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June 2012 COTM, The Homesick Texan: Sides Hot and Cold; Breads; Sweets

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

Sides Hot and Cold, pages 252 - 277
Breads, pages 282 - 307
Sweets, pages 313 - 347

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  1. Houston-Style Flour Tortillas - p. 299

    A couple of years ago, I made the tortilla recipe off of her website and while it was a huge improvement over store-bought tortillas, I still felt like something was missing from them. It was. I grew up in Houston and my tortillas were missing lard. These come together very easily. The lard is heated with water until it melts and then stirred into flour mixed with some salt. Kneed the dough until it's smooth and supple and then let it rest. The dough came out smoother than anything I've ever worked with before. Divide the dough into balls and let it rest some more. Each ball is then rolled out into a tortilla. It rolls out nicely, although seemed to have a slight propensity to tear if I wasn't careful. She calls for heating a dry cast-iron skillet to high to cook, but I ended up with blackened tortillas after 15 seconds on high and needed to reduce the heat to medium. Even though the first ones I made were a bit on the black side, that didn't stop me from taste-testing one in full right away.

    1. Red Chile Rice, p. 276

      This is a version of the "Spanish Rice" that comes on your typical Tex-Mex plate. The author calls for 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes, drained. I only had canned whole tomatoes on hand, so I used drained whole tomatoes, crushed by hand. You whiz the tomatoes in a blender with some onion, garlic, a canned chipotle in adobo, cumin, a pinch of ground cloves, and lime juice. You then saute the uncooked rice in some lard or oil, then add the tomato puree. The recipe then calls for you to add two cups of chicken broth, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. She then instructs you to let the rice rest with the heat turned off for another 10 minutes, then to stir, and finally to season with salt to taste.

      The technique here is pretty standard for this type of rice. What's unusual about this recipe is the cumin and cloves, and the chipotle. In a more standard recipe, there would be no cumin, or just a pinch. I've already said that I think this author overuses cumin. Chipotle is also not standard at all. I think the author either just really likes it, or perhaps uses it because it is easy to find in parts of the country where you might not have a good selection of fresh or dried chiles in grocery store.

      I made the dish as directed except for my tomato substitution. I also reduced the amount of stock used to a cup and a half. I think 2 cups of liquid is too much for a cup of rice (it does depend though, on the type of rice, and the pot you are using). In this case, you have extra liquid coming from the tomato puree. In the end, I felt there was still too much liquid for the rice, even with the lesser volume I used, and the rice came out a bit mushier than I like. I think the author must intend for you to really drain all the liquid from the tomatoes, so you don't have as much liquid there. I would suggest looking at your puree, and going with your instincts about how much broth to add. The last thing I did a bit differently was to add salt along with the broth. I felt stirring all the salt into the cooked rice at the end would not give the best result.

      That little glitch aside, the flavor of the rice was good. I served this as a side with the cheese enchiladas on p. 153.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MelMM

        Red Chile Rice – p. 276

        Very nice rice. I love smoky flavours, mr bc not so much so this dish held much greater appeal for me than it did for mr bc. For the same reason, I preferred it over similar, Spanish-style rice dishes I’ve had in the past. I made 8 recipes from this book today and this was my favourite.

        Big thanks to Mel for covering this so well above and also for your comments on the cumin. TxnMtl has also expressed surprise over the extensive yet non-traditional use of cumin in this book. I have to say, it definitely seemed out of place in this dish and I omitted it.

        I find the author’s recipes in-precise and Mel’s comments about the tomatoes above are an example of what I’m talking about. LF indicates a 1/2c yield after combining ¾ drained chopped tomatoes, ¼ medium onion, 2 cloves garlic and a tbsp of lime juice. Even if you pressed your tomatoes, you’d definitely have more than a ½ cup yield. Unlike Mel, I didn’t reduce the quantity of broth when making the rice and although my end product may have been a little stodgy for the extra liquid, I loved it nonetheless! Prior to serving, I popped the rice under the broiler and melted some Monterey Jack cheese atop. Yum!

      2. Sweet Potato Biscuits with Chorizo Cream Gravy -- from the website

        It isn't clear to me if *all* the recipes on the website are in the book and vice versa -- ?

        Anyway, this is delightful -- has to be, it's biscuits and gravy. The biscuits have mashed sweet potato (I used yam) in them, and so have a nice color, even if the flavor of yam is not really discernable under the chorizo/chipotle. Perfectly nice biscuits on their own, though. They rose up nicely (they contain buttermilk and baking powder.
        )Making cream gravy is a quick mix of milk into a roux of the (fried & crumbled chorizo) oil and flour. Stir in some cilantro, S&P, and chipotle powder to season it.
        I used way more chorizo than called for -- it's my lunch today. I'm using supermarket chorizo -- but I will look into making my own, as poster TxnInMtl has written about, it seems not too hard!

        7 Replies
        1. re: blue room

          Neither those biscuits nor the gravy are in the book. They look wonderful!

          1. re: blue room

            By yams, do you mean the more orange sweet potatoes? It is a comman misconception brought about by clever southerners, I believe... True yams are quite large and rarely sold in the US.

            1. re: Becca Porter

              Interesting. I used what my supermarket calls "yams" -- pictured below next to a teaspoon. They have orange flesh -- almost carrot colored.
              If I buy "sweet potatoes" at that store I get a paler color flesh for sure -- darker than butter but not much. (I'm in Utah.) Are real yams a different flavor altogether? Sweet also?

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  Thank you, Caitlin. The nice fellow in the video has made it clear. I'm real sure I've never had a real yam.

                2. re: blue room

                  That's definitely a sweet potato. We get yams at my local market in South London and they're much bigger and bit hairy. - and white inside.

              1. re: blue room

                hmmm, the biscuit recipe in the book didn't appeal to me at all, but those "yam" biscuits look lovely. thanks for pointing them out BR.

              2. Cabbage and Radish Slaw – p. 255

                I love the notion of having slaw in a taco so I made this dish with the idea of serving the slaw along w the shredded Pasilla Tomatillo short ribs (p. 195). To make this recipe, you’ll need to prepare the Jalapeno Buttermilk Dressing p. 49. You’ll also need to chop or julienne, in my case, some radishes and add them to some shredded green cabbage. The cabbage/radish mix is then tossed w some apple cider vinegar and cumin seeds before the dressing is added. The slaw is to be refrigerated for at least an hour prior to serving. FYI, I cheated and used a bag of pre-shredded cabbage. If you’re shredding your own, JF suggests you toss w some salt and let sit for an hour prior to draining and carrying on as set out above.

                This was good, not great. It was nice atop other ingredients in a taco but I don’t think I’d be yearning to eat a bowl on its own. When we re-serve, I’ll toss in some lime juice and see if that brings the slaw to life. I’d definitely omit the cumin seeds as I found them to be out of place and even odd tasting relative to the remaining ingredients. When I do use cumin seeds, I tend to toast them in a dry pan to bring out the oils and flavour.

                Review for the dressing here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8519...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                  I enjoyed this quite a bit. But unlike others, I loved the dressing. It's simple and doesn't have a ton of flavor but I find that works well when you have a meal of these dishes, most of which are spicy. Nice compliment.

                2. Texas Caviar – p. 261

                  I make a black bean salad that has very similar ingredients and flavours as this dish. Since mr bc is a bean-guy, I had to make this so he had something to look forward to (since I’m a bigger fan of Mexican-style cuisine than he is).

                  I liked this recipe as LF gives you the option of using canned beans. Since I planned to make 8 recipes from this book today, any short cuts were welcome! This recipe produces a fresh and flavourful side dish or dip – you decide how you wish to serve it. We enjoyed this one.

                  Prep is simple if you’re using the canned beans. Beans are drained and rinsed then tossed w green onions (why omit the white part?!! Sorry, I just can’t do it!), cilantro (parsley due to allergy), jalpenos, tomatoes (of which I doubled the quantity as I wanted to serve this as a salsa), yellow pepper and garlic. A dressing of lime juice, olive oil, cumin, S&P is whisked together before incorporating.

                  I added some lime zest to the mix as well. Fresh and flavourful. We both agreed we prefer my black bean salad though.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    I also thought this was just ok. I make Texas Caviar a lot, and this one was not as garlicky or flavorful as the one I make.

                  2. Hatch Chile Apple Cobbler
                    from her website

                    I've cut and pasted this into word and glued it into the back of her cookbook. It's a recipe that I made once, took to a party, it was eaten too quickly, then I made it the next day and twice the following week.

                    It takes a classic, easy to cook cobbler (butter), a mix of flour, sugar, baking power, milk) poured into an iron skillet which has had the butter melted in it). Onto that a mix of chopped apples, chopped Hatch chile peppers with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and a bit of brown sugar. Then bake.

                    That's the rich wonderful version.

                    I've also made it with only 2T. of butter and I've reduced the sugar in the crust from 1 cup to half a cup, and it's still wonderful.

                    (And there's no cumin.)

                    Perhaps this will be my fall go-to desert for the next decade. It's easy, tasty, decadent, and if there's any left over, it can almost pass as a breakfast pastry.

                    I've also used Anaheim peppers instead of Hatch as the Anaheims grow well for me and I can extend my home grown pepper use several months with them.

                    The lasting impression from this comes back to the first bite: a good apple cobbler, with a bit of a hot kick, not too much, just enough to get a remember Texas smile.

                    1. Strawberry Spoon Bread -- from the website http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/201...
                      Even though this isn't the book I voted for, it is proving to be a pleasure. Always wanted to try spoon bread, and this version is just delicious. I'd love to serve it to houseguests for breakfast someday--they'll feel pampered..
                      Spoonbread is moist & spoonable, but holds its shape like a souffle. Just cornmeal mixed with milk and egg, a little baking powder, butter, sugar, and salt. This recipe includes chopped sugared strawberries. I foolishly baked it in my cast iron no-knead-bread-and-fried-chicken deep skillet. (Wanted it to look rustic.) I'm afraid the acidic berries have compromised the pan's seasoning, must fix!
                      The recipe calls for whipped cream mixed with honey or sorghum as a topping, but I was happy just to have the berries baked in, and spooned on, the spoon bread. Recommended for homey bliss.

                      1. Cafe de Olla Ice Cream (from the website)
                        Record heat here (Utah) yesterday, so by early evening I'd decided to make ice cream.
                        Based on Mexican spiced coffee, it's cream and milk flavored with brown sugar, strong coffee, cinnamon, and vanilla. I used half dark brown sugar and half turbinado, some intense coffee that I made 150% strength. No eggs, no cooking -- 20 minutes in the little noisy ice cream maker and some time in the freezer to firm it up properly, and there it is. The author L. Fain pairs this with hot fudge -- lack of the right ingredients kept me from doing so. Chocolate with these flavors would be just right. I'd make it again, especially as dessert for a Tex-Mex or Mexican meal.

                        1. Sweet Potato Salad with Cranberries and Pecans (from the website)
                          I was planning to have this *with* my lunch but it proved to be filling enough to *be* lunch.
                          The main ingredient is sweet potato--cubed, cooked, cooled and mixed with mayo, grainy mustard, curry powder, salt and pepper. But also in the mix are tangy dried (and pretty!) cranberries, toasted pecans, and green onion. I had to sub freeze-dried chives and a slight sliver of white onion for green onion.
                          It is a salad that I liked, but would only make again if there were a specific place for it. It isn't a substitute for regular potato salad, and since it's cold I wouldn't sit it next to the turkey and brussel sprouts either. Not a winner, but pleasant.

                          1. Tomato Cobbler - p. 273

                            I had high expectations for this recipe. The idea of a savory cobbler instead of a fruit cobbler sounded fantastic to me. Sadly, this recipe just didn't deliver for us, although I enjoyed the leftovers a bit more once I adjusted my expectations accordingly. I think this recipe could be fixed with a bit of tweaking and had I listened to my inner cook while making this instead of just following blindly, I might've been in better shape.

                            To make, you essentially make a pico by tossing together diced tomatoes, diced jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, cumin, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. I passed on the cumin and the pepper because neither of them belong in a salsa to me and that seemed like what this was. You then melt 8 tbsp/1 stick of unsalted butter in a cast-iron skillet over low heat. This is where the problems began. The amount of butter called for is entirely too much for this recipe. Also, she specifically calls for unsalted butter which is great because that's what I have on hand, but then doesn't have nearly enough salt in the cornmeal layer. The skillet is removed from heat after the butter melts and in a separate bowl, you mix together flour, corneal, baking powder, and salt. She has 1/4 tsp kosher salt for 1 cup of flour ingredients. I don't put a lot of salt in my dishes, but even I found this lacking in salt. Milk is poured into the flour mixture and stirred until you have a batter. She says it should be thick, but mine didn't seem all that thick. The batter is poured over the melted butter. For my size cast-iron skillet, the batter didn't completely cover the bottom of the skillet, so I ended up with melted butter piling up on the outside. The tomato mixture is spooned on top of the batter and the whole thing is baked at 350 for 30 minutes. Mine still had entirely too much liquid when it finished baking, so I had to leave it in for longer and even then, it still seemed too moist.

                            So what might make this better? The bottom layer to me seems like a pour imitation of cornbread, so why not use bacon grease in place of the butter to give it more flavor and buttermilk in place of the milk? With bacon grease, you could likely keep the salt levels the same in the batter. I obviously would not advocate using 1/2 cup of bacon grease though! Maybe a little melted cheese on top as well to make it seem less like just bad cornbread with pico poured on top? (Is it just me or does the photo even look like there's melted cheese on the top?) As is, it's not horrible, but it's not nearly as good as what I've come to expect from her other recipes.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: TxnInMtl

                              This is very interesting to me too -- I don't have the book but found the recipe online here
                              I'll try at least a half recipe later in the week and report.

                              1. re: blue room

                                I'll be curious to hear your feedback.

                                1. re: TxnInMtl

                                  Tomato Cobbler - p.273
                                  Since I loved the Strawberry Spoonbread from this author, I was interested to do this Tomato Cobbler too. Keeping in mind tips from TxnInMtl earlier in this thread, I tried it out this morning.
                                  For melting in the casserole dish, I used a mix of butter + a scrape of bacon grease, but not the full amount, I skimped. For the cornbread batter on the bottom, used buttermilk instead of milk. There are no instructions to drain/seed tomatoes (either canned or fresh) so I didn't. (Used Roma tomatoes from Mexico) I should have distributed the tomato mix more evenly over the batter, the finished dish was soggy in the middle (or maybe I should have drained/seeded the tomatoes.) The tomato mixture (garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, cumin, S&P) was nice but not exciting. I would rather have a hot square of buttered cornbread and a separate saucer of cold sliced salted tomatoes, I'm afraid..
                                  I did look around the 'net for other "tomato cobbler" recipes and Martha Stewart and Mark Bittman both have promising (?) versions.
                                  Mine is a half recipe in a little 7 inch Pyrex dish.

                                  1. re: blue room

                                    I'm sorry it didn't work for you either, but somewhat glad it wasn't just me!

                              2. re: TxnInMtl

                                I made this too and was also disappointed. I thought that the cornbread was virtually flavorless and the cumin overpowered the tomato mixture. Ill try again with your tweaks TxnInMtl because I agree that the concept really appealed to me.

                                1. re: michaelak79

                                  For everyone who tried the tomato cobbler and was disappointed, let me throw out a similar recipe that is THE BOMB :)


                              3. End of Winter Carrot and Raisin Salad

                                Your basic carrot-raisin salad with the interesting addition of fresh orange juice and a bit of spice.

                                I used 5 pretty big carrots, I would say I ended up with 3 cups of shredded carrots. So for that amount, and because I don't like too-dry slaw-type salads, I upped the amount of dressing. Here are the ratios I ended up with:
                                1/4-1/3 cup each plain yogurt (didn't have Greek on hand) and homemade mayo [I started with 1/4 c. each and added a spoonful extra of both
                                ]1/2+ cup each golden and dark raisins
                                1/2 orange, squeezed
                                dash each of ground ginger and cinnamon

                                I really like the OJ in the mix; it added enough sweetness so that I didn't feel that I needed to add my usual honey. However, I did find the mix a little one-note, so I added a good splash of apple cider vinegar, which really brightened things up.

                                Overall a very good salad.

                                1. Peanut-butter pie : I don't know if this is in the cookbook,but it's on the website and it's excellent.


                                  It's made with a custard-based preparation rather than the majority of recipes that simply blend peanut butter with either whipped cream or cream cheese. You can adjust the amount of cayenne called for, just note that even a pinch is detectable (in a good way).

                                  She links to her go-to pie crust, which I didn't try, but it's almost identical to one I usually use, and is really simple -- you combine ingredients, roll between sheets of wax paper or silpat, and pat into pan.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: TerriL

                                    I'm glad to see this here, would've skipped it! The only peanut butter pie I've done was the mix-with-cream-cheese kind, not cooked. It was ok, just ok. This one I'll love to try -- will be careful with the cayenne.

                                    1. re: TerriL

                                      Peanut butter pie [tarts] from the blog
                                      I wanted to try this too, and mixed up half a recipe to fill some mini tart shells. I liked the cinnamon and cayenne in this very much -- kept it from being just-plain-peanut-butter flavor. The texture was a tiny bit gluey, but that was likely me overcooking the custard. I'd say the flavor is excellent, I'd make this again. Very rich & sweet, almost candy rather than pie.

                                    2. Sour Cream Pound Cake with Ruby Red Grapefruit (from the website)
                                      Made a half recipe of this fine little cake, baked it in a little bowl. The grapefruit zest & juice makes it different, certainly worth the few extra steps.
                                      The cake is a pretty standard pound cake recipe I think -- butter flour sugar eggs -- sour cream too of course, and you add zest and juice. I mixed it all in a stand mixer, following her directions. She says "pour batter into the pan" but it is way too thick to pour, it must be *put* into the pan. But it did bake up nicely, it's moist with a very good flavor. There's nothing prettier than that deep pink Texas grapefruit -- too bad it can't color the cake a bit.

                                      1. Cucumber Salad – p. 258

                                        I found first of the season baby cucumbers at the market and was happy to find a COTM recipe I could use. This salad turned out to be ok but I wouldn’t make it again. Here’s how it came together:

                                        Cucumbers are sliced then salted and allow to sit, refrigerated for at least an hour. This was my first issue w the recipe as the step seems unnecessary and the drained, rinsed cucumbers had lost their fresh crispness as their water was displaced. If you look at the photo in the book, the cucumbers appear to be freshly sliced vs prepared in the manner LF suggests.

                                        A dressing I prepared by mixing sour cream or thick, Greek-style yogurt w garlic, vinegar, mustard, cilantro, red onions, dill seed, cumin and cayenne. S&P is added to taste. I went w the yogurt version which produced a very thick dressing … too thick in my view and I ended up thinning it out w water the following day. I also used fresh dill in place of cilantro due to an allergy. Again, if you look at the photo in the book, the dish seems to contain fresh dill and no cilantro is visible.

                                        I think we’d have liked the dressing if I’d gone w the sour cream version but it was the texture of the cucumbers that blew this for us. They were limp, similar to the texture of a sliced pickle.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          Hmm, this wouldn't be my cup of tea either. Cucumber + dill though is nice (in a lighter dressing!)

                                        2. Cactus Salad
                                          Recipe found here: http://savourthesensesblog.com/featur...

                                          My local Mexican grocery sells cactus paddles pre-trimmed of their spines, so prep was pretty easy. We cut the cactus into bite size pieces and blanched it for 4-5 minutes until tender. Rinsed it to cool and combined with chopped tomato, white onion, and cilantro and dressed with olive oil, salt and lime juice. I skipped the garlic and cumin as I have never had a cactus salad containing those ingredients. I also skipped the cheese because I didn't have any, but I would have liked it better with the cheese I am sure. This was a good-enough salad but not special. It was vastly improved by adding a bit of the avocado-tomatillo salsa (reviewed separately), so I think it was in need of a bit of a kick all around. Served as a side with carnitas tacos (wonderful!), a classic combination (at least for me, I always have cactus salad with carnitas if it is available).

                                          1. Biscuits

                                            from the website http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/200...

                                            This month has been much busier than anticipated, but I finally got around to making something from the blog. I don't have the book, so not sure if ther recipe is the same.

                                            I must admit that I am not the biggest fan of biscuits, but my husband and 5 year old son can get excited about a hot biscuit. I have made biscuits before, but always felt like they didn't rise quite as much as I would like them to. This recipe is pretty standard in terms of ingredients, but the technique is where it is a little different. She calls for beating the biscuits a bit after you mix them "to get some air into the dough." I had always thought you had to handle biscuits very gently to avoid toughening them. So, this was a bit of a departure. She also has you roll out the dough and then fold it in half (for a double thickness) and then cut out the biscuits. There is also the instruciton to put them close together on the baking sheet to get them to rise up not out.

                                            Bottom line, these were the best biscuits I have made! Nice and fluffy, certainly not tough and the folding in half made them very easy to split for butter and honey! Not sure which of the little technique details made the difference, but I am a convert to this method.

                                            Only downside, I think our biscuit consumption is about to go up. Husband already asked if I could make them again this weekend :)

                                            17 Replies
                                            1. re: greeneggsnham

                                              hmmmm, that does sound good. I was really skeptical about the beating the biscuits with a stick part, so glad someone else was willing to give it a go!

                                              1. re: qianning

                                                I made her sweet potato biscuits (very similar) and was happy with them. I think the folding over double is something I'll do from now on--pretty sure it helps with the height.

                                                1. re: blue room

                                                  can see how the folding would work, and also how the crowded pan makes sense, but the beating is so contrary to everything else i've ever read/tried in the biscuits department, it kind of gave me pause.

                                                  1. re: qianning

                                                    The biscuits I make, which are mighty good, are folded at least 6 times. The "oven puff" is really magical.

                                                    1. re: smtucker

                                                      You mean rolled out very thin and then folded so you have 6 layers? I just read Alton Brown's recipe for biscuits--he does that too. I will try that for sure -- tall biscuits are so appetizing.

                                                      1. re: smtucker

                                                        "The "oven puff" is really magical"....OK, that got my attention. Sharable recipe or top secret? No harm no foul, I hope, if it is the latter!

                                                        1. re: qianning

                                                          I basically use Alton Brown's recipe, except that I use i cup of real Buttermilk [not the cultured stuff.] I grate the shortening and butter, which I cool in the freezer for 20 minutes, instead of working it from chunks into the flour. My flour is King Arthur's AP.

                                                          I pat the dough, fold, then pat some more. I choose to cut the resulting dough into squares since reworking the dough left over from the circles never puffs satisfactorily. Finally, I use a quarter sheet pan for baking, turning 180º halfway through.

                                                          1. re: smtucker

                                                            Many thanks. Actually pretty close to the CI one I use which incorporates frozen butter squares and frozen neufchatel (sp?) squares into the flour in the food processor....kinda like grating......but no fold, pat, fold &etc. Will definitely try this technique next time.

                                                            1. re: smtucker

                                                              SMT-thanks again. I used your pat, fold pat & etc technique on biscuits (strawberry shortcake season!) this weekend to great results and rave reviews. it is now going to become standard.

                                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                                Ha -- I just recently bought a round biscuit cutter after years of using a glass--
                                                                now it's *clear light obvious* I should have gotten a square one!
                                                                Are there any disadvantages to square biscuits? I can't think of any.

                                                                1. re: blue room

                                                                  the corners, they tend to pinch down a bit (maybe there is a secret to avoid this, but i don't know it); however on net you get better yield & puff with squares than circles, and like SMT I cut mine in squares all the time.

                                                                  1. re: qianning

                                                                    I use a bench scraper to cut into squares. I have not noticed any ill effects. I mean, we are talking about biscuits right? :-)

                                                                    1. re: smtucker

                                                                      I often use a pizza cutter to cut squares or triangles-- no waste at all. But recently I've been making biscuits with my kids and they just love using the cookie cutter.

                                                                      I will try to folded method next.

                                                    2. re: greeneggsnham

                                                      Biscuits p. 282

                                                      I skipped over this recipe because I have a biscuit recipe I'm rather attached to and I was quite suspicious of both her choice of ingredients and her method. Given the high praise here, I decided to give it a shot though if only for comparison sake. As already discussed, she has you work the dough quite a bit and I've always heard that you should handle biscuit dough as little as possible. I usually pat mine out instead of rolling it, so this was very different than I'm used to. I also find it odd that she lists cream first in the ingredient list. I can't remember ever being served cream biscuits in Texas or the south. I used buttermilk. As promised, they rose nicely in the oven, but they weren't quite as flaky as my usual recipe. I think my next step might be to try my usual recipe with lard using her method and see what happens.

                                                      1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                        I think, but I certainly don't know, that smacking the dough with a rolling pin lets you quickly get it flat *without touching it*. The warmth of your hands and the time spent rolling, patting, etc. lets the butter soften, reducing the little air pockets (butter chunks) that keep the biscuit tall and not dense. Make sense?

                                                        1. re: blue room

                                                          That sounds like a good theory to me.

                                                          1. re: blue room

                                                            This could be of interest.


                                                            Beaten Biscuits

                                                            20-30 minutes - hehehe

                                                      2. Sopapillas, found here: http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/200...
                                                        These are delicious little golden triangular pillows. Made without egg or milk-- just flour and yeast, water, salt, very little sugar, and very little butter.
                                                        Knead for about 2 minutes (I did probably 4 minutes) or until smooth, elastic. Then the dough rises for an hour (just one rise) and gets rolled out (flour board well!) and cut into 3 inch squares, then triangles. When cooked in canola oil @ 375F they puff up almost immediately and become hollow inside. Fry just 1 minute per side, drain. Ready for cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar or honey!
                                                        The recipe however, states "Makes about 18 sopapillas" and I had at least 25 when I stopped counting -- and *I did 1/2 recipe no kidding* ! This is nice, to get more than you expect to, but nevertheless a flaw in the recipe IMO.
                                                        Delicious anyhow, would certainly make again.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: blue room

                                                          When I lived in New Mexico in the early 1960's I discovered sopapillas; I've made them a number of times since, and no matter if I may consider a batch a failure, they are always better than a restaurant.

                                                          Today was no exception. I did not even order them, but one each was brought to our table after our meal. I think of sopapillas traditionally served with honey; however, these had some 'cool whip' sort of stuff topping and some sort of weak strawberry sauce tribbled over it. Not Good.

                                                          I'm glad yours turned out good for you.

                                                        2. Corn Bread, pg 87 (1/2 recipe)

                                                          I really thought someone else had written this one up earlier in the month, but I can't find that thread if it exists (maybe it was confused in my mind w/ the tomato cobbler), so...last night I was going to make a skillet cornbread and remembering this month's book had a recipe, why not give it a whirl?

                                                          Then looking at the recipe, it seemed so similar to my usual I wondered if it was worthwhile, but in fact on closer comparison although all the ingredients list is pretty much identical, the proportions are quite different (more cornmeal in LF's, less flour, more buttermilk in LF's, no oil/butter in her batter, more oil in her pan). The upshot; this was great, I really liked the leaner batter and the crisper crust, and the crumb was more tender than I would have guessed.

                                                          One small peeve, she doesn't specify what size skillet. Suffice it to say that I had both excess batter in my mixing bowl and a little run-over from the pan. Fortunately I was cooking this on the outdoor grill, so the spill over didn't cause any real mess.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: qianning

                                                            She always annoys me with that too, but I think I have the opposite problem from yours. My skillet seems to be larger than the one she uses.

                                                            1. re: qianning

                                                              I made a batch of this cornbread tonight to go with a pot of chili (not Texas style, I'm afraid. I like beans in my chili). I subbed butter for the bacon fat and home-soured milk for the buttermilk. I liked the crispy crust. I used a 10 inch skillet and the cornbread came out flatter and denser than expected. Perhaps I need to invest in a new can of baking powder?

                                                            2. Tex-Mex Squash Casserole, p. 267.

                                                              This recipe appears on Fain's blog at:

                                                              Basically, it's a melange of onion, summer squash, jalapeño chilies, garlic, with ground cumin, chili powder and cayenne. Add to this canned crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, chicken broth, half-and-half, sour cream, chopped cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, and don't forget half-a pound of grated cheese, both cheddar and pepper Jack for the top.

                                                              Fain calls this comfort food, and indeed it is, with nicely layered flavors and real stick-to-the-ribs staying power. The dish is spicy without being overly so--I had four Cape Codders and two Germans at my table, and no body complained about too much heat. No real pretense about healthfulness either, with all that half-and-half, sour cream, and grated cheese! (I realized when we tasted it that it's not really about the squash at all.) I served it with a baked fish dish, a green salad, and sautéed green beans for a side; skipped any other starch except for some bread and we didn't miss it.

                                                              All in all, a very tasty casserole that everyone ate up. My own particular problem with it is that the directions instruct one to cook the squash first until tender. I did, and the resulting squash turned into a vague vegetable mush after 5 more minutes on the stove and then 30 more minutes of baking. Next time I will barely cook the squash till just crisp-tender, maybe removing the slices from the pan if the onions aren't yet translucent. I missed knowing exactly what the vegetable in the casserole WAS!

                                                              My other slight disappointment was in regard to the layer of crushed tortilla chips, which you are instructed to place on the very bottom of the casserole dish before adding the creamy mixture to the pan. Fain remarks that they are her way of tweaking the traditional recipe, which presumably can have pieces of flour or corn tortillas added to the mixture. As I scooped out portions of the casserole for my guests, the crisp chips on the bottom just lay there, inertly, on the plate. You couldn't really mix them in to distribute "the crunch" and the corn flavor without resorting to a lot of inelegant mashing in front of your guests. The casserole actually tasted better reheated for lunch today, when the chips softened and became better distributed. Another thought might be to sprinkle the chips on top of the casserole at serving time? I don't know.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Goblin

                                                                I saw this, it sounded good, glad to know it is! I can understand how you could lose sight of the squash, though. I think you're right to do the squash somewhat separately.
                                                                Maybe the tortillas are there to absorb what might be a watery casserole bottom?

                                                                1. re: blue room

                                                                  Blue lie Room, I think that this was the idea--indeed, that's what I expected, but it just didn't happen. I followed the recipe exactly. Don't know why it didn't work as I expected. Wait: light bulb going off. As I think about it, perhaps the fact that I made the mixture about two hours ahead caused it to congeal a bit. Maybe I should have added more broth/half-and-half to thin it out a bit, which would have made for a more watery mix to soften the crushed tortilla chips. Thanks for the insight!

                                                              2. Green beans with Cilantro Pesto - p. 253

                                                                These were quite good. Blanched green beans with a cilantro pesto. We served the room temp. I enjoyed this very much.

                                                                1. Texas Sheet Cake - p. 335

                                                                  If you like chocolate and have never had Texas Sheet Cake, you are missing out. It's one of the best, simple desserts imaginable and this is a terrific version. Life doesn't get much better. Seriously.

                                                                  1. Coconut Tres Leches Cake - p. 333

                                                                    This was good but, honestly, my white trash version, which is much easier, is just as good. The one addition she made that I loved is adding lime zest to the cake and frosting. I will continue to do that from now on, when I make my simple version:

                                                                    Bake a yellow cake in a 9 x 13 tray. Homemade or from a box. When cooked, poke holes all in the top and pour over 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk and one can Coco Lopez. Let it soak in all day. Top with whipped cream and coconut. You won't even have to take it out of the pan, people will stand over the counter and destroy it.

                                                                    If you want to fancy it up, serve it in squares with raspberries and raspberry syrup drizzled over.