My birthday this year fell on a Thursday. So, in honor of Throwback Thursday, I was looking through old pictures and came across some from the time that I "stretched dough" (chef's words, not mine) at Due Forni, a restaurant that came to Austin from Las Vegas for a short tenure of less than 3 years.
A few years ago, my ever-so-thoughtful husband surprised me with a personal pizza making session. Chef Sean Zirkle was more than happy to oblige. From the second I walked through the door to the final moment of that first bite, I was warmly welcomed and in heaven. After all, I was surrounded by my first true love, pizza.
Chef Zirkle gave me a tour of the kitchen, pulled out a batch of well-rested dough, and told me the secrets to their success (sorry, I promised not to share!). He said that each chef had his or her own way to work their dough and you just had to do what was right for you. So he taught me his method, which I like to call the "stretch and turn". We would take the circle of dough, place our left hand down as a holder, pull the dough out with the right hand, turn and repeat.
Summer has been hot, and miserable. Summer has also been rainy, and miserable. But I'm not sure who is more miserable - me, my kids, or my hair... And come the end of the summer, just a ponytail doesn't seem to be cutting it anymore. So, I seek support, and accessorize I do.
When we moved "down south" to Austin, one of the first things that I noticed was a love in the summer for fresh, sweet corn on the cob, preferably grilled. Another thing that I had already known was that the South loves its cornbread. Well one day we were grilling at my in-law's house and while digging through the cabinets for some of our kitchen supplies, I ran across this clever cast iron pan.
Most cornmeal packages come with their own cornbread recipe, but just in case, here's a quickie:
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of milk
1 stick of butter, melted or 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour batter into greased pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center ocomes out clean.
If you've seen a movie filmed in Austin, more likely than not you've seen a Kerbey Lane Cafe. It's famous. Of course, the original Kerbey Lane Cafe is located on, obviously, Kerbey Lane, but the one next to the University of Texas along "the drag" on Guadalupe (pronounced Guad-a-loop) runs a close second as far as popularity. And the local business is booming with 7 different Austin locations. But there's a reason... the food is reliably delicious!
The menu itself is quite expansive, offering 24/7 sandwiches, salads, soups, burgers, tacos, tons of southern classics, in-house creations, and my favorite of all... breakfast! I love places that run breakfast all day and all night.
It may not be Bob Dip, but Kerbey Queso is a famous dip in and of itself. Mention it to any UT student and you're sure to bring a smile to their face just thinking about it...
Make it for brunch and order a carafe of Mimosas! Tuesdays kids eat free.
Recently we attended a rehearsal dinner at Brennan's of Houston and it was amazing. The food was delicious with seafood so fresh you could taste the ocean. We were overloaded with crab, shrimp, lobster, fish, and a terrific gumbo!
And as if the dinner itself wasn't enough, there, sitting under a spotlight on a silver tray near the door was a heaping pile of pecan pralines, just asking to be eaten. And eaten they were, and yes, they were just as delicious.
Recipe? Thankfully, they are kind enough to share...
Brennan's of Houston’s New Orleans-Style Pralines
1 quart whipping cream 1 lb granulated sugar 1 Tbs light corn syrup 1 cup medium chopped pecans Zest of 1 medium orange
1. Line three cookie sheets, preferably with parchment paper, but wax paper will work. Also have dessert spoons close by to spoon the pralines onto the parchment when it's time.
2. In a large heavy saucepan, slowly simmer cream, sugar, corn syrup, and orange zest over low heat. As cream mixture simmers, be careful of boil-over in the early stages. Let mixture reduce, stirring occasionally.
3. When cream mixture first starts to stick to bottom of pan, you need to stir almost continuously until done. As mixture reduces and the sugar starts to caramelize, the mixture becomes thicker and begins to turn light brown in color.
4. When mixture reaches the soft-ball stage of 240 degrees, stir in pecans. Continue stirring while looking for the point when mixture starts to pull away from sides of the pan.
5. Drop a small amount (quarter size) onto a lined cookie sheet. Look quickly to see if the praline runs out flat or holds a nice rounded top shape, and if the praline has a dull-looking appearance. Also, the mixture shouldn't have an oily look while in the saucepan; that means the mixture has cooked too long.
6. When ready, the mixture should be close to a firm-ball stage of 248 degrees. However, don't depend entirely on the candy thermometer.
7. Use two dessert spoons to spoon out the pralines onto the lined cookie sheets. Use one spoon to dip up the hot mixture and the other one to push it off into the paper.
8. You should be able to pick up a praline in about 30 minutes. It should appear dry and not be chewy. If after a couple of hours, you can't pick one up, leave them on the pans in a cool dry area for a day or two, until they dry out.
Some tips from Brennan's:
Use a heavy whisk or wooden spoon for stirring
Try to not over-stir, as this lightens the color too much
Once you place them on the wax paper, leave them alone for at least an hour
It was Match Day. Technically it was just a friendly. DC United versus C.D. Guadalajara at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. Many, many moons ago... But I remember it like it was yesterday.
The stadium was packed full, so full that they had to add temporary bleachers to accommodate some more of the fans. We were seated in that section, or rather standed since no one sat the entire game. No, it wasn't in my head, the bleachers were actually moving, like ocean waves, from all of the people jumping up and down. Noise makers were not easily ignored. Crowds were cheering, mostly, "Chivas! Chivas!"
All of this I vividly remember, but what I truly remember most of all was that it was my first experience trying a pupusa.
For the occasion, they had brought in a local Salvadorian vendor that sold the stuffed corn tortillas. Despite my many travels, to Mexico and Central America, I had never had a pupusa before, but boy, oh boy, was I smitten! Order up, one stuffed with cheese (queso) and one stuffed with pork (chicharron) and they were delicious. Ever since, I have always been in search of finding these marvelous wonders.
So I was struck with only the most excitement when Whole Foods announced that it would be featuring pupusas on the menu of its local food truck test kitchen for the month of May and June. The options include a slow-cooked beef, chicken mole, slow-cooked pork, smoked brisket, rajas, and a few other vegetarian dishes. The truck is also serving up complimentary-style sides such as street corn, fried plantains, and cinnamon sugar churros. Yum, yum, and even more yum!
Every morning I am greeted with this lovely message. It makes me think of my children, myself as a child, and reminds me to prioritize that which is truly important. Thank you, Philosophy.
"purity is natural. we come into this world with all the right instincts. we are innocent, and therefore perceive things as they should be, rather than how they are. our conscience is clear, our hands are clean, and the world at large is truly beautiful. it is at this time we feel most blessed. to begin feeling young again, we must begin with the most basic step of all; the daily ritual of cleansing."