Noun 1. gastronome - a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink)bon vivant, epicure, epicurean, foodie, gourmetsensualist - a person who enjoys sensuality. Follow me on Twitter: @Aghastronome

Friday, December 17, 2010

Home Cookin': Robb Walsh's Chorizo Recipe

There are certain inalienable truths in life, like, a chorizo and egg taco that has your arm running with orange grease after the first bite, will cure pretty much anything (well, okay a hangover).  Other facts you need to know, to muddle through are as follows:  You don't tug on Superman's cape.  You don't spit into the wind (well, not more than once).  You don't pull the mask off the Ole Lone Ranger.  AND, you don't mess around with Robb. 

Well, unless you're me, sorta.  Now, by mess around with, I am referring to food and recipes for making food.  Robb Walsh knows his groceries.  Unlike other food critics, he's rarely led me astray.  I freely admit, food and liking it, is a deeply personal thing - like religion, or politics, yet, much more freely discussed and debated.  For example, I hate those little gherkin sweet pickles and everything they stand for.  Hate.  Will not put into cake hole!  If you like them, you may have mine, they're wasted on me.  Back to messing with Robb.  I tried his chorizo recipe recently.  It's leaner than store-bought and delicious, but, I had to monkey with his business and add some heat.  I like it hot, and, as much as I love greasy goodness, this stuff made me feel good about my breakfast.

Revival Red Chile Chorizo  - Courtesy of The Master of Tex-Mex, Robb Walsh and tinkered with by herself, the Aghast One - all tinkering bits are in the italics.

Makes 2 1/2 cups

1 pound Revival ground pork
2 teaspoons red chile powder
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground chili piquin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To cook chorizo, heat about a tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add some chorizo and chopped onion. Fry for five minutes or to desired doneness, then use in your favorite recipe.

Things of note:  First, sounds too salty, but it is definitely not.  Second, the vinegar may sound "not right", it's absolutely necessary.  Third, use his original recipe, you will love it, promise *crossing heart*.  Add the heat you want, I, myself, personally - tend to go batsh*t crazy with hot, on occasion.

I can not WAIT for El Real to open.  Hurry, hurry!  Surely, it will be cheese/grease/browngravied jalapeno magic, with a cup of queso.

Note:  I have a "thing" for putting "e's" where they don't belong. Spellcheck is truly overrated.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Terribly Tasty Tacos: Taco Cabana Street Taco Scoop

I have a punch list of reviews, recipes and other ilk to write about.  Ho, Ho, Ho, where does the time go?  Oh, to the workplace and the house holiday fracas I have going on.  Today, I'm bringing you, finally, the promised review of Taco Cabana's "Street Tacos", or tacos that are real, old school tacos and not their Tex-Mex cousin-in-law, twice removed.  Don't get me wrong, I love Tex-Mex and the brown gravy in which it stands.  Okay, I love cheese, grease, every meat known south of the border (my kingdom for "good" cabrito) and tortillas and all of their accoutrements, in any fashion.  There, I'm shameless, as if you didn't know.  Todays scoop is brought to you courtesy of my dear friend Katie.  She had them first and sent me the following, I went later in the week, and I endorse this review.  I, however, found the portions a bit small for the money, myself.  I'd do it again, though.  Size ain't everything, you know - it's all about portion control, sometimes.

Katie said "Chuy's" and I said "Working through lunch, ugh".  And here she goes: 

As you know, Mexican food was on my mind for lunch today, but the thought of drinking down that yummy creamy jalepeno sauce made me feel guilty. So I decided to give Taco Cabana's street tacos a try. They have three options - 3, 6, or the family pack of 12. I went for the 3-pack for $3.99.

Each taco is wrapped in small corn tortillas (2 per taco). Inside is marinated steak, a bit of cilantro, and a lime wedge for spritzing a bit more flavor. I thought it was more to juice up the corn tortilla since I find those to be a bit dry. I went without a spritz for taco #1. I was surprised that it was actually quite good, especially since there isn't much to it. The corn tortilla was not dry and nothing dripped off the steak. What I mean by this is that it did not taste (or drip) like a cheap piece of fatty meat. I decided that tacos 2 and 3 should have a bit of lime - to see if there was a difference. And yes, there is a difference. The lime brought out the flavor of the cilantro and gave it a nice refreshing "tang". And honestly, after I finished them I wish I had not cheated myself out of the lime on taco 1.

I hope they keep these around for awhile because I will be ordering them again.

Holiday Giving: Gifts That Give All Year

One thing I failed to mention with regard to giving, that allows you to forego the lovely traffic, gifts that keep on giving.  Memberships and subscriptions!  Houston is home to some fantastic museums, for one.  There's the Houston Musuem of Natural Science, Individual Memberships are available for $45.  The Musuem of Fine Arts, Houston, memberships available starting at $50, if you are a member already, you get a $10 discount on gift memberships.   The Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, memberships starting at $75.  The Menil Collection, memberships start at $100.  The Children's Museum of Houston, family memberships start at $75 (gets three peeps in).  The Health Museum, individual membership +1 available for $45.  Holocaust Museum Houston, friend memberships for $50.  For a complete list of museums in H-Town and the surrounding area, please click here.

Who doesn't like talking dirty to the animals?  Houston is home to a fantastic zoo!  Fun for you, fun for me and fun for the little crumb grabbers!  Individual memberships + 1 start at $55.  The zoo has a lovely new exhibit, some wee elephants, and every year there is some sort of new baby animal to peep at.  Walking the grounds is great exercise too!

Local magazines help you stay in touch with, well local happenings and whatnot (duh).  Subscriptions are very affordable, too.  One of our favorites (which we need to re-up) is My Table, Houston's Official Dining Magazine.  From soup to nuts, they cover current trends, openings, closings and other fabulous and interesting food bites.  Act now, buy banging this here link and if you buy one subscription at the low, low regular price of $24, you can buy NINE more for $12 each.  Now that is a bargain, just don't tell your dear food and wine aficionado buddies you got their present "on sale".  For a comprehensive-ish list of Houston magazines, please click here.  There's more to our magazine scene than food, but, um, hey food is where it's at.  (Yup, commited a sin, ended a sentence with a preposition, on porpoise).

You have any more grand ideas for online gifts that keep giving?  Hit me with an e-mail or leave me a comment.  Please, no jelly-of-the-month club, that shat could get you kidnapped out of your snuggly warm house and dragged off to the recipient of said fruit-based preserve club for proper punishment.  And, nothing that is Fragile in nature...just saying.  As for me and my family, we'll be watching our favorite Christmas Eve movie of all time, Pulp Fiction (no lie people, no lie).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Giving: Responsible, Frugal or Feel Good?

Something about the Holiday Season in Houston just does not sit well with me, at all.  Why am I just not "feeling it" this year?  Oh yeah, because traveling around this great city, and I mean great - I love this sprawled out concrete jungle, sucks arse from Thanksgiving through New Years Day.  Unless you have a burning, wild and uncontrolled desire to buy all of your Christmas presents at The Galleria, avoid the 610 Loop between, say, I-10 and 59.  Trust me.  If you live near anything bearing some semblance to an area conducive to spending money on crap, I mean, items your loved ones probably cannot live without, traffic will be bad.  Not only are there a lot of drivers out on the road, clamoring for parking spaces and gridlocking intersections; I am pretty sure most of them do not drive at all during the rest of the year, or are unlicensed.  Just saying.  People, drive nice (those fender-mounted rocket launchers I want are still illegal, I think).  Seriously, traffic flows better when you follow the rules.

Once I get past my traffic mad, I have to start thinking about what I am giving and to whom.  The children in my family always get something, games, toys, crafts.  The adults, not so much.  I got to thinking about what to give and still be responsible, somewhat frugal and feel good about my now-spent monies.  Local charities.  You heard me, local charities. 

Baby, it's cold outside, time to clear out your closets and donate excess blankets, coats, sweaters, shoes and sleeping bags to Houston's homeless population.  That's a gift you give yourself, cleaner closet and a warmer heart.  Reward yourself with some nice hot chocolate. 

In lieu of a dust collecting item that someone may regift, give to those in need.  Give your friends and families cards with the following inscription inside:  "In lieu of a physical gift, I have chosen to make a generous cash donation to Noah's Kitchen/Star of Hope/Houston SPCA/Houston Food Bank/local charity of your choosing." Reward yourself with some nice hot chocolate.

Bake some yummies for your friends.  Cookies, breads, mini-cakes or brownies - hell, give them some meat cupcakes.  For one, it says "I think enough of you, that I chose not to peruse the "wheel of gift cards" at the grocery store, while I purchased stuff to bake for people I give a crap about".  For two, it's much less expensive than, say, a Limoges box or crystal mouse.  Once all the cute baked goods holiday bags are filled and closed up, reward yourself with some nice hot chocolate.

It's not about keeping up with those blasted Jones people next door, after all.  If giving a cash/check donation makes you feel rinkydink and like you should give "real gifts", many local charities also have a "gift shop" on their website, get everyone a cookbook from there or something.  You are still supporting efforts in your own backyard.

Please don't think I am blissfully unaware of the hunger, homelessness, needy around the globe.  I am.  Very. Aware.  However, charity begins at home and your own friends and family might need a gentle reminder that we have our own population right here in need of food, money to pay utilities, warm clothes or a shelter to sleep in.  This includes animals, please don't forget the animals - they trust us to care for them and keep them safe from harm.  Here's a link to the Better Business Bureau, so that you can check out local charities, first.

Ramble over.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pear and Cranberry Cake

Well, today I woke up with a little energy, which is rather not usual for me.  Normally, I braille my way to the coffee pot and take awhile to get motivated.  I decided, among other things (laundry and some home repair/remodel fritzing around), to bake this cake.  I have made this with apples, but, I find myself with an abundance of Kiefer Pears from my little brothers tree, so pear it is.  This cake is really a bit more of a breakfast bread, however, if one were to drizzle a cream cheese icing on it, well, that wouldn't suck.  I know, everything is better with cream cheese, unless it's chicken-fried.  Then again, don't put trying that past me.  This is excruciatingly simple with a little pre-prep and a stand mixer (KitchenAid - I lurve it).

Pear and Cranberry Cake

3 cups flour (regular, not cake or self-rising - you can use unbleached and wheat might actually work, I haven't tried that yet)
1 1/2 vegetable oil (or, 1 cup apple sauce 1/2 cup veg oil)
1 3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla (plus I added a wee splash of almond extract on account of I have it)
3 cups pears, peeled, cored, quartered and then sliced 1/4 inch thick-ish
3/4 cup chopped pecans (I use "cookie pieces")
1 cup fresh cranberries (I buy a monster bag at Sam's and vacuum pack by the cup, you can use 1/2 cup of dried cranberries)
butter and flour for greasing, or just use that miracle stuff Baker's Joy

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour, or spray down with BJ, a 9" tube pan.  Measure and or prepare pears, oil, sugar, pecans and cranberries.  Combine oil and sugar in your mixer bowl, with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed for five minutes.  Sift flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder together, during your five minute break in activity.  Add eggs (break into a separate bowl first, no shells - ew) and beat until creamy.  Add flour to the batter mixture and stir on low speed until fully incorporated.  Remove paddle and bowl from mixer.  Add pears, cranberries, vanilla (almond if you got it) and pecans and stir with a stiff spatula until combined.  Pour evenly into the prepared tube pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a wooden skewer (toothpicks are too dang short) inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool in the pan before turning out onto a cooling rack to finish. 

You can make mini loaves, the baking time is approximately the same.  Well, it was the last time I did it, made mini loaves of this, that is.  The mini's would make excellent Christmas gifts, er, Holiday Handouts to those you like somewhat.  I am contemplating using 1 cup white sugar and 3/4 cup dark brown next time (making another one tomorrow) to see if it adds a toffee note to the cake.  I'll let you know if there's a "texture impact" that is "not good".  This recipe was adapted from "Teddie's Apple Cake", courtesy of The Wednesday Chef.

Houstonians, don't forget, tonight is Lights in the Heights!  Come out, after I've arrived and found a parking spot, okay, and wander the streets.  Children are encouraged!  Don't forget your hot chocolate (and the peppermint schnapps).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What's Up Tonight?: Blaggards and Half-Price Burgers @ Brian O'Neill's

Giddyup!  Blaggard's take the stage at Brian O'Neill's tonight at 9:30 p.m.  Plus, you can avail yourself of the half-price burgers and Big-Arse beers.  Purchase yourself a 23 oz commemorative glass, rinse, fill, repeat.  The burgers are Angus Beef, half pound and wholly delicious. The music is stout, like Guinness.  If you have not seen Blaggard's, you must.  This is great fun, the food and drink prices are very special and the atmosphere is standard pub, warm and inviting. 

Brian O'Neill's
5555Morningside Drive
You may pay to park, but admission is FREE.