Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Recipe

Not a week goes by that I don't find a recipe in a magazine, on a website or on TV that I am intrigued by and want to try. I, like many of you out there, have countless pages of recipes stashed for that "one day" I will finally get around to trying them.
The recipes I found in Food and Wine magazine for beef jerky last month were no exception. The difference here is I actually got around to making it.

The recipe for jerky is ridiculously easy. No special equipment or ingredients needed. Just an oven, some pans, eye of round and some basic marinade ingredients.

The result above is a traditional peppered jerky. Sliced to 1/4 inch, marinated in soy, worcesthire and pepper for about 8 hours. Throw it in the oven at 200 for about 3-4 hours and you have jerky.

Countless variations to try. Should be fun.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Revisiting An Old Friend- Curtido

A couple of weeks ago Leslie, Jack and I made our somewhat bi-weekly pilgrimage to Tony's Mexican Restaurant in Katy. We are well aware of the closer location on Ella near the North Loop, but that location can't hold a candle to the hospitality offered by Ray and Gloria(Tony's sister) out in Katy.

Our usual routine is to sit at the bar for an appetizer(chips and queso at Jack's request). Les and I sip on the best frozen margaritas in town and we just sit and chat. As is our custom, we get pickled jalapenos on the side. When our order came out, I was chatting with Gabriel(the other owner) about the difference in the jalapenos. They weren't your standard rings. Cut irregularly, with sliced onions throughout and a distinct note of cumin and oregano. These were wonderful. Ray and Gabriel told me the kitchen staff makes them to eat and they don't normally share them with the guests. I talked Ray into giving me a pint to take home. I ate them with everthing. Breakfast tacos, Fajitas, Hamburgers. I was in heaven.

Those jalapenos got me to thinking about some of the "relishes" served throughout Houston that I came to love and expect over the years.  Ninfa's on Navigation had a curtido that was heavy on the onions. El Rey's version is heavy on the jalapenos with nice big chunks of garlic. La Tapatia used to put chunks of cauliflower in their version. All were good. All were different.

I dug through my memory(and recipe archives) and came up with a curtido recipe that captures the best of all worlds.

The carrots in this recipe are al dente and the garlic has a nice bite to it. There are just enough onions and jalapenos to give it a nice kick, but not over power it. The reviews so far have been positive and I am looking forward to tweaking the recipe just in time for the Summer grilling season. Who knows, you may see this on your grocer's shelf in the near future.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Oysters- The Day After Dilemna

It's Saturday night, 1980- maybe '81. My dad and I are on the way to the Astrodome for the always fun destruction derby. I was so looking forward to the evening. Part of the excitement was the derby. Part was the anticipation of seeing stunt legend Spanky Spangler crash some cars or buses in some death defying stunt(look him up if you don't know who he is). But most of all, the anticipation was for the pre-derby meal at the original Captain Benny's off of Main by the Dome. Going there with my dad, starting off with oysters on the half-shell, then a cup of gumbo, splitting some fried shrimp and then some good old fried catfish. That meal made the entire night. I have always been a huge fan of oysters and Captain Benny's was the perfect place to satisfy that craving.

Fast forward 30 or so years and we are one day removed from our annual crawfish boil fundraiser. For the past two years we have had a raw oyster bar that has been a huge hit. The problem is what to do with the few dozen freshly shucked oysters that are left over.

Once again, my oyster craving needed to be satisfied.

Tonight I had an epiphany. Think oysters meet buffalo wings. Fresh oysters dusted with flour and fried. Toss with Louisiana Hot Sauce. Damn they were good. So good that Leslie even sucked down a 1/2 dozen of them.

These just may go on the menu for the gumbo cookoff in the Fall- right next to the Oysters Frankefeller.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Family Tradition- Annual Sausage Making

A bit behind on the posting, but late last year(just in time for the holidays) members of the Dragna family got together for a tradition that goes back as long as I can remember....home-made Italian sausage.

Once our mother(Frankie) passed away in May of 2000, our family lost the "hub" that kept us somewhat connected. With no central location to assemble for birthdays, holidays, and other familial events, we were in great danger of losing some special traditions. Leslie and I(with the help of family) decided to carry on two of them. The annual Christmas Eve gathering of family and friends and the topic of this post, Italian sausage making.

Italian sausage is so simple, from an ingredient standpoint, it is ridiculous. What it does for me emotionally, however, can not be calculated. The process of gathering ingredients, trimming the pork butt, grinding the meat(Jack has gotten very good at this), mixing the first batch and finally getting to the point of a test patty is borderline euphoric. Once the kitchen fills up with the aroma of the sausage frying and that hint of licorice from the fennel, I can vividly remember the times I shared this exact same experience with my mom.

I have no idea how old the above recipe is, but it is the same ratios we have used for more than a couple of generations. By the way "pebber" is black pepper and the (12) denoted under fennel is a guideline that you may need more than 8 ounces, up to 12 of fennel depending on how aromatic it is.

For me, the Christmas holidays have not truly arrived until our sausage is made.