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June 2012 COTM, The Homesick Texan: Appetizers; Chiles, Soups, and Stews; Tex Mex Classics

Please use this thread to report on the following chapters from the June Cookbook of the Month:

Appetizers, pages 90 - 177
Chilis, Soups, and Stews, pages 122 - 146
Tex Mex Classics, pages 153 - 180

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  1. Fajitas, p. 171 (a variation of Tacos al Carbon, Small Apartment Style, p. 169)

    I don't live in a small apartment these days. I have, so I understand the need for adaptation, but it just doesn't apply to me. I have a backyard, with a nice patio and several grills. So forgive me for not following the cooking instructions, because fajitas really should be grilled. I did make the marinade as outlined in the recipe. The marinade is lime juice, garlic, cilantro, a jalepeño, cumin, salt, and pepper, all whizzed up in a blender. The recipe instructs you to marinate for 2 to 8 hours. I did two. The lime juice turns the surface of the meat an unappetizing gray color. I'm not a big fan of most marinades, and this one is no exception. They don't do much to tenderize, or flavor the meat. Salt, is really the only seasoning you need to grill flavorful meat. And skirt steak is as flavorful as it gets.

    The end note to the recipe says if you want to grill the meat, "5 minutes per side should do the trick". Should? Skirt steak is pretty thin, so if your grill is really hot, 5 minutes per side will be too much. I'd also like to note for those of you using a skillet: she says you may have to cut your steak in half for it to fit. As if you only have one piece. Skirt steak is thin and comes in long strips. Two pounds, for me, amounted to three strips, each 12-15" long. Plan to cook your meat in batches, if you make a full recipe.

    Finally, a note on cutting the meat. If you use real skirt steak, the grain will run perpendicular to the long side of the steak. If you cut horizontally in thin strips, as pictured in the book, you will be cutting WITH the grain, not across it. What you need to do is cut the long strips of meat horizontally into 3-4" rectangles, then cut each of those, going the other way (across the grain), into thin strips.

    The fajita recipe calls for you to saute onion and bell pepper in oil to serve with the sliced meat. I also did these on the grill, in one of those mesh pans so the pieces wouldn't fall through the grates.

    Well, you can see I had a lot of beefs, no pun intended, with the directions in this recipe. But in the end, making the adjustments I've noted above, my dinner was pretty darn good. I won't use this marinade again, though. I think just salt and pepper gives a better result. Served with corn tortillas (recipe calls for flour), and pico de gallo (p 54) and guacamole (p 50).

    1 Reply
    1. re: MelMM

      MelMM -- after reading this it's obvious to me you're familiar with these foods! (I'm sure now it will also be obvious I've never been to Texas in my life.)

    2. Pastoral Tacos (from the website) http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/201...

      This is a pork taco -- I marinated a small shoulder roast overnight rather than use cutlets. Then gave it 9 hours in the slow cooker. The marinade uses pineapple juice, white vinegar, *smoked paprika*, (sound familiar?) and red and black pepper. Pictured are a few slices, I'll slice 'em smaller when they go into the tacos.

      The pineapple salsa I'd call piquant -- small diced pineapple, shallot, cilantro, jalapeno (I used milder green chiles) and fresh lime juice. Great stuff, wonderful with the meat! Tonight I won't be afraid to enclose these two inside a warm little corn tortilla and eat up / chow down.

      4 Replies
      1. re: blue room

        Well done, blue room; I love tacos al pastor!
        What is that I see, do you have Aubrey Beardley kitchen tiles?

        1. re: L.Nightshade

          All manner of story related tiles -- I couldn't do expensive kitchen so I did whimsical.
          I don't think I've ever had anything in a taco but ground beef!

          1. re: blue room

            What fun! I love that princess and the pea picture. Looks like Arthur Rackham? Very cool tiles; I've never seen any like that,

            1. re: blue room

              Oh, you need to try fish tacos! They are more southern California, not Texan, but they are fantastic.

        2. Chorizo Empanadas - p. 95

          I got an early start on this book because I'll be traveling for the second half of the month. I honestly can't remember having empanadas when I lived in Texas other than from the precious care package that came from my college boyfriend's roommate's mother, so I was curious about this recipe. I was also a bit anxious to make these for a party that a friend from Argentina would be at. She refuses to eat the Chilean empanadas that are occasionally delivered for work functions here, so I had no idea what she would think of these. I needn't have feared because these were a huge hit and a week or two later, my friend borrowed the recipe to make them for a picnic.

          It's much easier for me to find the ingredients to make chorizo here than it is to find Mexican chorizo, so I used the recipe for chorizo that's in the book. I used the full jalapeno (with seeds as I'm always too lazy to remove) and the chorizo and the spiciness was right on the line for my more spice-averse guests (which did not stop a group of 6 from devouring all but 2 of the empanadas).

          The crust is a mixture of cream cheese, butter, flour, and salt that comes together very easily and rolls out quite nicely. Her directions make it sound like you should roll out all of the dough at once. I have no idea who has the counter space and the patience to do that, but I certainly don't, so I broke off pieces to roll it out. To cut it into 5" rounds, I used a bowl as a cutter.

          The filling is made of crumbled cooked chorizo (if you make your own, you don't even have to worry about removing it from the casing) mixed with grated Monterey Jack, sliced black olives, garlic, diced jalapeno, cilantro, and cumin. She calls for 2 tsp of filling in the middle of each empanada. I think I was closer to a tbsp for each of mine. After putting the filling in, fold the dough over and crimp the edges with a fork. The empanadas are brushed with an egg-milk wash. She calls for topping them with sesame seeds, but I omitted those as it just seemed odd to me. They're baked at 375 for 25 minutes or until browned.

          I had a bit of filling leftover and that got saved and mixed (along with some leftover jalapeno filling) into some scrambled eggs for breakfast tacos the next morning which I highly recommend.

          12 Replies
          1. re: TxnInMtl

            This sounds like something I'd like to try, but I'm just not a big fan of chorizo. Do you think this would work with chicken?

            1. re: Blythe spirit

              Most of the flavor comes from the chorizo, so if it's the pork you're trying to avoid, you might make her chorizo recipe using chicken or turkey instead. You might also try her green chorizo recipe. I haven't made it yet, but it looks interesting in different. If you don't want to go that route, I think you still might want some more flavoring for the chicken. An ancho sauce would be closer to the original, but I'd be tempted to try cooking the chicken with a salsa verde.

              1. re: TxnInMtl

                Those are some great suggestions; thanks TxnInMtl. I actually like pork - just tend tofindChorizo heavy and not to my liking. If I'm going to indulge and eat pork then the flavor has to be great or it's not worth the calories :-). I did take a closer look at the recipe for homemade Mexican Chorizo and am thinking I should give it a chance, as it might be different from the Spanish Chorizo. Your suggestions sounded good too -especially the chicken with ancho sauce idea.

                1. re: Blythe spirit

                  If you have a Trader Joes in your area, they make a very tasty soy chorizo.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    LLM, thank you for steering me toward this product - I tried it today and it's delicious! I was very skeptical and was pleasantly surprised.

                    1. re: Blythe spirit

                      So glad you liked it! I was skeptical too at first, but it is pretty darned tasty. We make a pasta with it and olives that is killer.

                  2. re: Blythe spirit

                    If you've only had Spanish chorizo, it might be worth trying the Mexican chorizo once as they are quite different (and in this preparation, you'll be eating more crust than meat).

              2. re: TxnInMtl

                Chorizo Empanadas – p. 95

                We enjoyed these although I did find the filling to be drier than that in other empanadas I’ve made or purchased in the past. As TxnMtl notes, the chorizo really shines in this dish so its important to use a good quality, well-seasoned sausage. Since TxnMtl did such a terrific and thorough job explaining how this comes together above, I’ll just build on her feedback:

                • I used 3/4lb of chorizo to fill my pastry shells and I still had some of the filling left over
                • As TxnMtl points out, the recipe suggests 2tsp of filling per empanada. This is simply inadequate. I referred to my other empanada recipes and 2tbsp was the typical amount required for a 5” pastry. Inconsistencies/errors such as this are a theme in this book it seems
                • Instead of rolling out and cutting the dough as LF suggests, I find it much easier to break off golf-ball sized pieces of (refrigerated) dough and roll into a 5” disk when I’m working with cream cheese pastry dough. No cutting required
                • I omitted the cumin. LF seems to call for this in every recipe, whether it’s necessary or traditional or not it seems. In this case, IMHO you wouldn’t even taste ¼ tsp of cumin with 1 lb of well-seasoned chorizo.

                Good but not great for us. We liked the flavour and always enjoy the flaky crust produced by a cream cheese pastry but it the filling was a bit dry for us. I ended up making an avocado lime cream sauce for dipping the following day when I served these again and this definitely helped.

                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                  Ha -- these are planned for tonight -- I made homemade chorizo yesterday!
                  I agree about the book -- I don't mind if it isn't "authentic" -- it is, after all, her own remembered cuisine. But physical problems like way too little filling in a crust are telling.

                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    I'm sorry to hear that! I've made these twice and a friend of mine has made them as well without having any issues with dryness. I wonder if her chorizo recipe is bit moister than store-bought? Your empanadas do look lovely though even if they ended up a bit dry.

                    1. re: TxnInMtl

                      That may very well be the case TxninMtl. I purchased my chorizo from a Mexican butcher who makes his own. It's outstanding but one of the reasons we like it is that it isn't very fatty and the grind is chunkier than typical store-bought chorizo.

                  2. re: TxnInMtl

                    Chorizo Empanadas -- from the website


                    We enjoyed these very much -- Mr. blue room especially, I'd have to say.

                    I usually buy chorizo from Colosimo's, a Utah sausage company since the 1920s. The chorizo I made was darn close! I made sure the mix was moist (just add water!) because Breadcrumbs mentioned dryness. I also left out the cinnamon, always sorry when I put cinnamon in meat dishes. We aren't big fans of heat (wimps!) so I kept it pretty mild.

                    The crust was so simple, literally 3 ingredients. Salted butter, cream cheese, flour and you're done.

                    (I've never been happy with the yellow of egg wash on pastry -- I like a nice dull matte finish.

                    It made a lot -- good thing we like them. Here's the 1st batch right out of the oven hot on the parchment--

                  3. Queso Cookies - p. 97

                    Queso is one of my favorite things and I am forever sad that it is impossible to find queso in restaurants up here. Every restaurants serves horribly overloaded nachos that just result in sad, soggy chips, but not a single one has queso which preserves the integrity of the chip while giving you delicious melted cheese. The problem with serving queso at parties though, especially non-Velveeta queso, is it requires some babysitting (or a fondue pot) to keep it nicely liquid. These little cookies give you the flavor of queso without the difficulty of keeping it warm. They went over well with my guests, although they were upstaged by the empanadas. These are much less work than the empanadas though. The cookie name also seemed to confuse some people. These are not sweet at all.

                    I went ahead and made these in my stand mixer to make mixing the butter easier. To make, all of the ingredients (butter, cheese, flour, diced jalapeno, salt, cayenne, and cumin) are mixed together until they form a ball. The inclusion of cumin is a bit odd to me and I might be tempted to leave that out in the future. Marble sized pinches of the dough are then broken off and pressed on to a baking sheet. The cookies cook at 350 for 20 minutes and you're done.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: TxnInMtl

                      Yum! Note to self--skip the cumin in all of the recipes! HA!


                    2. Chorizo-Stuffed Jalapenos - p. 111

                      Growing up in Texas, I always thought of myself as residing on the milder end of the spice spectrum. Living in Montreal, I am closer to the high heat end. I thought the cream cheese in this dish did an excellent job of cutting the heat. However, when I served this, one of my friends made a face that looked like I was trying to kill her. Another friend refused to even try these because the empanadas were already at the upper end of her spice tolerance. The filling is great (leftovers are fantastic for breakfast tacos) and I think it would work well in a mild pepper instead of jalapenos if you or your guests aren't quite up for a jalapeno.

                      To make, cut jalapenos in half and scoop out the seeds and pith. Fill with a mixture of cooked Mexican chorizo (I used the recipe from the book), cream cheese, goat cheese, chopped cilantro, dried oregano, cumin, minced garlic, cayenne, and lime zest. She calls for 2 tsp per jalapeno half, but ours were too small for that. Broil until brown and bubbling. I think ours took a bit longer than 8 - 10 minutes.

                      1. Cheese Enchiladas with Chile con Carne, p. 153

                        This is one of those Texas staples... a dish that, like chicken fried steak, a Texan just needs a fix of every now and then. Not something you'd eat every day, every week, or even every month. But go too long, and you get ornery.

                        The sauce for these enchiladas is a chile con carne sauce. The more typical sauce is what is referred to as "chile gravy". Something kind of in between a brown gravy and a chile sauce. This leans heavily towards the chile sauce side. Be forewarned: the sauce recipe makes a lot of sauce. More than you need for twelve enchiladas.

                        The sauce is easy, but does take some time. She has you toast 6 ancho chiles in a skillet until they start to puff. If like me, you tore up the chiles a bit much getting the stems off and seeds out, they may not puff. Just toast them until the aroma from the skillet starts to give you a tickle in the back of the throat. You then add water to the chiles, boil, and then soak for 30 minutes. The chiles are then pureed in a blender. In a large pot, you saute onion and garlic, and then add to the chiles in the blender, along with cumin, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, and water. In the same pot, you now brown some ground beef, then add the chile and spice puree back in, along with some beef broth. This simmers for 30 minutes, then you adjust the seasoning and add salt to taste.

                        In the ingredients section of the book, the author mentions that she uses Mediterranean oregano. I guess that will do in a pinch. I use Mexican oregano, which comes ground in a fine powder. Because of the fine grind, it's a strong flavor, so I used a bit less than what she called for. The allspice and cinnamon are non-standard, but I don't have a problem with that. The only salt called for is salt "to taste" at the very end. This recipe makes a lot of sauce, and you need to add quite a bit of salt at the end. I feel like the author should have at least provided a starting amount, a tsp, or two, because if you start adding pinches, you'll be there all night.

                        I did the assembly a bit differently than instructed, because I know from experience what works best for me. She instructs you to heat up a tablespoon of oil or lard in a skillet, and then "one at a time, heat up the tortillas in the hot oil." First off, I don't think a tablespoon of oil is going to cut it for 12 tortillas. I use a small skillet for this, just large enough to hold one tortilla flat. You want to use tongs, and put the tortilla in the hot oil for 1-2 seconds, then flip it and wait another second or two then remove it from the oil. The tortilla should sizzle, but not get crisp at all. Instead of heating all the tortillas and stacking them up, I take my tortilla immediately from the oil to the sauce. Still using tongs, dip each side of the tortilla quickly in the sauce, then set the tortilla in the baking dish, fill it, and roll it (it is good to have asbestos fingers, as the tortilla will be hot, hot). Then take another tortilla and repeat the process. In my experience, this assembly line technique works better for getting non-soggy enchiladas.

                        The filling in this case, is just a line of grated cheese with a light sprinkle of diced onion. Once all the enchiladas are rolled, you spoon sauce over top (you will probably have more than you need), top with a bit more grated cheese, and some more diced onion. This bakes at 350 for 15 minutes.

                        This made a solid cheese enchilada, with a sauce leaning heavily towards the chile side of the gravy spectrum. Left to my own devices, I would have used a mix of guajillo and ancho chiles, and would have gone a little lighter on them. This was served with the Red Chile Rice on p 276. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to make refried beans, so I didn't get the whole Tex-Mex plate.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: MelMM

                          MelMM, what kind of cheese do you use / recommend for these?

                          1. re: blue room

                            Nothing fancy. A cheap, supermarket cheddar is in order here.

                          2. re: MelMM

                            I don't think my dried chilis have ever been fresh enoungh to puff; I really like your description to cook "starts to give you a tickle in the back of the throat"

                          3. Jalapeno Pinto Beans – p. 122

                            Tasty. Simple enough to prepare, just allow yourself some time as the cooking duration is 4 to 6 hours. I love multi-taking dishes and since JF calls for these beans in her refried bean recipe I thought I’d make them today as a side and re-purpose them later in the week.

                            JF’s method for cooking dried beans seems to be consistent throughout the book and does not call for any pre-soaking. Instead beans are rinsed and sorted through before boiling for 15 mins in a pot in which they are covered w an inch of water. Beans are then drained, rinsed, returned to the pot, covered w 2 inches of clean water before adding onion, garlic and jalapeno to the mix. FYI, JF suggest that the onion and jalapeno be cut in half however she makes no later mention of trying to remove them from the pot or, mashing them in. Since I expected we’d appreciate their presence in the finished dish, I chopped both and finely chopped the garlic.

                            Beans are simmered until tender – JF suggests 4 to 6 hours depending on their freshness. After 4 hours my beans were done so I stirred in the white vinegar and some salt that JF instructs and simmered for another 10 mins.

                            I love beans with vinegar or some acid and spritzed each bowl w some lime juice prior to serving. This recipe produced a tasty bean dish.

                            I’d be interested to hear from our Texan friends whether the flavours of this dish and the cooking method for preparing the beans are traditional.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                              Jalapeño Pinto Beans, page 122

                              Just got back from Paris so no, I didn't make these today. I have made them in the past and loved them. This simple recipe makes really flavorful beans that can be eaten on their own or as part of a meal. When I make them, I substitute one whole serrano in place of the jalapeño. I prefer the flavor of the serrano but the heat can be overwhelming so if you leave it whole and fish it out at the end of the cooking time your beans will be flavorful but not spicy.

                              Kitchen science question: when I made these beans it completely discolored the inside of my high quality pan. It kind of left a white film.I don't think it was the vinegar because I have added vinegar to many dishes in the past and never had this happen. Can anyone explain this phenomenon to me?

                              1. re: dkennedy

                                Welcome home dk!! I hope you had a fabulous trip. We've missed you this month. I've been enjoying your notes in EYB and it's nice to have you here on the board!

                                I too prefer the flavour of serrano peppers but unfortunately, they're not as widely available here as jalapenos. I can get them in Toronto and will have to make a stop to the market there as I'm all out now.

                                Not sure what to say about your pot. I'm wondering if the beans give off some sort of chemical that almost oxidizes the pot? Have you tried Barkeeper's Friend? I love that stuff and it's saved many a pan here at Casa bc!!

                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  I had an amazing time in Paris, BC, and in Bordeaux as well. My kids are 13 and 11, and this trip was so much more successful than our trip to Italy a few years back. They really have evolved into little people. Sadly, I wasn't able to bring home too many treats but I ate myself silly while I was there.

                                  Glad my EYB notes are coming in handy. I plan on posting them in the appropriate threads when I have time. Also hope to be cooking alongside all of you in the next week or so.

                                  I do have Barkeeper's Friend and it didn't remove the marks. The pan still works fine, just wondering. I am sure someone out there will be able to explain it to me.

                                2. re: dkennedy

                                  I don't have any idea why it happened, but I'll share a weird little tip. If you use denture cleaner on stuff it can take off the most astonishing stains. Just let it sit in the pot with hot water. can't promise it will work, but it often does wonders. Learned this when I had access to a freebie closet where I worked (yes, one of the things they made was denture cleaner).

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    Ooooh, I'll try that. Thanks LLM.

                                    1. re: dkennedy

                                      I cooked pinto beans (3 1/2 hours) in a Scanpan pot just the other night. Yes, whitish residue. According to the 'net ...
                                      "Cooking Beans in Hard Water
                                      Try to avoid hard water to cook beans. If you consistently have problems cooking beans to the desired tenderness within specified cooking times, you may have hard water. Hard water contains lots of minerals and it causes a chalky white or gray spots or residue on the inside of your cookware whenever you boil water. This is caused by high concentrations of minerals, like calcium and magnesium, which interferes with chemical and physical changes that are supposed to occur in beans during soaking and cooking and destroys the nutrient value. The same rule applies to not adding ingredients like molasses during cooking because it is high in calcium.
                                      How much of a problem this is depends on how hard your water is. In some rare cases beans simply won't cook, and if you're having a great deal of trouble getting dried beans to cook properly, buy purified bottled drinking water – not distilled water – for soaking and cooking beans."

                                      I let white vinegar sit in the pan about an hour, rinsed, it worked! My white residue was only about 2 inches up the pan, even though the beans were much higher. I guess it accumulates in the bottom.

                                      1. re: blue room

                                        Huh! That's very interesting blue room. I'd like to get our water tested. I sometimes have an issue w white residue and I always find my shampoo and conditioner (off topic I know) work much better when I'm away so I've long suspected we may have an issue.

                                        1. re: blue room

                                          I may have just gotten used to cooking beans with my hard water. My water is hard enough that individual ice cubes have a calcium carbonate precipitate (our well water comes from a limestone cavern. OTOH, women who've lived near here their whole lives don't have osteoporosis, even though some of them are skinny from hard work their whole lives.

                                  2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                    I loved these as well. So easy and tasty. And they are the prep for Frijoles a la Charra (p. 123) which were also out of this world.

                                  3. Corn chowder with roasted jalapenos and bacon , page 129.
                                    This was a great recipe. I had bacon that needed to be used up and this was the ticket. I halved the recipe and bought 3 ears of corn for $1.25. It's in season - so I can pat myself on the back. Later, I noticed that I had bought WHITE corn. If you intend to make this for company, I highly recommend purchasing yellow corn - if only for the color - it DOES make a difference in the color of the final product. Since I also eschew cumin ( in most cases) I used a pinch of ground coriander in lieu of it.
                                    The advice 'to taste along the way' seems a cliche. But please DO. I ended up only using a fraction of the jalapeno that was called for... And that is because I tasted the roasted Jalepeno and it was super,super, hot. Your jalepeno may vary.... So taste before you add.
                                    I had leftover Dungeness crab and so I put a very small, ladies handful, on the top of the soup. This was a bit unorthodox I know, but I thought it would taste good .. And it did!
                                    Along with extra cilantro and an extra squeeze of lime, these additions put this 'over the top' for me.
                                    This is a definite repeat for me.
                                    This was DELICIOUS.
                                    Being an experienced cook, I know I made modifications along the way. I upped the garlic and lime ....
                                    And increased the Chix stock too.

                                    But please give this a try if these ingredients 'speak' to you.
                                    You will not be sorry.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Blythe spirit

                                      Our crowd LOVED this chowder. It was one of the biggest hits of our cooking day using this cookbook. Terrific.

                                    2. I have had this cookbook since Christmas. One of my favorites have been the soft cheese tacos. I have made them 2-3 times. Down here in Louisiana, we love Rotel dip and this is a pimped up version of that in meal form. Really savory and satisfying.

                                      I am losing my taste for American cheese as I get older, but this is still delicious to me. I like that she uses cheddar to fill the tortillas themselves and just uses American in the chile con queso.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Becca Porter

                                        Thanks Becca! I'm glad you shared this. We buy Velveta once a year for the annual Superbowl Rotel dip tradition and it truly is a guilty pleasure....it just wouldn't be a Superbowl party without it. I'll have to try these soft cheese tacos!

                                      2. Smoky Tortilla Soup – p. 127

                                        Delicious but don’t make this on a weeknight, this is a time-consuming dish with lots of dirty dishes left in its wake! I hope others try this and can weigh in as to the authenticity of the dish’s flavours. We (and I in particular) loved this soup.

                                        Seeded and stemmed Pasilla chilies are toasted in a dry skillet then covered w water which is boiled before turning off the heat and allowing the chilies to soften. Meanwhile, oil or lard is heated in a skillet and sliced, stale corn tortilla strips are fried until crisp then drained. Tomatoes, onion and garlic are broiled until black spots appear then they are placed in a blender along w pasilla chilies, chipotle chilies, cumin, oregano, cloves, cilantro (parsley), ½ cup of the tortilla strips and ½ cup of water. – are you still w me?!! I told you there were a lot of steps. Oil is then heated in a large pot and the tomato-chili puree is added and cooked until it thickens and gets darker. As JF suggests, it certainly does splatter and pop. Chicken broth and Worcestershire are then added an the mixture is brought to a boil then simmered for 30 mins. JF then has you add in some smoked paprika however I skipped this step as the mixture was smoky enough for our tastes at this point. Lime juice and salt are stirred in and the soup simmers for another 10 mins.

                                        Sheesh, are we done yet?!! Prior to plating the soup, tortillas are placed in the bottoms of your serving bowls along w some grated Monterey Jack cheese and some shredded chicken (if you wish). Soup is served w avocado, Cotija cheese and cilantro (parsley) for garnish.

                                        Honestly, this is one of my new favourite soups, it really is wonderful. I spritzed bowls w lime juice prior to serving to boost the sour flavours. The warmth of the chilies, the subtle smokiness of the chilies, the contrasting textures of the crunchy/chewy tortilla strips and the gooey cheese. Pure heaven in a bowl! This was everything I hoped it would be and more. Top marks from everyone at the table tonight. I could eat this morning noon and night!

                                        On a side note, I'm so glad this dish knocked it out of the park. I prepared 8 recipes from this book yesterday and there were some hits and misses with no major standouts. The guacamole and rice were likely the best dishes but no one dish really took us by surprise. This soup did the trick. I'd have paid the price of the book for this recipe alone.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          Thank you, Breadcrumbs, I've taken note!
                                          Here's a link to the recipe online for those without the book.

                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                            BC, interesting. I too made a tortilla soup for dinner tonight. Silly me, I didn't check the Homesick Texan website and instead used Rick Bayless' recipe. It too was delicious, but had fewer ingredients. I will have to try this one next time.


                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                              After seeing Breadcrumbs mention this recipe in another thread, I decided to give it a try. BC has already outlined the many-step preparation, so I'll just add a few notes.

                                              I started off poaching a couple chicken breasts in chicken stock with an onion and a bay leaf added. I saved this poaching liquid to use later in the soup. I'm pretty sure that Fain assumes you are using canned broth in this recipe. Since I was using unsalted stock, I ended up having to add a lot of salt at the end of the recipe.

                                              One gripe with the instructions. For frying the tortilla strips, you are instructed to heat 1/2 cup of oil in a "large skillet" until a candy thermometer reads 350 degrees. Well, if your skillet really is large (mine was 10 3/4" across the base), 1/2 cup of oil is just going to coat the bottom and be maybe 1/4" deep. Not deep enough to measure the temperature with a candy thermometer, that's for sure.

                                              While Breadcrumbs left out the smoked paprika intentionally, I did the same thing accidentally. Just forgot to add it. Didn't miss it, though, as the chipotle added plenty of smokiness.

                                              The finished soup was indeed as good as Breadcrumbs said it would be. Well worth the effort to make. I think the recipe could be streamlined a bit to make the prep time shorter. It is definitely one I am going to repeat.

                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                I stumble upon this recommendation when looking through the EYB notes for Rick Bayless' version (in prep for COTM May 2013) Made this version instead based on BC's recommendation and so glad I did. Thanks BC.

                                                I disagree that it is not for weeknights. Most of my weeknight meals are at least this labor intensive, and this one had the added bonus of being a one pot meal with leftover for the next day! Note that can use rotisserie chicken and TJs cantina style corn chips to save time.

                                                I agree that the recommended amount of smoke paprika was too much. I used 1/2 teaspoon and that was perfect. I also modified the amount of chipoltes used (1 T.of the sauce from the can, no pepper) to make it more kid friendly.

                                                Other modifications: adding a dollop of sour cream, fresh corn off the cob, rinsed canned black beans, and diced fresh tomatoes - all added to the bottom of each serving bowl, along with the grated pepper jack cheese, avocado and chicken - makes for a hearty bowl of soup!

                                                Would freeze beautifully. Rated "make again" by my family.

                                                1. re: dkennedy

                                                  So glad you enjoyed this dk and I'll come to your house to enjoy it on a weeknight!! I'm just too exhausted when I get home to undertake something like this.

                                                  Such a versatile dish as you point out! Glad to know you'll make it again!

                                                  1. re: dkennedy

                                                    I can confirm it does freeze beautifully, without the tortilla strips in.

                                                    I've been thinking about this recipe as I paged through the Bayless book which is this month's COTM. I do intend to make the Bayless version for the sake of comparison, but this was one of the best recipes from Homesick Texan.

                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                      Oooh, that's good to know Mel! If we can struggle along and manage to leave some that is!!

                                                2. Calabacitas (Squash & Pork Stew) pg. 135

                                                  This was a hit with us, perfect for a cold and rainy night in June. Overall it came together pretty easily, the only tedious part was browning the pork in small batches, which was worth it but does take some time.

                                                  So the recipe; brown shoulder pork that's been cut into cubes in small batches. Remove the meat from the pan. Add chopped onion and saute. Truth to tell my pork was pretty fatty, so I drained the oil, but not the fond, before adding the onions and just sweated them rather than sauteing. Add chopped garlic once the onions are soft and brown, then add back the pork, plus quartered tomatillos, serranos--the jalapenos available here have been tastier, fresher and spicier than the serranos lately, so I went with those, cilantro, cumin (based on threads above, I reduced the cumin to a third of her recommended quantity, and would do the same in the future), zucchini and summer squash (cousa stood in for both in my version), corn kernels (frozen, we are still months away from good corn around here), chicken stock, S&P. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer for half an hour....mine went 45 minutes, uncover and simmer for another half hour, again mine went 45 minutes. Add fresh lime juice before serving, I used a light touch with the lime juice but that's a personal preference thing, serve with corn tortillas, or good corn chips, or over rice.

                                                  Mr. QN requested corn chips, and that's what we had with it, served on the side. I think corn bread might be nice. Mr. QN added a touch of freshly grated cheese to his, and we both added a few fresh cilantro leaves to our bowls. Here it is in the pot before simmering, and served up in a small bowl for the ancestors.

                                                  1. Both from the website, Entomatadas with Cheese http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/201...
                                                    and Cheese Enchiladas http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/200...

                                                    I wanted to compare these two side by side because I thought they'd be very similar, but I don't think that anymore. The entomatada sauce is bright tomato/cilantro -- the enchilada darker & deeper from chiles.
                                                    I used mild cheese, Monterey Jack and Colby respectively, and corn tortillas.
                                                    The entomatada sauce is briefly broiled tomato, jalapeno, garlic and onion. These are blended (I used food processor) with cumin, allspice, a little chicken broth. Simmer 15 minutes, add chopped cilantro, salt. This is what you pour over the cheese-filled rolled up tortillas. (Pictured in terra cotta dish) We liked this! Lighter than enchiladas but still satisfying.
                                                    The Cheese Enchiladas came next. The Chili Gravy (author got it from Robb Walsh) is oil and flour cooked together, seasoned with salt and pepper, powdered garlic, ground cumin, dried oregano, chili powder. Add beef or chicken broth, then simmer for 15 minutes. I have a decent chili powder from Penzey's and all those other shortcut (but apparently allowed) ingredients, so this was as quick as it could be. MelMM earlier in this thread has done a chili gravy from this author also, but with less dried and powdered ingredients.
                                                    These two were fine, just what you'd find between the beans and the rice on a plate of Tex-Mex food.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: blue room

                                                      The recipe from Robb Walsh on the blog is a true chile gravy, and is almost exactly the recipe published in his book, which anyone interested in Tex-Mex should own. Differences are that he specifies Mexican oregano, and he increases the powdered garlic to 1.5 tsp.

                                                      The recipe in the book is not really a chile gravy at all. It's a dilute chile con carne. Either sauce is possible for cheese enchiladas, but a chile gravy ala Robb Walsh is the classic Tex-Mex.

                                                      I'm noticing a tend here... When someone posts a report from a blog recipe, invariable I find it more appealing than the closest equivalent in the book. Anyone else notice this?

                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                        I don't have the book, have been using the blog exclusively. You're saying the blog recipes have been changed (not for the better) and put into the book under the same names?
                                                        How odd .. why on earth?
                                                        Aside from that, I DO have Robb Walsh's "Tex-Mex" -- appreciating it much more now!

                                                        1. re: blue room

                                                          It's not necessarily a different recipe with the same name. Sometimes it's just a different recipe. For instance, someone made sweet potato biscuits from the blog, which looked really good, whereas in the book, there is just a ho-hum biscuit recipe. On the blog there are cheese enchiladas with chile gravy, in the book there are cheese enchiladas with chile con carne (what I made). Similar, but not quite the same thing, and I would prefer what's on the blog. And then there is the pico de gallo, in the book with cumin and on the blog without. So in that case, two versions of the same dish, and once again, I would prefer the version on the blog.

                                                        2. re: MelMM

                                                          Odd. I wonder if her publisher forced changes to avoid copyright problems? I know one recipe on the blog I encountered was just a Diane Kennedy one. Maybe that's why all the cumin? Trying to tweak them to make them "hers"?


                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                            I wondered that too after reading MelMM's post, thought I was just being cynical.

                                                      2. Sopa de Fideo, p. 137

                                                        This recipe threw me for a loop. Most recipes I've seen were for a sopa seca de fideo... a "dry" soup, which can be made of rice or (if it's a sopa de fideo) pasta. This recipe doesn't call itself a sopa seca, and the picture looks a bit too saucy, but still not like a real soup, so I really didn't know what to make of it.

                                                        The recipe has you toast guajillo chiles in a skillet, then add water, bring to a boil, and let soak off the heat for 30 min. You saute onions and garlic, and then add them, along with some crushed tomatoes (I used whole), chicken broth, chile powder, cumin, allspice, and cayenne, into a blender, and puree. The fideo (like angel hair pasta, broken into pieces) is toasted in hot oil, then the chile and tomato puree is added. And here is where it gets weird, to me. You are supposed to add another 7 cups of broth at this point. That would make 2 quarts of broth total, plus the tomato liquid, for 8 oz of pasta. That would make a pretty brothy soup, nothing like what is pictured. I decided this must be a mistake, and added 2 cups of broth. I ended up with something maybe a tad drier that what is pictured, but still nowhere near a sopa seca. So I don't know what was intened.

                                                        This was seasoned with salt and pepper, garnished with cilantro, and I took the liberty of adding some cheese to the top. In this case, Pecorino Romano, standing in for Cotija (which is not called for in the recipe). The end result was just so-so to me. It seemed to need more salt, which I am finding to be the case for many recipes in this book. It wasn't a sopa seca, nor was it a real soup, and the texture just did not appeal. I had the leftovers for lunch today, and it did not improve with time (not surprising for a pasta dish).

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: MelMM

                                                          I have made this twice. I too worried about the high amount of broth, but I continued anyway. It was awesome!! It was so savory and comforting. Also, it really wasn't overly brothy. I think the picture is throwing us off.

                                                          1. re: Becca Porter

                                                            Fideo soup -

                                                            In terms of adding so much broth to the fideos after they are toasted, this is the correct process. My family is from Rhodes, and this is a fairly standard technique for making fideos - though of course, the seasonings differ. My understanding is there is a significant Sephardic community in Mexico, so I am guessing that is where this recipe originated, and was modified as it crept across the border.

                                                        2. Ranch Style Beans -- from the website
                                                          I'm glad to find I can freeze these -- I seem to have a *big* pot full.
                                                          I soaked pinto beans overnight, she said that or the quick way will work.
                                                          Ancho chiles are prepared by toasting, then rehydrating the seeded stemmed chiles. Add them to brown sugar, vinegar, paprika (type not specified so I used half smoked, half not), Mexican oregano, cumin, sauteed onion and garlic, tomato (I used 5 smallish Romas) All of that is blended (food processor) until smooth. The beans are drained, covered with beef broth and the chile mixture. I had decent homemade chicken broth so I used some of that and some canned beef broth. Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer, cook about 2 1/2 hours (mine took longer 'cuz I don't know why -- but after 3 1/2 hours I was satisfied with the softness of the beans and the thickness of the sauce.
                                                          It's funny that this recipe is supposed to come close to a canned bean product the author enjoys, so why didn't I just buy a can of that? Still, I had fun -- first time I used whole chiles rather than chili powder to make a dish like this. I thought I'd have to scrape out the seeds but they just clattered out in a little seed shower.
                                                          The taste is fine, but definitely (IMO) *background*. I'll add something -- bacon/burger/cheese (?) (Buttered rice!) to use these as dinner.

                                                          1. Frijoles a la Charra – p. 123

                                                            These beans were just ok for us. They were very hot and I only used 1 chipotle in adobo vs the 2 LF calls for. They also seemed to lack something in terms of flavour and tasted a bit flat. We have a ton leftover so I’ll try adding salt and if that improves things I’ll report back here.

                                                            This comes together very quickly if you have already made the Jalapeno Pinto Beans (p. 122). I made those last weekend and froze the requisite amt to use in this recipe. I’ve pasted a link to the recipe on LF’s website so I won’t cover the prep here to save some time. I would note though that there is one difference in the www recipe vs that in the book. The book calls for 2 jalapenos vs 3 online.

                                                            LF suggests you puree the tomato-bacon mixture for this dish but notes that if you prefer a chunkier texture, you can skip that step. Somehow I couldn’t wrap my mind around pureed bacon … I skipped that step!

                                                            If someone else makes these, I’d be interested to hear if the flavours are authentic. This was a miss for us.

                                                            Here’s the link: http://homesicktexan.blogspot.ca/2008...

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                              As I look at her recipe, I don't see the acid. When you reheat, consider a spritz of lime juice or a drizzle of a vinegar just before serving to liven up this dish.

                                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                I made these from the recipe on the website and they're a favorite, in regular rotation in the winter.

                                                                I do puree the tomato-bacon mixture which adds a lot of body and texture to the finished beans. I think the recipes for this "series" of beans (http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/200...) are a lot better on her website -- I could just eat bowl after bowl of the frijoles a la charra as published there, and I'm bummed that the cookbook versions are falling flat for so many people!

                                                                1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                  Glad to know the online version is a keeper LauraGrace. Thanks for sharing!

                                                                2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                  I loved these. But I used a free hand with the seasoning and they had a nice kick. I also would not puree them. They are terrific as is.

                                                                3. Carnitas:
                                                                  (from website)
                                                                  First half of report -- seemingly simple, just the pork, oj, water, salt.
                                                                  I used boneless country ribs which were sized as specified. I halved them so they would fit in the pot -- added the oj, water and salt and embellished w/ 2 cloves peeled garlic and juice of 1/2 lime (just because I had it). After 40 mins of simmering, the meat was still raw looking on top, so I was bold enough to move the meat, by flipping them.
                                                                  After the requisite 2 hrs, the liquid boiled off and pot was sputtering -- but I did not turn up the heat as instructed -- I left it on low and browned the meat in the remaining fat as it was plenty hot (left lots of black burnt residue in pot) and meat got nicely brown if you watched carefully and turned often. It is not falling apart tender -- will need knife to cube up. Shredding not possible.
                                                                  Too hot here in the so called foggy Bay Area to do more -- it's shrimp louie time
                                                                  -- will serve tomorrow if it cools down.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Sarah

                                                                    Sorry to report the carnitas were not that special -- I cubed the chunks and reheated in the toaster oven. They were served wrapped in warmed up flour tortillas with salsa, avocado, optional sour cream. Next time I would cut back on the oj as it was a very strong presence. I would use this recipe again to cook up a batch of pork because it's really simple -- but not as heavenly as reviewers on-site have claimed.

                                                                    1. re: Sarah

                                                                      Thanks for the report, Sarah - I've had my eye on that recipe as it looks lovely! Maybe I'll cube it before I start. I really want to try that recipe.

                                                                  2. I'm making the Austin Black Beans from page 124. It smells great! Can't believe I had to go to two (2) markets for cilantro! I'm in the Southwest, after all.

                                                                    I have some leftover flour tortillas and some cheese (sadly, no Oaxaca, my favorite)

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: JerryMe

                                                                      Uh, okay. So I've often said that I can be an adequate cook because I read very well and I get the 'basics'. So I misread the recipe - Two (2) canned chipotle chilies NOT two (2) CANS of chipotle chilies. Ugh - I was dancing around the kitchen to this:


                                                                      No wonder I'm still single! Sheesh - Guess I'll go to the store and get more black beans to dilute this potentially lethal dish. No wonder it smells so wonderful . . . .

                                                                      1. re: JerryMe

                                                                        Now that is a HOT dish. I bet that is astonishing. Good luck!

                                                                        1. re: JerryMe

                                                                          The good news is, beans freeze well! Two CANS of chipotles!! My mouth is burning on your behalf, JM.

                                                                      2. Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas, p. 158

                                                                        This is pretty similar to many recipes for Enchiladas Suizas or Enchiladas Verdes, and, in the end, I guess I prefer the recipe from the Rosa Mexicano cookbook that I usually use. I found this a little heavy on the sour cream (2 c), even for my cream-loving self. I took a couple of shortcuts, using a store-bought rotisserie chicken for the meat and canned tomatillos.

                                                                        You make the sauce by softening some diced serranos and garlic in butter, stirring in flour to make a light roux, and adding 2 c. chicken broth and stirring until thickened. The sour cream and spices (cumin,cayenne, and cilantro) get added. The sauce is whizzed in a blender with a (drained) can of tomatillos. Corn tortillas are rolled around chicken, diced onion, and grated jack cheese, and these go over a layer of sauce. Remaining sauce is layered over the enchiladas. More cheese goes on top and the whole thing is baked at 350F for about 25 minutes and then topped w/chopped cilantro.

                                                                        This was rich, tasty, filling, a bit soggy (a problem I always seem to have so not necessarily the recipe), not too difficult to put together--but not my favorite riff on this dish.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                          As opposed to nomadchowwoman, this was my favorite recipe from the book, and our crowd of folks agreed. That said it is not a spicy dish or particularly deep in flavor. As one of our crowd said, these are pure comfort food. I grew up with this dish, which is difficult to find. It is creamier and richer than typical enchiladas suizas or verdes. I made them as is, also using canned tomatillos (no need for fresh.)

                                                                          One suggestion: When we made enchiladas, once we soften the tortillas in the lard, we then soak the tortilla in the sauce, before putting in the chicken and cheese (or whatever type you are making). It keeps the enchiladas from being dry. This works particularly well with these enchiladas. They should be extremely wet, extremely saucy, very cheesy. If they seem soggy just bake them a little longer. But there should be a lot of sauce.


                                                                        2. El Paso Chili Con Queso, p. 102

                                                                          I always love these decadent white cheese dips, but try to avoid ordering them in restaurants. Every now and then I'll buy one of those 1/2 pint containers at Whole Foods, and I'll eat the whole thing.

                                                                          So I was doing the low-carb thing and feeling sorry for myself and looking for a way to fall off the wagon.

                                                                          I started by buying some delicious homemade tortilla chips from a Mexican vendor at the FM. And, then, with roasted hatch chiles in the freezer and monterey jack that needed using up and a craving for carbs and creamy, cheesy, non-diet food that was about to kill me, I jumped, desperately but deliberately.

                                                                          Going for the more restrained half-recipe, I softened chopped (Vidalia) onion (about 1/3 c), and then minced garlic (one clove) in a little butter over med. low heat. I had no half-and-half so I added, gulp, heavy cream (about 2 T) and a splash of whole milk and then my already prepared hatch chiles (probably 1/2 c. or so). I let that bubble a little over the simmer flame and gradually added finely grated MJ cheese. I stirred in chopped cilantro and some salt.

                                                                          Well, how could that be bad (except for, say, your arteries or thighs)? The only downside was that those wonderful, thin chips I told you about--well, they were not sturdy enough for this very thick dip. They collapsed under the weight of the cheese. But I forged ahead and finished almost all of it, alone, as a late afternoon snack. Decadent. Guilt-inducing. But satisfying.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                            Thanks for a great read.
                                                                            Not that I've ever had cheese accumulation problems.

                                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                              Haha! I've bought those containers of spinach dip ( on occasion) and eaten the whole thing .. ( in guilty privacy). You're not alone :-).

                                                                            2. West Texas Stacked Enchiladas - p. 161

                                                                              Ok everyone... for me, this was the stunner of the book. Incredible. They take some prep, but boy are they good. And do not miss putting the fried egg on top.

                                                                              You basically prep as if you are making regular enchiladas, but then you make stacks. My friend who did these bought smaller round tortillas, which I thought was a great idea. You soften your enchiladas, we dip them in the sauce, then stack tortilla, sauce, cheeses, onions then another tortilla. After 4 stacks, you make another one. Bake them, then if desired, top with a fried egg. Wow. Amazing. This chili sauce was particularly good as well. See the picture for ours:

                                                                              1. Chili Con Queso - p. 101

                                                                                While I admire her attempt to update classic Rotel Queso, this just didn't match up. I'm not sure anything can beat classic Rotel Queso, which is a block of Velvetta melted with a can of Rotel Tomatoes stirred in. It's too creamy and delicious. This was fine but not as spicy and also not as creamy.

                                                                                1. Chipotle-Cinnamon Spiced Pecans - p. 117

                                                                                  I did not make these, a friend did, so I can't talk about prep. But, wow, they are terrific. Sweet and spicy and delicious. We went through a ton of them, they are very addictive.