Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tuesday Tacos, true Gulf Coast Flavor!

I see fish tacos as a very Baja Mexico creation, in recent years I have noticed them appearing many menus across Texas as well.  The fish can be grilled, fried or seared but however it is prepared they are almost always enjoyable.  I used to rate a good Tex-Mex restaurant on the enchiladas & salsa alone, now I guess the establishment had better be on the game with the Fish Tacos too! The fish must be super fresh.  We are fortunate to have fresh Gulf seafood nearly at our fingertips here in Texas.  (You can substitute any fresh fish of choice.) I added one of my favorite fruits to these tacos.  We are just now finding fabulous pomegranates here in the markets.  I even have some small pom varieties in my garden however they are not ready yet to eat. This week on Tuesday we had Fish Tacos with a twist of course. The combination of Pomegranate & Jalapeno give these Fish Tacos a real star rating in the Texas to Mexico household.  Like most tacos they are pretty fuss free & easy to prepare. They make a perfect dinner for a night of things that go bump in the night & trick or treating!  Enjoy my friends & buen provecho!

Gulf Coast Fish Tacos
1 1/2 lb *Gulf Sea Bass, *any fish of your choice is great
1 Pkg Louisiana Fish Fry
2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup Guacamole
1 cup chopped cabbage, either red or green
1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded & diced
1 Pomegranate, Seeded
Fish Taco Sour Cream dressing
1 cup sour cream
1/ 4cup milk
2 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp oregano or cilantro, chopped fine either dry or fresh
Pepper & Salt to taste

Fry Fish dipped in to the Louisiana Fish Fry,  in 1 1/2 inches of oil, I used favorite cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Cook time for fish while frying: 4-5 minutes, turning once during the frying process. The fish should have a crisp texture on the outside & have a nice golden color.  The fish should easily flake once it is cooked. (do not over cook) Drain the fish on paper towels, keep warm in oven preheated at 225*.  Heat corn tortillas thoroughly, on comal or griddle.

Assemble the Fish tacos placing a layer of guacamole on the bottom of the tortilla, add few tablespoons of cabbage, piece of fish, top with Sour Cream Sauce (recipe above) then sprinkle liberally with the pomegranate seeds.  I served this with Spanish Rice & also garnished that with the red pomegranate seeds.

 Louisiana Fish Fry is our favorite fish fry.  When I attended college in Louisiana these products earned my eternal favor!  What goes better with Gulf Seafood?  If there is a product out there I haven't found it yet but still open to try new things! Let me know what your favorite Fish Fry is? 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Family pizza night kneads to start with the right dough.

I've heard interviews which quote New Yorkers as saying that the secret to great crust is the water in New York. I really don't know about that "true-ism" but the water here seems to work out quite well when we have Family Pizza Night in Texas. I believe the real secret to great crust is the joy one gives or receives in feeding a crowd & satisfaction of a yeasty crust filled with favorite toppings. We recently had Pizza with Bytes from Texas as she used some Foodbuzz Tastemaker products from Fresh Express. The pizza toppings she used were wonderful (especially the BLT!!) & I took the pizza dough over providing the 2 crusts. New York or Texas it is all the same when sharing food with those you love. Last evening we made homemade Focaccia bread which we made using a variety of fresh local ingredients & is posted on our Fresh from the Heart of Texas blog. Fall is in the air at the local Farmer's Market & we are sure to find more tasty toppings for both Pizzas & Focaccias. For your own Pizza night try the Pizza Dough I prefer.

Pizza Dough for 2 Pizzas

1 pkg. active yeast*
1 1/4 c. warm water
2 tbsp. cooking oil
4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano (optional)
1 tsp.
Dissolve yeast in warm water, stir in oil. Sift flour and salt together and stir into first mixture. Knead for 15 minutes, loosely cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise until doubled in bulk.(Approximately 2 hours) Makes 2 pizzas. Divide dough in half, work with 1/2 the dough at a time on a lightly floured surface. Shape dough into circle/ball then either stretch into the round pizza shape or roll with a floured rolling pen. Place onto a bread baking stone which has been lightly dusted with cornmeal or lightly oiled pizza pan. Either way this crust is a very light New York style crust. Add your sauce and desired topping. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
*Proofing the yeast: for this recipe I proofed my yeast, I dissolved the yeast, water, sugar, salt & 1/4 cup of the flour for the recipe into a small glass bowl & let it rest 20 minutes. This proofing created a nice spongy yeast mixture which assured me the crust would rise well. When taking this step remember you have already used 1/4 cup of the 4 cups of flour & adjust accordingly.

Hungry yet? Don't forget to check out the Focaccia at Fresh from the Heart of Texas!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Natchitoches meat pie, the original hot pocket.

Think comfort food to in the 1700's in Louisiana & you might well be dreaming of the Natchitoches Meat Pies; that's pronounced (NACK-uh-tush) for those less familiar with Louisiana names & places. These tasty meat pies are a hold over from the early Spanish settlers in the Louisiana territory. Which is to say they were similar to beef Empanadas & were taken literally across the Spanish empire by early settlers. We often dined on Empanadas in Mexico which were very much like these "north of the border" meat pies, hence my addition of Chohula hot sauce to my meat pies! These days you are likely to find the meat pies at the New Orleans Jazz festival, a football game or at a boucherie deep in the heart of Cajun land. Sometimes they are called Cajun meat pies but whatever one says about them they are a crowd pleasing, taste tempting pastry filled with meat & spices. Natchitoches meat pies are great for a main dish with a salad or as an appetizer. They need nothing other than a napkin to catch any filling which may tumble out however I made an easy Avocado dip we thought was perfect for these treats.

Natchitoches Meat Pies

for meat filling
1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 1/2 lb ground pork
1 c chopped green onions
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp coarse black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp Sherry vinegar
2 tsp hot sauce, Cholula, Tabasco, etc
1/3 c flour
Combine all ingredients except flour & cook till meat breaks up and is no longer red. Sift flour over the meat mixture , mix well, remove from heat. Drain meat into a colander, cool to room temp.
2 2/3 c flour
1/3 heaping solid shortening
1 lg egg
3/4 c Milk
Vegetable oil for frying pies
Sift flour, use pastry cutter&cut shortening into flour. Mix in egg & milk. Form dough into a ball. It will be semi sticky.

Flour board and rolling pin. Rolling out about 1/3 of dough at a time roll about 1/8 in thick. Cut into 5in circles (use coffee can or similar size) To assemble pies place heaping spoon of filling dampen edge of pie dough with an *egg wash & seal shut then prick each top twice. These can be frozen or fried in deep fat fryer at 350 degrees. Drain on paper towels, serve warm. *Yolk of 1 egg + 1 tsp H2O, beaten & then brush on the inside edges of dough before pressing edges shut & crimping.

Avocado Horseradish Dip

2 large ripe avocados, peeled and pits removed
2 Tbsp Milk
16 ounces sour cream
4 Tbsp prepared horseradish*
2 tsp garlic, peeled & coarsely chopped
3 green onions, chopped (or)
*1 small shallot can be used
juice of 1 fresh lime
2 tsp Cholula hot sauce

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor & chill before serving. *I use the prepared horseradish found in the deli, do not use a horseradish spread which is more than horseradish. It is less pungent & has less bite to it for this recipe.

This dip was so good we even tried it with chips & veggies. Oh, the possibilities any dish with an avocado presents...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The "un-birthday cake"

A very merry unbirthday to you

Our youngest daughter has always been the "un-birthday" cake girl! When she was little she would stick her fingers in the frosting & pose for those cutesy photos parents have of their toddlers. You know the pics with the fingers dripping with sugary sweetness. In truth though when she was able to express her opinion at birthday events she never wanted a birthday cake. She was that kid at a birthday party who didn't want a sugary piece of birthday cake loaded with frosting. The "un-birthday cake" girl ate Cookie cakes for years. Now that she is older she actually has a little more variety in her dessert repertoire but still manage to keep it simple. When she had a birthday this week I stumbled upon a great idea for a small gathering birthday celebration. Why not make a loaf pan sized birthday cake? Our family tends to have a birthday every 4 weeks in the summer & fall. We get overloaded on cake to be honest. The smaller sized cake seems like the perfect way to celebrate & have our cake too! Why did it take me so long to come up with this "small un-birthday cake" idea?

Lemon Pound Cake
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons salted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon Paula's Texas Lemon Liqueur
Juice from two medium lemons (approx 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease & flour a 9x5 loaf pan well. (I used a Nordic Ware loaf pan with many nooks & tiny spots) make sure to get the entire pan greased & floured so the cake will have nice clear definition.

In a medium bowl sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder.

In mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream butter. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon extract, lemon juice and oil until mixed well.

Gradually add dry ingredient mixture to your mixer and blend until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until wooden skewer comes out clean. Edges should be golden brown & will continue crisp upon cooling.

Let cake cool before spreading the icing over the cake.

Ingredients for Lemon Liqueur Icing

1 cup plus 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon Paula's Texas Lemon Liqueur
For icing blend powdered sugar, milk, and lemon extract & Lemon Liqueur until creamy. Ice the top of your cake and let the icing drip down the sides of your pound cake. Let icing set on the pound cake before slicing.

When making a flavored Pound Cake try using a local liqueur. Austin Texas has many local flavors but this one really caught our interest & has so many possibilities. Paula's Texas Lemon Liqueur also has a delicious Orange Liqueur.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Brave Potatoes on family Tortilla night.

In Mexico the simple tortilla is at times a spoon, a plate as well as bread. The contribution of the tortilla to the cuisine of Mexico is irrefutable & there is really no way to describe the flavor of a handmade tortilla hot off the stove. Whether you enjoy corn or flour the one thing you should do if only once is to try making your own tortillas.

Last weekend we had family Tortilla night. Bytes from Texas, (one of my daughters) served up a menu of Fajitas, roasted corn & my Patatas Bravas all of which required fresh tortillas. The highlight of the evening was when my daughter's boyfriend made flour tortillas the way his Grandmother taught him to make them. Nothing was measured, everything was by feel & touch. It was almost therapy watching him figure it out with a pinch of this & a handful of that. His flour tortillas were perfect. I on the other hand used Masa Seca for my corn tortilla dough. Masa in Mexico means "dough". The true masa is made from field corn, called maiz blanco or "cacahuazintle" which was dried, treated with a lime water solution, then ground. For a few dozen tortillas I will always start with a quality Masa Seca. The masa can be used for corn tortillas or for tamales.

Flour Tortillas
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4-6 Tbsp. vegetable shortening or lard
about 1 1/4 cups warm water

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Add vegetable shortening or lard. (Or use a combination of half lard, half shortening.)
Use a fork or a pastry cutter to cut in the shortening or just do it the old fashioned way and use your hands.

Next add warm water a little at a time until your dough is soft and not sticky. You do not need very hot water.
Knead the dough for a few minutes.

Let the dough rest a few minutes then divide the dough into 12-15 golf ball sized round balls. Heat the comal (griddle) to medium high heat. Roll out with a rolling pin or press the tortilla dough between two pieces of wax paper & press in a tortilla press.

Lay the tortillas on the comal & cook for brief 20-30 seconds or till they brown slightly. As the tortillas cook they will develop brown specs on the tortilla. Wrap the cooked tortillas in a fresh tea towel & keep warm in a basket or tortilla keeper till all the tortillas are cooked.

Corn Tortillas

2 Cups Maseca Corn Masa mix
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/8 Cup Water

**Use the same process as above for the flour tortillas but keep in mind that the corn dough will be more dense to work with. There are very good instructions on almost all masa packages. The reason many people use pre-packaged masa is that finely milled masa is perfectly ground for making corn tortillas.

The process of tortilla making can be a family experience. There is something for everyone to do.

This potato dish is unique to Spain. Often served with a simple glass of wine in as a tapas dish in bars throughout Spain. It is as commonplace in the countryside as it is in the big city restaurants. The potatoes can be eaten as a side dish or appetizer with toothpicks on small plates. The "Bravas" or Brave title comes from how brave one may have to be to eat this spicy potato dish. However you decide to try this dish remember both the heat & the amount of paprika are up to the discretion of the chef! It is a great addition to any Mexican meal.

Patatas Bravas

* 3 Tbsp olive oil
* 4 - 5 Lg Russet potatoes, peeled, and cut to 1-inch cubes
* 2 tablespoons minced onion
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* Salt & Pepper
* 1 1/2 tablespoons Spanish paprika
* 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
* 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
* 1/2 cup Ketchup
* 1/2 cup mayonnaise
* 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
* Chopped parsley, to garnish
* 1 cup olive oil, for frying

In a saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic cook until the onion is soft. Turn off the heat, and add the paprika, and thyme, stirring well. Transfer to a bowl and add the ketchup and mayonnaise, sherry vinegar & Tabasco or preferred hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Sprinkle the potatoes lightly with salt and black pepper. In a large skillet fry the potatoes in 1 cup olive oil until cooked through and golden-brown, stirring occasionally. Drain the potatoes on paper towels, check the seasoning, add more salt if necessary, and set it aside. (*if you wish to use other vegetable oil it is fine but the olive oil imparts a nice flavor on this traditional dish. )

Keep the potatoes warm & pour sauce over them while warm. Serve immediately.

If you are lucky enough to have any left the next morning be brave & serve them with eggs & tortillas.