher of sun tea (sadly, that's my pitcher of tea sitting on my smoker.  I had to explain why I had a pork shoulder and yet was not going to fire her up and smoke it... Smoker's know these things and take it personal, but I digress and will get to the recipe shortly) and make a "simple syrup" to make it sweet.  1 cup water, add 2 cups sugar, bring to boil while stirring constantly, remove from heat, continue to stir for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool, add to the tea.  Much different than "sweetened tea".

But, since this is not about the south, but about all things Texas, I won't bore you with my next Texan Faux Pas when I made a fancy Pina Colada (actually a "Painkiller").  My resident homesick Texan told me that Texans like their beer and enjoy a shot and rarely serve foo foo mixed drinks.  My intention was to virally serve up a toast with this Caribbean treat to Lisa as an acknowledgement to her accomplishment (and if you can't tell, the drink is actually sitting on her acknowledgement page of her cookbook).

But again, as her preface says, Texas is pretty big.  I would venture to say that more than a few spring breakers visited Galveston Island and enjoyed a nice cool refreshing rum drink.  Herme (like I am sure Lisa) was warned away from the debauchery of Spring Break on the Key West of Texas.  But Herme has succomed to the debaucheries of my Cul de Sac and regularly imbibes.  Makes me wonder if even worse debaucheries exist in NYC for Lisa to avoid... Things that keep her mother up nights...

But I digress...If only rum drinks were Texan, I would hoist a few PAINKILLERS in tribute to "One of us"...

1 part Orange juice
1 part Pineapple Juice
1 part Cream of Coconut
1 Part Coconut Rum
(Cruzan is my rum of choice)
Blend and serve over ice with a pinch of Nutmeg

But they are not.  And near as I can tell, neither is my Caribbean Salsa recipe...

Well, maybe it is.  Lisa does have a recipe for Pineapple Salsa on her blog.  And, she uses it on several recipes.  So it must be a Texas thing.  Although my neighborhood Homesick Texan assured me that it was sacrilege to add pineapple.  And in comparing recipes, hers is not close to mine, so I will continue to put this in the Faux Pas catagory.

So, this didn't fit either... despite the wonderful presentation possibilities of loading up a hollowed out pineapple with....

1 part Tomatoes
1 part Onion
1 part Red Bell Pepper
2 parts Roma Tomatoes
2 parts Pineapple

Dice everything the same tiny size
add 1/4 parts chopped Parsley
1/4 parts "not your Grandmother's HERBES de PROVENCE"

So, that's what I did wrong in my tribute to Texas dinner.  But in my mind, and in the heart of my personal homesick Texan, I hope my efforts showed...


So, let's get to the recipe and see what I did right...

Let's start with my one complaint and get that out of the way...

The title of the dish

Lisa calls this "Pork Tacos Dallas Gas Station Style"  She tells a wonderful story about a corridor near Dallas where seemingly every gas station offers their version of this quickie delicious meal.  Well, i am going to tell you that no gas station would make this recipe as she lists it.  I own a pretty good knife and I keep it sharp (my knife cast more than my first car, but that's a story for another time).  I am a griller and smoker and actually am considered one of the best pulled pork makers in my very competitive neighborhood filled with grillers and smokers.  I know my way around a pork shoulder.  Worked with them before and often.  But it still took me over an hour to trim and dice the two pounds of shoulder to 1/2 inch size.  Let's do the math... my 2 pounds (actually, I asked my butcher to do a 2 1/4 pound shoulder, bone in.  Once the bone was removed and the fat trimmed, I ended up with 2 pounds of meat... but I digress); my two pounds of meat  in the hands of a competent knife guy took over an hour.  I honestly do not see how anyone could do it in less time (unless they fudge on the half inch size and make them bigger (I've seen your pictures, you know who you are)). I made 6 tacos from the 2 pounds.  That's a lot of labor cost to prep this dish.  So, from here on out, I am calling this "Pork Tacos Dallas Gourmet Taco Shop Next to the gas Station Style".

But, that's it.  Plan to spend a good hour (longer if you have dull knives or are not used to trimming meat) of prep time.  For me, that is a lot of prep time.

But it was worth it!

Deep rich flavors, the mix of peppers, combined with the citrus juices in the marinade made for quite a surprising treat.  Again, fitting for any Gourmet taco stand.

If you will permit one more criticism... I was given an advance copy of this book to review.  I felt an obligation to cook as directed.  I loved the marinade and would certainly use it again.  BUT, the fast 15 minute cook time (the real reason for dicing the meat so small) is not my method of choice for pork shoulder.  After marinating as directed, I would make a mop sauce from the same ingredients and cook either on my beloved smoker or in a slow cooker for hours to get the most tender and flavorful pieces of meat for the filling.  ALSO, once slow cooked, it is a simple matter of taking a couple of forks and shredding the shoulder into bite size bits.  My educated opinion is that the meat would be just as tasty and save at least that 1 hour of prep time.

But that's just me.  Like I said, as printed, as made, I have ZERO issues with the taste.  the tacos were indeed worthy of a gourmet taco joint!


And wonderful fun for a dinner party... Set up a lazy Susan with roasted Jalapeno Pepper, my fake Texan (Caribbean really) Salsa, Sour Cream, A sweet Cilantro sauce, and a Queso Cheese to top as you like...

And my wife enjoyed the book so much she made a delicious cool cucumber salad (page 258) that paired perfectly with the spicy tacos!

Truly a wonderful TEXAS meal made deep in the hearts of suburbia!  Thanks Lisa and Congrats on the book!

Pork Tacos, Dallas Gas Station Style
adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook
makes 4-6 servings


for the pork
4 pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into ½" chunks
1 canned chipotle in adobo
4 garlic cloves
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. ground cumin
small pinch ground cloves
¼ c. orange juice
¼ c. pineapple juice
1 Tbs. white vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
salt, to taste
1 Tbs. vegetable oil

for the tacos
6 jalapeños
tortillas, flour or corn
cilantro, chopped
yellow onion, small dice
1 lime, cut into wedges/slices



Toast pasillas in a dry skillet over high heat for ~10 seconds per side, or until they start to puff and change colors.  Fill skillet with enough water to cover chiles and bring to a boil.  Turn off heat and let chiles rehydrate until soft, ~30 minutes.

Place re-hydrated chiles in blender (discard soaking liquid) along with the chipotle, garlic, oregano, cumin, cloves, orange juice, pineapple juice, vinegar, and olive oil.  Blend to a smoth purée.  Add salt to taste.  Toss pork with purée (I put everything into a gallon ziploc bag).  Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

Before cooking, let pork sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Fry pork in the skillet for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While pork is cooking, place jalapeños under broiler and cook for ~10 minutes, or until blackened, turning once.  Serve pork in warm tortillas, topped with cilantro and onions, along with the roasted chiles and lime wedges...and salsa, if you like.


If i have tweaked your interest in anything Texan, and all things Texas Cuisine (except for rum drinks in Galveston Island), The Homesick Texan Cookbook will be available for sale on September 13th.  And Lisa's blog is up and ongoing at HOMESICK TEXAN.