Wednesday, March 4, 2015

2015 AFBA City Guide – our Top 10 chilaquiles in Austin and so much more...

We like compendiums. Who doesn’t, really? They give you a vantage point from which to make your own best judgements and begin your own adventures.

The Austin Food Blogger Alliance puts out an annual “City Guide” which draws from the rich resources of its food-obsessed members, and the 2015 AFBA City Guide is bigger and better than ever. Its mission is to highlight the best places to eat and drink in Austin, with categories by cuisine, by dish, for drinks and a wide range of other social situations.

Our particular obsession with the traditional Mexican breakfast chilaquiles led to our contribution to this year's guide.
Chilaquiles are a simple dish, with fried corn tortilla pieces (totopos) that are simmered in red or green chile sauce and generally served with a bit of cheese, fried eggs and a side of refried beans. Our first post about this dish was in 2012, but this year we updated our most recent offering (from 2013) on the topic. This 2015 update for the AFBA City Guide 2015 includes an additional 15 plates of chilaquiles (and our current Top 10 recommendations) along with photos and descriptions for a total of 65 establishments in the Austin metropolitan area.
The best of the best chilaquiles in Austin. © Ryan Schierling

So, whether you are just visiting Austin or a long-time resident looking to explore a new cuisine in town, the AFBA City Guide is a great place to start your search.

The complete compendium:  AFBA City Guide 2015

Our chilaquiles recommendations here: The "NEW" State of Chilaquiles in Austin, Texas

Don't forget to joint the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #ATXBestEats

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Smoked salmon chowder with salmon bacon.

Smoked salmon chowder with salmon bacon. © Ryan Schierling
There are so many brilliant smoked meats in Texas it's a shame that no one really pays much attention to the fishes.

Granted, this is bovine country and the nearest salmon, be it Pacific or (heaven forbid) Atlantic, is an ocean away. Wherever you hail from, there’s always something sacred about cooking with smoke. Brisket is the gold standard by which barbecue joints are judged in the Great Republic, and if you've got a line out the door for beef, then pork ribs and chicken are pretty much a gimme.

Geographically, barbecue in this part of the country has never had a reason to be about the fish. Southern barbecue is beef and pig and yard bird. About the only ocean-sourced thing you’re likely to see on the grates of a Texas smoker are gulf oysters.

Salmon has a little less real estate to work with than most things that end up in the smoke. If someone could engineer and farm a salmon the size of a cow, you'd have cheap sides of salmon cluttering up everyone's offset, and apple trees would be shaking in their boots, err... at their roots. But salmon are not the size of cows and they're a little harder to catch than cows, pigs and chickens, so their most delicious parts are at a premium. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Our new "regular" pecan pie.

Blueberry-pecan pie with fresh whipped cream and blueberries. © Ryan Schierling
This year marks a season of pie milestones for me. I'm finally feeling confident and consistent with the quality of my pie dough. I baked my first pumpkin pie completely from scratch in early November when our CSA delivered a perfect little sugar pumpkin to our door. I followed that up with what turned out to be an amazingly smooth and delicious little pie using buttercup (not butternut) squash instead of roasted pumpkin at Thanksgiving.

Then, over Christmas, I was launched into pecan pie territory.

When Ryan requested pecan pie (holy crap, he requested a dessert...!), I jumped at the chance to make one from scratch. After the holiday, I had enough pastry dough to make a second version and in the spirit of bourbon pecan pies I experimented a bit with a boozy-orange flavor complete with orange zest. I was quite fond of the extra depth and complexity the orange brought to the pie and it started me thinking about other flavors that complement pecans. It occurred to me that the intensely rich caramel custard of this pie would be wonderful flavored with blueberry. I mean, blueberries and pecans are a natural together. Why not as a pie? And so was born a new family recipe.

Pie-making has not exactly been my personal forte up to this point in life. But as it turns out, pecan pie is probably one of the simplest. It's been many, many years since I made a pecan pie, and when I did I'm pretty sure it was back when I was assumed it was standard operating procedure to use the regular recipe (you know... the one on the Karo bottle). This one, however, is straight-up sugar out of your pantry – the way it was meant to be – with eggs, butter, and pecans. Mix and pour into the pastry shell.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Huevos ahogados mas fácil? Nope.

Huevos ahogados with crispy masa nest. © Ryan Schierling
Historically, on New Year's Day, we make a big deal out of eggs. Anyone can scramble, fry and boil. If you're adventurous, you can sous vide or smoke, or just straight up Rocky Balboa it, and swallow them raw. 

For the last decade, we've prepared Scotch eggs on the first of January, which are hard-boiled eggs, peeled and wrapped in heavily-spiced breakfast sausage, breaded, and deep-fried. They are ridiculously satisfying, delicious dragged through tangy HP sauce, but so intense and heavy we could only justify eating them once a year. So we've been thinking about this since... last New Year's eggs.

Maybe it was time for a change?

For 2015, we adapted a Mexican poached egg dish, huevos ahogados – drowned eggs – with a pair of sauces and a fried masa nest. It was so simple when we concepted it months ago. It ended up absolutely ridiculous when we were trying to figure out the nest. It was silly, and better than it had any right to be once we figured it out, prepared, brought everything together and ate it. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: The Year of Chips, Dips and Dorks v2.0.

(L) Hot meat dip. (R) Hot meat. © Ryan Schierling
2014... whew. You were a challenging year. We slowed down a bit, opting to spend some much needed time with close family and putting a renewed focus on home, but we still managed to get a few things done.

We defended our 2013 East Austin Salsa Shootout win at Tamale House East and were unfortunately defeated. Sigh. You can’t win them all. But we did have a great time and put a few more faces to names that we'd only read on the pages of food blogs and restaurant "About" pages. Matt Taylor of Swift’s Attic took home the hot sauce crown, and hats off to the man, the mettle, the restaurant, the recipe.

“Ryan and Julie of Foie Gras Hot Dog, in a giant fuck you to convention, returned to defend their title with a new recipe. Eschewing last year’s formula took some serious guts and we salute them.”  - RL Reeves, Jr. 

We were truly surprised and delighted when the Austin Chronicle named us one of the top ten local food blogs of the year. I can’t remember the last time we blushed this much... so many gracious things said, and they called us young!

“This charming, iconoclastic blog presents the foodways and recipes of Julie and Ryan, a young Austin pair with a laudable amount of style and confidence, not to mention excellent taste.” - Kate Thornberry

Monday, December 8, 2014

Beer, billiards and bisque.

Tomato mushroom bisque with bread and butter. © Ryan Schierling
I moved from Emporia, Kansas to Fort Collins, Colorado in 1991. I was 19, and the little college town was blowing up with micro-breweries crafting incredible beer. If my parents are reading this, I certainly did not partake of alcoholic beverages until the day I turned 21. If you're anyone but my parents reading this, spending the previous year on a University of Kansas dormitory floor of brilliant art majors made creating fake IDs far too simple. Mine was used regularly until the day it was taken away by an overzealous doorman at a Fort Collins bar that shall not be named, and has since shuttered. No hard feelings.

New Belgium Brewing Company had just opened up shop with a dubbel named Abbey and a great little amber called Fat Tire. They only came in 22-ounce bomber bottles, and were unlike anything I'd ever had. O'Dell's Easy Street Wheat and 90 Shilling (still one of my favorite beers of all time) were of the same era, Left Hand Brewing started up in Longmont with their Sawtooth Ale, and soon it seemed you couldn't walk around the block without a new brewpub or home-brew store opening up.

CooperSmith's Pub & Brewing was in Old Town Fort Collins, and a short walk from my first apartment. A few years later, it was a short drive down College Avenue from my second apartment. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Give thanks for the unlikeliest of seven-layer dips.

Seven layers of Thanksgiving classics, served on toast points. © Ryan Schierling
It's the last day of November and your Thanksgiving leftovers, if there are any left over, are languishing. 

Every turkey-day legacy recipe has already been searched for and modified. There's nothing new or interesting under the waning Fall sun, and you're about to dig the remains out of the fridge and drop them into a pet dish. It's the feast he/she/it has been waiting for all along – so many hours of preparation and work, the vestiges dumped into your dog's bowl on the floor and devoured in large, breathless, indiscriminate gulps in a matter of seconds. 

Though sometimes disturbed, I am not weak and/or unimaginative in the kitchen (see this, this or this.) Chez nous, these pets, our cats, are absolutely not getting my leftovers, my legacy. Cranberries and dressing probably aren't even good for them.

If you're lucky, you should have at least a wee bit of six of these seven layers already. There is dressing, mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, sweet potatoes in some form or fashion (this year we had sweet potato gratin in poblano cream), green bean casserole and cranberry sauce. The odd man out is turkey liver pate, which both utilizes some of the giblets and provides the backbone for this spread. 

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