Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tijuana Mama corn dogs.

Tijuana Mama corn dogs with honey mustard dipping sauce. © Ryan Schierling
We're no strangers to putting things inside of other things and deep-frying them. It doesn't happen all the time, but when we do break out the Wagner #8 fryer, what goes into it is pretty well-thought through. We've also been to a State Fair or two and have sampled the finest (and freakiest) fried fare, so we have a handle on what's been done and what hasn't.

This recipe is much more simple than the Thin James and pasteurized cheese-product loaded jalapenos, but it does utilize a gas station staple – the homely pickled sausage.

To be more specific, a spicy pickled sausage called the Tijuana Mama that is a sinus-clearing, tastebud-tingling, tongue-puckering treat. Why use plain old hot dogs when you can push the corny dog envelope? Paired with a dip in honey mustard sauce, these are a dangerous dog like you've never seen. They look innocent on the outside, and one bite seems like enough of a novelty, but when you get down to the stick your forehead is sweating and you've got to have another. The pickled sausage innards are fiery, the cornmeal coating is fluffy on the inside with a delicate sweet tooth, and the complementary honey mustard sauce momentarily cools the fires just enough. These ain't no State Fair corn dogs, well... not yet, at least. Big Tex, give me a call.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The 'New' State of Chilaquiles in Austin, Texas.

100 plates of chilaquiles. © Ryan Schierling
(FGHD editor's note: Updated March 2016 for the new AFBA City Guide. Now with 100 plates of chilaquiles!)

As a lot of you know, we've been on a epic, epicurean quest – a grand gustatory gamble with breaking the fast deep in the heart of Texas.

We've been scouring Austin for the very best chilaquiles it has to offer. We've torn apart the town, top to bottom, for more than two years sampling both highbrow and humble versions of this traditional Mexican dish. 

There are no shortage of restaurants offering up their take on what shouldn't really be more than crisp fresh-fried tortilla chips (totopos) simmered with a red or green sauce until just slightly softened, crowned with a pair of properly-cooked eggs. With such a simple preparation, you'd think it would be difficult to screw up this classic.

We weren't looking for haute cuisine a la Mexicana, we just wanted an honest, reliable, simple Sunday morning comfort-food breakfast at a joint where everyone might eventually know us (and our broken Spanish).

There were standouts, certainly, but just as often there were store-bought chips, soggy and swimming in sub-par sauces, eggs that were under-cooked, over-cooked or not even offered as an option. There were some surprises, and there were some disappointments. 

There were also some stunningly brilliant breakfasts. 

If a restaurant presented only one sauce option for chilaquiles, Julie and I would typically order the same dish. If a restaurant had both verdes (green) and rojos (red), we'd order one of each. The majority of the time, we'd order eggs over-easy. If we knew the eggs were going to be happy eggs (see $9 chilaquiles), I'd go for sunny-side-up. Beans, potatoes and accoutrements (if available) were taken into consideration, as was the coffee or aguas frescas. The overall experience was key, but really, it all came down to the chilaquiles. 

After eating 100 different plates of chilaquiles, we've done our due diligence, and now, we humbly present to you ten establishments that Julie and I both agreed have the finest chilaquiles in Austin. These are our favorites, the places we return to time and time again. 

These chilaquiles are the best of the best

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lemon-lentil soup with mustard greens

Lemon-lentil soup with mustard greens. © Ryan Schierling
Ryan asked me an interesting question this week, "What are your three favorite soups that we make?" That's a tough question because Ryan has a knack for making soup out of virtually anything, and there are plenty of delicious one-offs that never make it to the blog or get repeated. To him, just about every soup created on the first go-round is a "throw-together" recipe. Knowing this, I have learned that if I really like something and want to see it in regular rotation, I cannot rely on him to write it down or remember what he did – I must take it upon myself to transcribe it immediately.

This was the case for me last Fall when I kinda totally went nuts for this lentil soupI like lentils in spite of the terrible "lentil loaf" I was fed as a kid (sorry Mom!) but generally don't get effusive for them in this way. I was putting this recipe to paper before the dishes were cleared, and then made it again myself a week later. After that I went a bit off the rails and started sending the recipe in unsolicited emails to friends and family members because... "OMG these plain old cheap brown lentils are amazing and this soup is so fiber-rich and good for you...!"

Alright, on some level Ryan was right about this being a "throw-together" recipe. It begins with a classic mirepoix and builds simply from there with lentils, mustard greens and fresh lemon juice. It is filling and bright, and leafy greens bathing in a warm broth is one of my favorite ways to eat them. So, while in no way shocking or revolutionary, this has already been made repeatedly in our home and deserves its moment on this blog. Plus, it gives me great joy when food this satisfying is also excellently nutritious and ridiculously economical.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

All hail klobasniky!

Pan sausage, American cheese and jalapeño klobasnek. © Ryan Schierling

There are a few hearty breakfast handfuls that I've come to rely on that just don't exist outside of Texas. Living in Seattle, I never saw a breakfast taco. There were such curiosities as breakfast burritos, but they occupied a space that was an afterthought to most carriers of A.M. comestibles. The closest you could come to a klobasnek is a piroshky, and while delicious any time of day, none were dedicated to breaking the fast. The latter – klobasnek, klobasnik, kolache if you don't know any better – are a Czech savory morsel with the same slightly-sweet dough used for kolaches. Klobasnek filling is usually a little oblong sausage like a pig in a blanket, but Texans have taken to putting all sorts of things inside that luxurious, pillowy dough. My favorite is a piece of pan sausage (breakfast sausage), pickled jalapeño and a nice melty American cheese, which is a klobasnek that's not too hard to find at kolache shops in Austin.

But a beef summer sausage, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut klobasnek? I had to make this combination myself, and recipe testing was not a problem. I think I ate three dozen over the course of a week before I was satisfied with the end result. Hell, I was satisfied with the first round, I just had to keep making them because they're irresistible.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Chicken-fried steak and eggs at Cypress Grill. © Ryan Schierling
I'm still lamenting the closure of Arkie's Grill, because dollars to dunkers, that was the best chicken-fried steak and eggs in Austin. I've kind of given up on the breakfast CFS here, since no one really does it. Chicken-fried steak is always on proper Southern lunch and dinner menus, with fries or mashed potatoes and 40 other side dish options.

I want it in the A.M., damnit, with fried eggs, crispy hash browns, Texas toast, some badass cream gravy and a stiff cup of black coffee. That's it. This breakfast is Texas birthright.

Cypress Grill does it absolutely right. A pounded-out, tender cube steak, properly hand-battered and fried, topped with andouille sausage gravy, with a pair of perfectly-cooked eggs and a little wedge of buttered toast to sop up leftover gravy and egg yolk. If they had hash browns instead of home fries, we could have had a brunch love affair, and I would have ordered plate after plate until they kicked me out.

Bonus points for their infused Bloody Mary, which is the second best I've had in the city, just behind Cafe Malta's Bloody Hell.

Now, here's your obligatory TGICFS haiku:

A New Orleans brunch
Adept, tender kitchen hands
Soothe my quondam wounds.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sweet, hot, pickled, beer-battered bliss.

(L) Sweet, habanero pickled onions. (R) Fried, sweet, habanero pickled onions. © Ryan Schierling
Ultimately, this all started on a clearance table at our local grocer with a Texas brand of hot, sweet, pickled onions being blown out at 50-cents a jar. Regularly $5.99 each, we bought four, and were surprised at the simplicity of the sweet, spicy, clean and crisp flavors. They worked on all kinds of sandwiches, were divine in deviled eggs, great grilled, fabulous on top of steak, and they shined in salads. We were a bit distressed that this product wasn't popular enough for the store to keep around and we were afraid we'd never see it again. It's not the first time this has happened with something we really liked (but found out about a little late), so we figured we'd better reverse-imagineer it. 

There were six ingredients – onions, vinegar, sugar, habanero peppers, salt and citric acid. Based on percentages of sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and vitamin C on the label, we were able to approximate salt, sugar and citric acid components per serving, and per jar. Taste-testing got us pretty spot on with the pickling liquid, though we weren't sure if the onions were originally white, yellow or sweet, so we went with white based on what we had on hand. Of course we didn't hold back on the habanero, because we roll caliente, and they were goooood

We tried them quick-pickled, then left those in the fridge for a two-week pickle to see how to texture and flavors would change. Later, we did them properly canned in a hot water bath for longer-term storage. The longer the jars sit, the more the flavors and the heat intensify.

But I couldn't leave well enough alone. I kept thinking about deep-fried pickled things, and how these onions might taste if we beer-battered them using a spicy pilsner and took them to the hot oil-filled cast iron. The result was surprising, but not terribly unexpected – they were ridiculously good. 

Sauceless, these are amazing onion rings. They are crispy, tangy, spicy, sweet and salty without ever seeing a swipe of Ranch or buttermilk dressing, or ketchup/catsup, honey mustard or whatever other crazy things you dip your onion rings in. We made a two-pepper ketchup just in case, and it paired perfectly with the hot little ringlets.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Calamari Provencal.

There's a steak in there. © Ryan Schierling
There are a lot of things I don't understand about the ways of food wording. When a cow is grazing, wandering, giving milk, it's a cow. When it's butchered, it's beef. Baby cow... calf. Unless you're eating it, then it's veal. A pig is a pig until it's pork, a moniker issued upon its demise. Chicken, well, that's just... chicken. A squid out of the water and on its way to your plate is calamari, unless you're Italian. In that case, in whatever state, it's still calamari.

Most people are familiar with the breaded and deep-fried rings of calamari, oft-dipped in marinara or aioli. This chain-restaurant appetizer staple endured somewhat of a scandal a while back. Given the shape, color and texture of calamari rings, some insidious folks had been passing off "imitation" calamari as the real thing, and you don't want to know what the faux calamari was made of. Or maybe you do. Let's just leave it at the fact that "seafood fraud" is apparently a common occurrence in the food industry, and you may have been enjoying a delicious plate of sliced, deep-fried hog rectum. Prepared in a similar fashion, pork bung has a texture that is frighteningly close to calamari rings. Fried and dipped in a sauce that masks most flavor, not many would be able to tell the difference. Hell, after a few glasses of wine, most people would mistake supple Italian shoe-leather for milanese if you breaded, deep-fried and seasoned it nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...