Recipe: Semi-Homemade Restaurant-Style Curry Fries

Categories: Recipes

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
All this can be yours
A handful of Houston restaurants, including Lowbrow and Ambrosia, offer some type of curry fries (or wedges or chips) on their menu. To save a few dollars and the inevitably embarrassment you'll feel after dripping masala on your shirt ("Why, why, did I wear white?"), make your own version at home customized to your preferences. And then eat them as sloppily as you like without shame.

First, procure your potato wedges, as thick or as thin as you like. Those who are not paranoid about third-degree burns and have large quantities of spuds and oil on hand should consider making their own. For the rest of us, Sandra Lee included, that means selecting one of the many more-than-respectable supermarket varieties.

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Dish of the Week: Manhattan Clam Chowder

Categories: How To, Recipes

Photo by Mr.TinDC
Tomatoes make this Manhattan-style version a bit different from its cousins to the north.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're diving into Manhattan Clam Chowder.

Not to be confused with New England or Boston clam chowder, the Manhattan take on the traditional clam soup is made is (gasp) tomatoes -- a big no-no to its neighbors in the North. Maine event went so far as to introduce a bill making it illegal to add tomatoes to pots of clam chowder in 1939, according to The New York Times piece "Fare of the Country; New England Clams: A Fruitful Harvest."

Thankfully, not everyone subscribes to that train of thought. Tomato-based chowders were born from Portuguese fishing communities in Rhode Island in the mid-1800s, as tomato-based stews were already popular in their native cuisine. According to Alton Brown's "Good Eats", the story goes that New Englanders dubbed this tomato version of their beloved chowder "Manhattan-style" because calling someone a New Yorker was considered an insult.

Insult or not, tomatoes bring a slight tartness and a bit of sweetness to the rich, briny stew.

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Dish of the Week: Soufflé au Fromage

Categories: How To, Recipes

Photo by Katrin Morenz
There's nothing like a good soufflé, whether it's savory or sweet.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're mastering the all-mighty soufflé.

A soufflé is a classic French dish consisting of beaten egg whites and a sweet or savory custard base which is then baked. A derivative of the French word souffler, meaning "to blow up" or to "puff up", a soufflé literally puffs up as in the oven. That's thanks to the whipped egg whites, which add air bubbles that swell as the temperature rises. By the time the soufflé comes out of the oven, it's bubbling over the top of the ramekin that it was baked in; though it will deflate a bit once the air bubbles begin to cool and contact.

The technique of adding egg whites, which dates back to Medieval times and eventually evolved into the development of meringues and soufflés, can be used to make anything from rich and velvety chocolate and light and airy lemon dessert soufflés to the recipe we're sharing today: A savory and creamy soufflé au fromage (or cheese soufflé). It's comfort food at its best.

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Dish of the Week: Chicken-Fried Steak

Categories: How To, Recipes

Triple A 001.jpg
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Triple A's version of CFS is a true Houston classic.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're covering a Texas-bred Southern essential, Chicken-Fried Steak.

Though it really needs no explanation, chicken-fried steak -- or CFS as it is affectionately known -- is a popular Southern dish consisting of thin cuts of tenderized beef that gets coated in flour (and sometimes egg), fried 'til crisp, and smothered with a white pan gravy.

The origin of the dish is a highly debated topic, though the Texas legislature made the 1976 version reported in the Austin American-Statesman official back in 2011 (even though the piece was meant to be a work of fiction -- God bless Texas). According to the story, a short-order cook at Ethel's Home Cooking in Lamesa misunderstood a ticket, reading "chicken, fried steak" as one order instead of two. So he dipped steak into a fried chicken batter and CFS was born. More likely, however, its origins can be attributed to German and Austrian immigrants who introduced Americans to weiner schnitzel in the 19th century.

While the basic methods are the same, there are several different versions of the dish around the state. In East Texas, the steak is often dipped in eggs/milk before being coated in flour. In Central Texas, they make a version similar to schnitzel, using bread crumbs instead of flour. And in the West, a cowboy version of the pan-fried steak is made without egg. Then there those who make a brown pan gravy, but don't even get us started with that.

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4 Easy Slow Cooker Recipes for the Fall

Categories: Recipes

Photo by Tammra McCauley
This mysterious device can make all sorts of hearty meals.

Slow cookers are one of those appliances that most people seem to own, but only use for a handful of dishes, primarily of the chili or pot roast variety. There's nothing wrong with that, I love crock pot roasts and chili. There is something beautiful about being able to fill the slow cooker with ingredients, and then basically leave it alone most of the day, ending up with something really yummy later on.

But years of working in the grocery business has taught me that a lot of people just don't know how to cook much of anything anymore, having grown up into adults that eat out most evenings. It's weird that I get asked questions like how to boil water (yes, that's been asked of me a few times) or how to grill a steak (for the record, putting it in a pan and applying heat usually does the trick) by grownups as often as I do, but it happens.

And one of the things I get asked the most is for recipes to make in a slow cooker. It seems like a lot of people get them as gifts and don't know what to do with one. I'm not sure what the deal is, but slow cookers are an object of mystery to many people I talk to.

Generally, I tell them to just search the Internet, because it's full of crock pot recipes of every conceivable variety. But being as cooler weather might be making an appearance in our area at some point soon, I thought I'd share a few favorite slow cooker ideas I've run across over the last few years.

4. Awesome 15 Bean Soup Stew

This one is super easy and something I developed back in my "starving to death musician" period. You take one of those bags of 15 bean soup - basically a bunch of different types of dry beans, and a weird flavor packet that seems to be mostly salt and pork dust. I throw that pack away immediately. Pour the beans in the slow cooker, then I fill it with cheap beer (always available in abundance back in the starving musician days), a little water, some canned jalapeño slices, salt and pepper, a sliced onion, and some kind of smoked pork - a couple of smoked ham hocks are ideal. Then I set the slow cooker on its lowest heat and longest cooking time, and let it go for as long as 10 hours. It creates an exceptionally filling and savory bean stew. Starving musician approved!

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How To: Make Your Own Chicken Liver Pâté

Categories: How To, Recipes

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Looks like dirt but tastes divine.
There are few foods that offer as much heme iron per serving as liver and if you suffer from anemia and like this author aspire to do endurance sports, a liverwurst sandwich, crackers and pâté, or liver 'n' onions (once a week or more) can really give you a boost in energy.

Those familiar with luxury offal spreads are aware that pâté is rather pricey and not widely available at mass-market grocery stores. But if you have a food processor and are not averse to handling raw organ meat, you can make large quantities of pâté for shockingly little money.

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
So much iron for so little moolah.

Step One: Visit your local butcher (if she or he exists) or most supermarkets to buy raw chicken livers. At HEB, a 1 pound plastic container of chicken livers costs about $1. (Yes, they're really that cheap.)
This story continues on the next page.

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Dish of the Week: Loco Moco

Categories: Recipes

Photo by Jeff Keyzer
This Hawaiian dish is the perfect way to use leftover rice.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're sharing a recipe for loco moco.

Loco moco is a Hawaiian dish typically consisting of white rice topped with hamburger patties, fried eggs, and gravy. Other variations use Spam, chili, bacon, teriyaki pork or chicken, shrimp, and oysters in place of ground beef.

The dish was created at a Hawaiian restaurant called the Lincoln Grill in 1949. The story goes that a group of local boys would hang out at the grill after playing football at the nearby park. Not able to afford anything, the boys requested that owner Nancy Inouye add hamburger meat and brown gravy to a bowl of rice. She charged them 25 cents and "loco moco" -- a name chosen by the boys -- was born. The fried egg was added some time later.

Today, the dish is popular all over the islands of the Pacific, largely because stick to your ribs kind of meal is incredibly cheap and it lends itself to a variety of flavors.

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4 Ways to Make a Better Homemade Pizza

Categories: Recipes

Photo by Jeffreyw
Pictured: Pizza bliss.

Most people in this country love pizza. On any given day, 13 percent of the country's population eats the tasty Italian culinary treat in one form or another. Despite its European origin, it's difficult to imagine a time when pizza wasn't a major part of the American food scene.

Unsurprisingly, pizza entered this country with the enormous population of Italian immigrants who settled here in the early 1900s. Since the majority of those early immigrants were poor people from the southern part of Italy, pizza was originally a cheaply made peasant food created in their homes. Pizza's rise to dominance as an all-American comfort food was a slow one initially. When it moved from the kitchens of those Italian immigrants into eateries open to the public, pizza was still mostly available only in cities like New York and Chicago, where large numbers of those immigrants had settled. Even then, pizza was still almost exclusively viewed as a strange ethnic food, only eaten by poor people of Italian descent.

Many things changed in America after the end of World War II, and pizza was no exception. Returning soldiers who had been introduced to the joy of eating pizza while overseas in Europe wanted to enjoy the delicious treat stateside, and pizza places began springing up all over the country. By the late '50s and early '60s, giant chain restaurants like Pizza Hut and Domino's began to appear. While they spread far and wide, increasing exposure to pizza and creating total mainstream acceptance, they also steered their pizzas away from the traditional recipes into the fast food style pizzas that those chain places specialize in.

And don't get me wrong, I ate many a thin crust Pizza Hut supreme with a sixer of cheap beer when I was a struggling musician not too many years back, and I still enjoy the greasy, salty cheap culinary thrills that some of those fast food pies can provide from time to time. I'm no snob, I'll eat pizza in Rome and I'll eat it at Pink's in the Heights just as happily. And yes, every once in a while I'll eat a Pizza from Mr. Gatti's or another national chain, and I can like those, too.

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10 Comforting Recipes to Make This Fall

Photo by Molly Dunn
This fall, we're making French onion soup.
Ah, fall season. A time for cooler temperatures and heartier meals. Some of my favorite meals in the fall center around a warm, comforting dish usually while watching a football game. Unfortunately, everyone gets to celebrate the autumnal seasonal sooner than our portion of Texas does, but that doesn't mean we can't plan out our fall meals in advance. We've compiled ten stick-to-your-ribs recipes that you should definitely make when the cooler temperatures arrive.

When that time comes, grab a blanket and cozy up to any of these dishes for a relaxing, enjoyable meal.

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Dish of the Week: Braised Beef Kreplach

Photo by MMChicago
Serve these dumplings in chicken noodle soup or brown gravy.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, in honor of the upcoming Jewish High Holidays Rosh Hashanah (beginning this Wednesday) and Yom Kippur (beginning Friday, October 3), we're sharing a recipe for kreplach.

Kreplach are small dumplings filled with ground meat (or sometimes potato). They are often served on Rosh Hashanah, the eve of Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabbah, and Purim.

There are several explanations for the origin of the word, some saying the letters K, R and P each represent a different Jewish festival on which they are eaten (K for Kippur; R for Rabba; and P for Purim), with the suffix "lach" meaning "little" in Yiddish. But it is likely derived from the German word krepel, meaning fritter or the Old High German word kraepfo, meaning grape.

The preparation is simple. A soft dough made of flour, water, and eggs is used to envelop a minced or ground meat mixture. The tiny triangles are then poached in either water or broth before being served in soup or fried and served with gravy, sour cream, and/or apple sauce.

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