It’s only July, but it’s time to mark your calendars for a food event in November.
The Austin Mac & Cheese Festival will be returning for the third year from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.
Tickets go on sale on Sept. 11. This event sold out quickly in its debut year, creating something of a cheesy phenomenon that could be rivaled only by the Quesoff, another tasting event that also caters to cheese lovers.
If you like to get a head start on dinner by preparing batches of food on the weekend, you might already have a copy of “Fix, Freeze, Feast,” a book by Kati Neville and Lindsay Ahrens that came out about a decade ago to show cooks how to fill their freezer with ready-to-cook meals.
The basil-balsamic marinade in this recipe can double as a salad dressing if you have extra — remember, don’t reuse the marinade that the pork has been sitting in. The authors suggest using leftover pork with leftover rice to make a quick stir-fry. Then you can wrap the pork and rice in a flour tortilla and add shredded cheddar cheese, black beans, chopped scallion and sour cream for yet another meal that started from the same original batch of loin chops.
The marinade in this recipe is also our best-loved salad dressing. Make an extra batch to serve over salad greens — you may never buy commercial dressing again. You may substitute 6 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves for the pork chops, and when it’s time to cook them, heat over a grill or in a broiler until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken reads 165 degrees.
— Lindsay Ahrens
12 pork loin chops, boneless or bone-in (6 to 8 pounds)
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons dried basil
3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
To pack it up: Three 1-gallon freezer bags, labeled
Divide chops evenly among freezer bags. In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce and honey. Divide marinade evenly over chops. Into each bag, measure 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon garlic and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Seal and gently shake each bag to combine contents. Freeze. Food will stay at optimal quality for up to 3 months in freezer.
To cook: Completely thaw one freezer meal in refrigerator. Prepare on an outdoor grill or indoors under a broiler. If cooking outside, grill chops, turning occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of a chop reads 145 degrees. Discard remaining marinade.
If cooking in an oven, arrange chops on an ungreased broiler pan. Broil chops under high heat, 5 inches from heat source, turning frequently, for 15 to 18 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of a chop reads 145 degrees. Discard remaining marinade. Makes 3 freezer meals with 4 servings each.
Back in 2014, Orsak and I made the journey over to Caldwell to judge the town’s annual kolache baking competition, and now Orsak is getting into the kolache business herself. Through her new cottage business, she’s selling Old School Kolaches, as she’s calling them, by the tray.
You can pick up to four flavors — apricot, pecan, fig, poppyseed, prune, peach and apple — for delivery to South and Central Austin at atmemorystable.com. A tray of 24 kolaches (or two trays of 12) costs $60, including delivery.
We tried these kolaches in my Relish Austin livestream last week, which is now sponsored by H-E-B.
The book is already available for pre-order on Amazon for $29.99, and the title — for now — is “Franklin Steak.” Ten Speed Press, which published Franklin’s first book, “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto,” in 2015, has paired him up with co-author Jordan Mackay to “go deeper into the art and science of cooking steak than anyone has gone before,” which means they’ll be traveling the world to get steak tips and recipes from meat-lovers in Spain, Scotland and Japan.
According to the book blurb on Amazon: “They demystify cattle breeds, explore the technique of dry-aging, and even teach readers how to build custom, backyard grill setups inspired by the best steak chefs in the world.”
We kicked off our “What’s for Dinner Tonight?” recipe series earlier this summer with family friendly breadsticks that pair with any meal.
But a family cannot live on breadsticks alone. Here’s a lemon rosemary chicken and rice dish that would go well with those breadsticks or by itself.
Not in the mood for asparagus? Leave it out or use broccoli or green beans. To trim asparagus, bend the spear to find where the woody end begins. The asparagus will snap into two pieces, dividing the tender asparagus from the tougher root. “Juicy chicken, nutty jasmine rice and crisp-tender asparagus are cooked in a rosemary lemon sauce that will blow your mind,” author Donna Elick writes in “The Simple Kitchen.”
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup jasmine rice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 cups chicken stock
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
In a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Once you can feel the heat when you hold your hand 6 inches above the skillet, add the chicken and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Cook until the chicken is browned on the outside, stirring occasionally, 7 to 10 minutes. We are going to cook it some more, so it’s OK if it is not cooked through yet.
Add the rice, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, chicken stock and lemon juice. Stir to combine, cover and bring everything to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 8 minutes, and then stir and add the asparagus.
Cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Sprinkle with the lemon zest. Serves 6.
Pad thai has become a dish as universal as sesame chicken in many parts of the United States, but it’s not a dish that many people make from scratch at home.
This recipe is from Caroline Hwang’s “Stir-Fry: Over 70 Delicious One-Wok Meals” (Hardie Grant Books, $19.99), which shows you how to make the base sauces for more than 70 stir-fry dishes, including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai favorites that may or may not already be on your radar.
This recipe from Hwang includes making your own nuoc cham base sauce, the salty-sweet dipping sauce that is often served with spring rolls or vermicelli. This pad thai recipe only uses some of the sauce, so you’ll have extra for other uses. If you don’t want to make it from scratch, you can buy it at grocery stores and international markets.
Chicken Pad Thai
You can find tamarind paste in many large grocery stores or some smaller international markets. The recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of the nuoc cham sauce.
— Addie Broyles
For the nuoc cham base sauce:
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
For pad thai:
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons nuoc cham base sauce
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into slices
1/2 small onion, sliced
6 ounces broccoli, cut into small florets
2 eggs, beaten
12 ounces cooked, skinny rice noodles (from 5 ounces uncooked)
To make the nuoc cham sauce: Combine all the ingredients together and store in a jar or container. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
To make the pad thai: Combine the tamarind, sugar, nuoc cham and 1/4 cup of water and set aside.
Heat half the oil in a wok over high heat, add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and broccoli and cook for 5 minutes until the broccoli is tender. Set aside. Add the remaining oil and eggs and swirl in the wok. When the eggs are no longer wet, add the noodles and sauce. Stir to combine. Add the chicken and vegetables and stir-fry until well combined. Serves 2.
Last weekend, we were among the customers who tried to get there early enough to beat the heat to buy some groceries for the week. Like all the area farmers’ markets, this one has vendors selling everything from meat and seafood to knife sharpening.
Many of the prepared foods vendors offer samples, which is a big appeal for my young shoppers. Just like when we go grocery shopping at the regular store, the kids were with me to help decide what foods to get for the week, and this trip was no different.
We sampled and browsed the dozens of booths for about 45 minutes before it was time to seek cooler temperatures, but we had quite a haul. Here’s a look at the cool stuff we ended up taking home.
It’s safe to say we went on a sampling frenzy. I spent $50 on products I hadn’t tried before, as well as a couple of produce items and kombucha. It was a fun way to spend the morning with my kids and pick up some culinary treats at the same time. We didn’t have to buy so much stuff, but those vendors are working hard out there in the heat.
Plus they are making some really delicious stuff. I could have spent another $50 just on the way back to the car.
You’re either on Team Instant Pot or you’ve thought about it.
In months of thinking and talking about multicookers, I’ve realized that if you don’t already have one, you have an opinion about it. Earlier this week, I published my “Confessions of an Instant Pot skeptic-turned-convert,” and with that story, I compiled 12 tips to get you started.
If you’re on the fence about getting one, hopefully these stories will help you decide if it’s right for you. If you already have one, maybe you’ll learn something you didn’t know. If you’re already an Instant Pot pro, I’d love to hear your tips and insight to help me get to know the 8-in-1 appliance sitting on my kitchen counter. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have favorite IP recipes and insights to share.
Check out from the library (or buy or borrow from a friend) two or three multicooker cookbooks. With several books to consult, you can compare recipes for common dishes – risotto, ribs, beans, for instance – to find out the different ratios, cooking times and techniques the various authors use. Melissa Clark’s “Dinner in an Instant” and America’s Test Kitchen’s “Multicooker Perfection” are the most “foodie” of the multicooker books I used, but Laurel Randolph’s books “The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook” and “The Instant Pot No-Pressure Cookbook” feature the easiest and most interesting everyday recipes.
Start off using the saute and manual functions. Many multicookers have a bevy of buttons — sometimes, too many, in fact. Mine has more than half a dozen presets for cake, eggs, porridge, rice, stew and meat, but none for beans. I haven’t used the dish-specific functions enough to know if they work better than using the manual function to program a specific cooking time, which is what most recipes call for. I have used the “steam” button to steam vegetables — broccoli steams in the time it takes for the pressure cooker to come up to temperature — but the result would be similar if you used the manual button.
Pressure cooking is for dishes that are usually boiled, braised, stewed or steamed, and you do generally need to follow a recipe, but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvisation, according to Randolph. “You can’t just throw random things in and adjust as you go, like you can on the stovetop,” she writes in “The Instant Pot No-Pressure Cookbook,” “but as you progress in your pressure cooking journey, you’ll learn what does and doesn’t work and come up with plenty of your own signature dishes.”
Natural and quick release are the two options for releasing steam in the Instant Pot. Natural release is when you leave the valve on “sealed” and let the pressure naturally release from the pot, usually in about 10 and 15 minutes. Many recipes call for quick release, when you’ll manually turn the valve to release the steam quickly. Use a hand towel or oven mitt when touching the valve so the hot steam doesn’t burn your hand.
If you don’t have a multicooker but are curious about them, ask to borrow a friend’s or hang out with them while they use it, and if you decide to buy one, don’t feel obligated to buy the official Instant Pot. The multicookers from the brand that launched this craze — and whose name has become a genericized term, like Kleenex or Q-tips — have what’s called a lower power availability, the measure that America’s Test Kitchen uses in its multicooker ranking. This could be why many of my first dishes took longer to finish than the recipes estimated. Compared to other brands, America’s Test Kitchen also noted that the Instant Pot struggled to maintain consistent heat while on the slow cooker function.
Don’t secure the lid on a multicooker unless you have at least a cup of water in the pot, and don’t use the lid when you’re using the saute function.
Don’t pressure cook milk or cheese, which can foam and scorch. Add those to the dish after you’ve finished cooking it under pressure. The same is true with roux and other thickeners, which can be added after the soup or stew has cooked under pressure.
You can double or halve recipes, often without adjusting the cooking time, but make sure there’s at least a cup of liquid, and don’t fill the pressure cooker more than halfway, which can lead to a clogged pressure release valve.
Cut large pork and beef roasts into quarters to help them cook faster. To make pulled pork, I left a 4-pound pork butt whole, which took more than 50 minutes to cook under pressure, which is still less than the 2 or 3 hours it would have taken in an oven but not as fast as I’d hoped.
Many multicookers, including the basic Instant Pot models, continue to keep the contents of the pot warm even after the pressure cooking has finished. If you don’t want any more heat on the food, especially in the case of polenta, quinoa or other grains, make sure to use the “cancel” button after the pressure cooker timer has beeped to turn it off.
Buy extra food storage containers. In the first few weeks of using the Instant Pot, I had more leftovers than I could eat, so I bought extra plastic containers to give the food away and store it in the freezer.
Multicooker not pressurizing correctly? Check the silicone gasket ring that fits inside the lid. If the flexible ring is loose, the cooker won’t heat properly.
Blue Bell is really cranking out the new flavors this year.
Today, the Brenham-based ice cream company announced the latest ice cream to hit store shelves: key lime mango tart.
The “sweet and tangy key lime ice cream blended with graham cracker crust pieces” has a “luscious mango sauce swirl” and “tastes like summer,” according to the tweet this morning.
Like dozens of other Blue Bell flavors, this one is in half gallon and pint sizes, but it is considered a seasonal flavor, so it won’t be around for long. You’ll remember that Blue Bell is still bouncing back from a months-long shutter caused by a listeria outbreak in 2015.
There’s still plenty of room for growth, which is one of the reasons H-E-B continues to host it Quest for Texas Best competition to find the best food products in the state.
For the fifth year in a row, the San Antonio-based grocer has put out the call for entrepreneurs to submit their products to this contest. They’ve even made Super Bowl ads about it. Each year, they give away tens of thousands of dollars to the winning companies. Last year, the Dripping Springs-based Skull and Cakebones won the top prize of $25,000, and the Manor-based Tamale Addiction won second place and $15,000. (Teo Gelato won the grand prize in 2015, and in 2016, Texas Pie Company and Kitchun won grand prize and first place, respectively.)
Of more than 700 applicants this year, nine finalists in this year’s contest are from the Austin area. They’ll compete August 9 and 10 at the Central Texas Food Bank against 16 other food companies from around Texas for $70,000 in prize money and a spot on H-E-B shelves. The Central Texas businesses are Barbecue Wife, Pennymade, Afia Foods, Loving Libbie Memorial Foundation, Mmmpanadas, Pretty Thai, 38 Pecans, Tiny House Coffee in Buda and Sing and Shout Foods in Cedar Park.
“Over the past five years of this competition, we have tasted more than 2,700 of the most creative Texas-based food and beverages in pursuit of Texas’ very best, selecting 125 finalists since 2014,” James Harris, director of diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity at H-E-B, said in a release. “Each year keeps us on our toes with innovative products, and this year is no exception. We are proud to continue a program that gives small business owners the opportunity to share their pride and joy with H-E-B shoppers across the state.”
According to the release, the Quest for Texas Best is a signature program for H-E-B’s Primo Picks brand, and since its inception in 2014, the competition has yielded more than 432 new products on H-E-B’s grocery, bakery, deli and market shelves across the state.
Other finalists for this year include: 1885 Coffee Co., Bellefontaine, Bellville Meat Market, Bernard’s Game Day Foods, BIG Little Fudge, Cappadona Ranch, Chef Rey Inc., Collin Street Bakery, Deanan Gourmet Popcorn, Deep River Specialty Foods, Mad Hectic Foods, Mirth Soup, Nuts and Cows, Story of My Tea, Texas Black Gold Garlic, Tio Pelon’s Salsita.