Salt & Pepper Beef Tenderloin

Platter of sliced beef tenderloinThe Winter issue of Edible Dallas & Fort Worth recently became available. I have a few favorite things in this issue. Most notably, I wrote a feature article about Foodways Texas, and I got to take photographs of my friend Meaders Ozarow at Empire Baking Company. Those were my two favorite additions to this issue. But I also put together a collection of holiday dinner recipes with an emphasis on keeping the holidays simple. Beef tenderloin is as simple as it gets. Although, mistakes are costly, so invest in a great meat thermometer.

Along with articles about Empire, there are some great stories about Rehoboth Farms, recipes for great foods that make great gifts, and the Stufflebeam family. And, there are many more articles, ideas and notions between the covers. If you love Dallas, you need to love Edible because this is where you will learn about the farmers, ranchers, restaurants, chefs and businesses that make our region culinarily compelling.

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Pralines with Sea Salt and Toasted Coconut

pralinesPralines are an iconic treat, and depending on from where you hail, there are certainly people very passionate about the pronunciation and the exact attributes of the sugary lump. But, all of the ballyhoo aside, they are simply a wonderful thing to make and an even better thing to eat.

I usually try not to mess with a classic. Texas cookbooks cover the topic of the traditional praline very well. Robb Walsh has a great recipe in Texas Eats. Lisa Fain has a terrific one in The Homesick Texan Cookbook. Your mother probably has six handwritten versions in her old wooden decoupage recipe box. Mine does. Here it is a hard-to-pass-up event at the end of any Tex-Mex restaurant feast. They are simply simple and even a bit elegant, I think. They have an irresistible caramel hue and they are the just right frame for a little pile of meaty Texas pecans.

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Dallas & Texas Holiday Food Gift Ideas

sauces jams jellies pickles I’m was slated to give a talk today for a Dallas garden club about locally inspired holiday gifts for food enthusiasts, so I thought I might as well give it to my PIE friends, too. My thinking is this…Dallas, Fort Worth, and Texas generally, are just brimming with interesting people, food entrepreneurs, artists, and fascinating ideas in general. What better way to celebrate this holiday season than by giving people gifts that really say something about where you live and love, and by supporting gutsy business-people, great writers, and uniquely Texan enterprises. It is good for the local economy, creates jobs, and has the potential to create new industry. Shop at home. Log off and get out and meet your neighbors. And, your out of state friends get enough boring catalog garbage. Introduce them to some hometown folks.

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Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Pecans

cornbread dressing for ThanksgivingTalk about a tectonic shift. I have never made cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. Then, all of a sudden, it was essential to me to make cornbread dressing. Perhaps it was nostalgia. Someone would bring cornbread dressing to my Grandma’s Thanksgiving, and I was always standing there with a crappy look on my face, like only a 10 year old can properly do, wanting regular bread dressing. “I don’t like it,” I would utter, having never even tried it. Perhaps my Grandma Katie made it. Perhaps my Papaw Virgil made it. Would that I could have those moments back in life, when I scoffed at the unknown. I’m better now. I could cry at the thought of so glibly insulting the gifts of such dedicated people. I knew nothing of life, then.

This is a slightly different beast than their dressing. I relish the chunks of bread and the large textural components like the sausage and pecans. I think I once felt that stuffing and dressing needed to be somewhat homogenous, appropriately wet cement that could also be used for brick making.

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Cookbook Christmas: Texas Tomes

Christmas is the perfect time to share your cooking with your friends. And you don’t even need to turn on your oven. Texas is a lucky state when it comes to food writing and recipe development. As a state, we have a collision of cultures. That sounds explosive, doesn’t it? But when considered in terms of food only, it is exciting. Not only are we a culture that loves good, old fashioned comfort food of all sorts, but it has stripes of BBQ, Southwestern, Mexican, Tex-Mex, hunter cuisine, Gulf coast seafood, and ranch culture. Let’s not even get going on the Cajun and Vietnamese and Chinese influences. We are a lucky bunch. It is therefore my opinion that the cookbooks that come out of Texas are utterly worthwhile, and they are fun, too.

Cookbooks are the best of all gifts, I think. They are perfect for hosts as a reflection of who you are and where you come from. They are usually under $50 and most often much less than that. They are beautiful. And they feed our imaginations. I know many people who don’t even cook, but they love to collect cookbooks because you can enjoy food through photos and words even if not through taste. You don’t need to be a Texan to love these. But, I’m proud that this is the caliber of work coming out of Texas (or by Texans) so I want to make sure you know about them. I have made a list of my favorite recent Texan-authored (original and spiritual Texans) cookbooks and food related tomes for you to consider for Christmas, for yourself or others. I also asked some of the authors of these great cookbooks what their favorite Texas-authored books are. The little boxes contain some jewels, as little boxes often do.

Texas Eats

Where to begin? Let’s start with Robb. Robb Walsh comes up a lot around PIE because he writes the books that I would aspire to write if I was that kind of a gal. They are half history, and all food. His books always have the recipes that you look at and say to yourself, “God…my grandma used to make gravy that way…get out the lard.” His books make you not only want to eat and cook, but travel. You will want to jump in your truck and go all over the state and eat enchiladas and chicken fried steak and BBQ. I don’t “read” many cookbooks. I mostly peruse and cherry-pick cookbooks. I read Robb’s cookbooks. So, consider Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbookas a gift for someone who loves Texas food, or needs to.

The Homesick Texan

Lisa Fain lives in New York and is known by the moniker The Homesick Texan. She loves New York but lives to come home and visit her people and fill up on the foods that make her heart sing. Then, she goes back to New York and spreads the gospel of Texas foods and culture. There are a lot of Texans in the diaspora for whom this message resonates. If you once lived in Texas, and now do not, and have ever uttered the words, “Why in the hell can’t I find any Ro-Tel in this god-forsaken place,” you are going to adore Lisa Fain. She has a pure adoration for all things bluebonnet, chili, and queso. Her recent book The Homesick Texan Cookbookhas been an unquestionable hit. And it even has a fairly significant section of non-meat recipes (doesn’t seem possible, I know, but they are there and they are wonderful sides). It is a great gift for yourself or your favorite cook. If you live in Texas or you pine for Texas…or you have always wondered how to make credible Tex-Mex and other traditional Texan dishes at home, you need to have both Lisa and Robb’s books on your shelf.

“I love all Texas cookbooks but I’m especially fond of community cookbooks. Also, those slender pamphlets that food companies and utilities used to publish are a lot of fun. The best gift, however, is when a family produces its own cookbook. My family did that a few years ago and it’s a treasure.” Lisa Fain, The Homesick Texan

Afield

In Austin, there is a lot to the food scene. It is innovative, it is traditional, it is in a word, happening. Then again, Austin is just the hub. It sort of exudes the energy of a thought incubator. We all go there when we are young and eat and drink it up. Some of us stay, some of us go on, but all of us leave a big hunk of our soul there. I have a little warm spot in my heart for Austin still. In one of the loveliest spots in this Austin food world there is a chef named Jesse Griffiths who along with his wife, Tamara, runs Dai Due. He focuses on high quality local foods and produce, but he also cooks a lot of game. This year he published a cookbook called Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish. This one is on my shopping list and my gifting list. This is the one I will be buying for myself, my brother, my dad, and any of my shotgun or rifle wielding pals who are gracious enough not to just plop their kill in the sink for their wives to deal with. This is a book for the hunter-cook (or fisherman). Jesse teaches classes, many directed towards women that want to learn more about hunting and fishing. He teaches people the process from start to finish, from driving through the gate to rubbing your stuffed belly.  He shows people that you can still procure and prepare your own food, and it is fun. This is not a new lesson. This is an old lesson. But, he is doing it in a wonderfully inventive and skilled way from a culinary perspective. I am very pleased when hunting and fishing are brought up in the food discourse, as this is my comfort zone.

Plus, as though you needed another reason to want this one…it was photographed by Jody Horton who is, in a word, brilliant.

Robb Walsh’s suggestions:

Afield by Jesse Griffith and Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain are wonderful, but I’m sure you are listing both. So I’ll recommend some golden oldies: Texas on the Halfshell by Phil Brittan and Joe Daniel (1982  Dolphin, Doubleday)…A madcap roadtrip across the Texas food scene of the 1970s and early 1980s complete with chili parlor listings, barbecue philosophizing, archival photos and anatomical drawings of chile peppers. A chilehead cult classic.

Helen Corbitt Cooks for Company (1975 Houghton Mifflin)…Helen Corbitt ran the restaurants at Neiman Marcus in the 1950s. The Chicago Tribute called her “the best cook in Texas.” Julia Child mentions her cookbooks in the movie Julie and Julia–they were the most successful cookbooks of the era. Corbitt’s food was way ahead of its time. Stephan Pyles is reviving some of her recipes at his new restaurant Stampede 66.”

-Robb Walsh on his favorites

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