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Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Texas Beef Soup

This was made to mend my dear Hubby.  Little Sister has infected us all.  It tears me up to see either of my babies sick, especially the little one.  The beans apparently were a bad idea, according to Hubby.  I liked the soup and had two servings along with iced tea and toasted 10 grain bread.

  • 6 oz steak, cubed
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 dried chili pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups stock (homemade, or any flavour)
  • 1/2 cup water or white wine

Soften the onion, pepper and garlic, remove from the pot.  Brown the beef cubes and add the cumin.  De-glaze the pot with the stock, scraping up the brown bits.  Add the softened veggies and the remaining ingredients.

If you are a vegetarian, you could easily omit the beef and still have a great tasting soup.  It’s all in the stock you use, homemade is best and this batch had fennel as one of the veggies.  You can use all sorts of combinations to make a stock.  I keep a zip top bag of bits of veg in the freezer, another one for bones.  Add a few green cardamom pods for a citrus note.  Try a few chilies for kick!  Roast a whole head of garlic and add the pulp to the stock at the end or directly into the soup.  As Claire Robinson says: be your own chef!

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This post was featured on Freshly Pressed in Jan 2011!

If you have ever travelled near the Texas-Mexico border and stopped at a repurposed snow-cone shack for a cup of shrimp cocktail and wondered what the heck was in it, keep reading.  Even if your travels have never brought you this way, read on.

Apparently, there is a difference between what Canadians consider to be a shrimp cocktail, and what my southern family thinks this should be.  An argument that could start a year-long debate was averted by accepting that a rose by any name would still smell as sweet,  and a shrimp would taste as scrumptious. 

The Canadian version, as I will refer to it, consists of big cooked shrimp and a tomato-based horseradish sauce.

To my family here in the south, shrimp cocktail looks more like ceviche.

Either way you want to prepare a spicy and fresh shrimp appetizer suits me just fine, what matters is enjoying the time spent with those sharing the food.

Here’s how to prepare the two variations of shrimp cocktail seen above.

The Canadian Version

You will need big shell-on shrimp (10-15 per pound size, ask your fish guy), depending on how much your crowd loves them, buy 3-5 per person or what you can afford.

Simply clean the shrimp by removing the shell, keeping the tails on so you have a handle for dipping.  I find the easiest way is to gently fold at the seam of the tail section, the connective shell structure will pop so that the body portion can be removed without ripping the tail apart.  I always remove the digestion tract (I won’t eat shrimp with it left in – ew).  Toss them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and transfer to a baking sheet in a 400ºF oven for 10 minutes.  You can flip them over after about 7 minutes but they will cook just fine on their own.

The dipping sauce for this cocktail consists of the following:

  • horseradish (from a jar, creamed is fine)
  • chili sauce (also jarred, I found it next to the Dijon mustards at my local grocery)
  • Ketchup
  • fresh lemon juice
  • Worcestershire sauce

Mix equal parts of the chili sauce and ketchup in a small bowl.  Add about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, or a light squeeze of half a lemon.  Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and stir to incorporate.  If you like a fiery shrimp dip add a good amount of the horseradish, if you are not partial to the heat you can leave it out entirely and still enjoy yourself.  I added 3 teaspoons of horseradish and everyone loved it, however we tend to like heaps of wasabi on our sushi as well.   

The Mexican Version

Under the direction of mom, I was tasked with the appetizer to our family gathering.  She called it shrimp cocktail and then went on listing the ingredients I would need to prepare the dish.  My hubby and I looked at her quizzically – do you mean ceviche?  No, it’s shrimp cocktail.  It was like trying to explain that a crepe and a pancake are in fact two different things, however they do share some of the same ingredients and look pretty similar.  Just let it go, I thought.  All I wanted to do was eat, and helping in prep means we eat all that much sooner.

This version has a few more ingredients than the road-side original.  In no particular order, you will need:

  • 4 cups of cooked baby shrimp, the frozen ones work great
  • 6 – 8 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 large avocado, cubed
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 – 2 roasted Poblano peppers, diced
  • 6 Serrano or jalapeño peppers, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro (about 1/2 cup when chopped)
  • 1/2 Orange pop bottle
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • big pinch of salt

Toss everything in a large bowl.  You can make this ahead of the party but leave out the cilantro and avocado until serving time. 

Spoon into glasses and provide tortilla chips and crackers for munching.

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Claire Robinson, Food Network Chef, is introduced by Central Market at the Texas Book Festival

The Texas Book Festival included a cooking tent hosted by Central Market, this was the setting of Claire Robinson‘s presentation.

Claire showed the audience how to prepare a roast chicken with fennel and onions, as well as a flourless chocolate cake (I will try this for Sierra’s birthday party!).  Her style is informative and laid back at the same time.  A warm energy surrounds Claire.

Her family once lived in Dallas and Houston, this festival was her first visit to Texas since those childhood days.  Claire lovingly commented that Texas is hot and everything really is bigger here!

She lives in New York with her dog, Newman, who shares her tiny kitchen akin to the size Julia Child used to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She started out on Food Network as production staff for Michael Chiarello.  There was also a time that she was working with Martha Stewart and had a whisk thrown at her.  Claire survived to go on to host her own show, 5 Ingredient Fix.  The first few seasons of 5 Ingredient Fix were shot in a friend’s kitchen. Her friend received some upgraded appliances and she continued shooting there until the current season (5) where a set has been built for her show.

Claire Robinson in Austin Texas

Chef Claire Robinson explains how to roast a chicken

One of her favorite restaurants in NYC is Ippudo (Japanese noodles).
Claire is planning to run a marathon in the spring, she has already completed a half-marathon. It’s no wonder she can stay that petite!

Yours truely and Claire Robinson

Having the opportunity to meet Claire was the highlight of the whole weekend.  She is very friendly and encouraging.  Thank you Claire for visiting Austin!

MORE: Paula Deen at the 2011 Texas Book Festival

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I caught a nugget of a story on NPR this week that Alton Brown was coming to the Texas Book Festival this weekend, as soon as I got home I headed online.  I was going to meet him, and had to start setting the plan in motion to make it happen.

With two kids, going to an event, such as a book signing, seems completely out of the realm of possible.  I called my friend to babysit, no answer, I left a message hoping she would be free Saturday.  My mother-in-law is a school teacher, and avid reader, so naturally I thought she would want to attend the festival.  The day before the festival she sent me a reply…  definitely interested

The book signing was hosted at Central Market (all Austinite foodies have shopped there, I would gander often even) by Barnes & Noble, the sponsor for the event.  We arrived 45 minutes prior to Alton’s presentation to find a very long and rapidly growing line of other adoring fans.

We finally saw the start of the line!

There was a volunteer relaying the questions and answers down the line, my hubby called it an “1847 loud-speaker”.  They should have set up speakers outside so that those of us fortunate enough to stand and wait over an hour could reap some benefit.  Apparently, there were free tickets sold two weeks prior.  I had no clue!  There was nothing at Barnes & Noble (I was there about that time buying hubby his birthday present).  Where was I supposed to be looking for these “tickets”?  Many of the other fans stuck outside with us shared the same questions and frustrations.  The event volunteers did bring free bottles of water, which helped a bit.  If this event were held at the festival, there would be a tent with speakers so that those of us in the back could perhaps listen to what the almighty Alton had to say. 

The volunteers managed to propagate a few hints of the Q&A: Alton’s favorite episode is Oatmeal: Part 2 aired recently, the next book will be a children’s book because his daughter likes Harry Potter, the next possible show on Food Network will be about hunting, and something about brains.  When asked what show we should watch, Alton responded re-runs, then his DVDs, then read the books and turn off the TV.  I would have asked, who is your favorite Iron Chef and why, who or what inspires you, if you cook for your daughter what does she prefer you make for her?  If only I had a magical ticket.

My little trooper

The kids were surprisingly well-behaved, I was thankful to have everyone tagging along to help out.  Baby Sister was passed around to keep her occupied.  Big Brother was treated to a pop from a restaurant along the side lines.  After waiting for over an hour, all of the guests with small children were escorted inside the building to the front of the line.  Thank you!  Whose ever idea that was, thank you very much!  Consequently, once moments away from meeting Alton in person, Baby Sister goes squirrely and Big Brother is turning up his annoyance level.  How do they know this is the coolest day in a long time for mommy?  Happiness radar comes with every well equipped child, that’s how.  We managed to keep everyone preoccupied long enough.

Walk the Baby

Push Big Brother

We reached the front of the line.  I start freaking out.  OMG, that’s Alton… What do I say?  Do I smell bad? 

Made it to the front of the line!

All I could get out was, it’s so nice to meet you!  Alton replied, it’s nice to meet you too.  Of all the books I’ve signed, Heather is the only name that you can only spell one way. 

Alton Brown

Alton was very nice, I’m sure by the time we met him he was getting a little tired.  I blacked out mentally and can’t tell you what else we exchanged.  My hubby told him that we love watching the shows.  I think Grandma got a word in too, just don’t ask which one. 

I left on cloud oatmeal, signed book in hand.

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