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May 31, 2012 09:19 PM

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

If you are reporting on a recipe that has not yet been reviewed, please hit the reply in this box. If you are discussing a recipe that has been reviewed in this thread, please hit the reply in that post. That way the discussions will be grouped together.

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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:

                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.