Ask Addie: Is it safe to bake a casserole and drive it to Fort Worth?

A reader called this morning with a very important Thanksgiving question:

Can I bake a sweet potato casserole and drive it three hours to my daughter’s Thanksgiving in Fort Worth?

Sweet potato casserole — with or without marshmallows — is a popular Thanksgiving dish, but can you drive it to Fort Worth (or Houston or San Antonio)? Depends on how you transport it and how long you’ll be in the car. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Michael Brown’s daughter had specifically requested that he make the family’s beloved sweet potato casserole, but he was understandably concerned about the food safety of a warm casserole sitting in his car and then on a buffet table.

 

When I returned his call, we talked about the situation, and I advised him against driving the warm casserole to the DFW area. That’s a drive that thousands of Austinites make every holiday, and I’m sure many of them have food in the car. Some of them might have even recreated this exact scenario without anyone getting sick, but the USDA says that you really shouldn’t serve food that has been out for more than two hours.

You could freeze a casserole before transporting it on a road trip, but not all casseroles freeze well. Mac and cheese would be fine, but green bean casserole or stuffing would get soggy.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

I suggested Michael bring rolls or another dish that he didn’t have to keep warm or cool on the drive, but there is one possible option. Because the “danger zone” of cooked food is 40 to 140 degrees, which is when bacteria can grow rapidly, Brown could bake the casserole the night before, let it cool and then refrigerate or freeze overnight. He could pack a cooler with ice packs and wrap the casserole in foil to try to keep it as cold as possible on the drive and then reheat it when he gets to his daughters house.

RELATED: Find all our holiday coverage here

To brine or not to brine? That’s not even a question for these experts

Not all casseroles freeze well, but that’s the safest option, especially considering that a drive to Fort Worth on Thanksgiving Day could take more than three hours.

Here are more Thanksgiving-related food safety tips from the USDA.

 

 

Where to buy fried, smoked Thanksgiving turkeys in Austin

Editor’s note: This post has been updated for 2017

Are you frying your own Thanksgiving turkey this year? Maybe you’re going to brine and bake one yourself. However, if you’re looking to outsource your fried or smoked turkey, here are some options for you, beyond what you might find at Central Market and Whole Foods.

U.S. Army veteran Julian Calderon, Jr. and other members of the Austin chapter of the Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans prepare fried turkeys for veterans at the Kerrville VA Medical Center last December. The group sells fried turkeys during Thanksgiving to raise money for its other charitable turkey frys. Ashley Landis for American-Statesman
U.S. Army veteran Julian Calderon, Jr. and other members of the Austin chapter of the Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans prepare fried turkeys for veterans at the Kerrville VA Medical Center a few years ago. The group sells fried turkeys during Thanksgiving to raise money for its other charitable turkey fries. Ashley Landis for American-Statesman

Hyde Park Bar & Grill South, 4521 West Gate Blvd., has a limited number of fried Cajun-spiced turkeys available, and they cost $70 each and are available until they sell out. You can pick them up on Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Order by calling 512-899-2700.

Lucy’s Fried Chicken, 5408 Burnet Road and 2218 College Ave., is selling turduckens stuffed with layers of chorizo cornbread stuffing. Call 512-551-9347 to reserve one. lucysfriedchicken.com

Slab BBQ, 9012 Research Blvd., is selling pecan smoked turkeys for $55-$65. You can stop by the restaurant, call or email catering@dopebbq.com to pre-order. realdopebbq.com

Smokey Mo’s, with half a dozen area locations, is selling smoked turkeys for $44.95 each. Order by Nov. 19 by calling the store from which you’d like to pick it up. You can find locations at smokeymosbbq.com.

All the area Popeye’s have fried turkeys available for sale for $39.99. They are pre-cooked and vacuum-sealed, so you’ll have to heat them in the oven, but you can buy them anytime between now and Nov. 23. The stores are closed on Thanksgiving Day.

Red’s Porch, 3508 S. Lamar Blvd., has smoked turkeys for sale for $60 each, including gravy. Call 512-440-7337 to order for pickup on Tuesday or Wednesday of Thanksgiving week.

Hoover’s Cooking, 2002 Manor Road, sells roasted, fried or smoked turkeys for $62.82 each each, not to mention all the fixings and desserts. Order online at hooverscooking.com or by calling 512-479-5006.

Stuffed Cajun Meat Market specializes in turduckens (a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey), which cost between $6 and $8 per pound each and come with several different options for stuffing inside. You can order them at stuffedfoodstores.com.

Bill Miller BBQ is selling small and large turkeys, with a side of dressing, for $49.95 and $84.95, respectively. You can order them at billmillerbbq.com/holiday-meals.

Luby’s sells turkeys in its holiday feast packages, which you can order online at holidayordering.lubys.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE: These are sold out already this year: The Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans hosts an annual fried turkey fundraiser, which we wrote about on Christmas Day a few years ago. The organization donates proceeds to groups, including Safe Place, Kid Strong, Loving Libby and the Kerrville Veterans Hospital. The cajun-injected turkeys cost $45 each and can be ordered by calling Kathy at 512-263-3512 or email at microhuman@yahoo.com. Customers can pick up their birds on Wednesday, November 22 at the VFW Post 856, 406 E. Alpine Street in South Austin.

Recipe of the Week: Manchego spinach pies, fit for a party

It’s party season. Can you feel it?

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and then the December holidays will be here, so chances are good that you will either be entertaining or being entertained in the next few months. Here’s a party-friendly appetizer that you can use all season long.

These Manchego spinach pies are from “One Pan & Done: Hassle-Free Meals from the Oven to Your Table” by Molly Gilbert (Clarkson Potter, $17.99). Contributed by Aran Goyoaga

Traditionally, spinach likes to be paired with feta, but here, it’s paired with firm, buttery Manchego cheese, as well as minced garlic, fresh herbs, lemon zest and a hint of nutmeg. The puffy little pies are quite green, slightly nutty and plenty buttery — a welcome addition to the appetizer rotation, and also very nice served alongside a bowl of soup.

RELATED: From the archives: Was the first Thanksgiving held in Texas?

How to make butternut squash mac and cheese

Thanksgiving snacks to keep your guests fed until dinnertime

Manchego Spinach Pies

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen spinach, thawed and chopped
6 ounces Manchego cheese, grated (about 2 cups), plus more for sprinkling
3 large eggs
1/2 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Pinch of ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed

Place the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the Manchego, eggs, onion, garlic, dill, thyme, lemon zest, nutmeg, olive oil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

On a well-floured work surface, roll the puff pastry into a 14-inch square. Cut the puff pastry into 4 equal strips, then cut each strip into 3 even rectangles. You will end up with 12 rectangles of dough.

Place a rectangle of puff pastry in each cup of a 12-cup muffin tin, arranging the tips so they point up and out. Divide the spinach mixture evenly among the cups, filling each three-fourths full (you may end up with a small bit of leftover filling). Sprinkle some Manchego on top of each cup and fold the pointy edges of the dough over the filling as best you can.

Chill the unbaked pies in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, or in the freezer for 10 minutes. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the center position.

Transfer the muffin tin to the oven and bake until the puff pastry is browned all over, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve the pies warm or at room temperature. Leftovers will keep, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for three or four days. Place on a sheet pan and re-crisp in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8 to 12.

— From “One Pan & Done: Hassle-Free Meals from the Oven to Your Table” by Molly Gilbert (Clarkson Potter, $17.99)

Just ahead of Halloween, FDA issues health warning about black licorice

Black licorice isn’t high on many people’s list, including the FDA’s.

Black licorice contains a compound that can cause potassium levels to suddenly drop, resulting in heart and swelling issues. Contributed by Livestrong.com

Today, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about everybody’s least favorite candy, warning that too much black licorice can cause abnormal heart rhythms, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy and congestive heart failure.

RELATED: 43 Halloween candies, definitively ranked

Black licorice is so strongly flavored that it’s widely yucked, but not everybody hates it. In fact, apparently some people eat so much they have serious health issues.

Halloween candies aren’t supposed to make you sick, but if you eat too much black licorice, you could be at risk. Contributed by Thinkstock Images.

How much is too much? According to the FDA, two ounces a day for two weeks straight, and it has to be the real stuff, not this fake anise-oil flavored licorice that you might find in some plastic pumpkins tomorrow.

 

The FDA specifies that this warning predominately applies to licorice-lovers over the age of 40. It turns out that black licorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound derived from licorice root, and glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to fall.

From the FDA:

Licorice, or liquorice, is a low-growing shrub mostly grown for commercial use in Greece, Turkey, and Asia. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says the plant’s root has a long history of use as a folk or traditional remedy in both Eastern and Western medicine. It has been used as a treatment for heartburn, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throat, cough and some infections caused by viruses, such as hepatitis; however, NIH says there are insufficient data available to determine if licorice is effective in treating any medical condition.

Licorice is also used as a flavoring in food. Many “licorice” or “licorice flavor” products manufactured in the United States do not contain any licorice. Instead, they contain anise oil, which has the same smell and taste. Licorice root that is sold as a dietary supplement can be found with the glycyrrhizin removed, resulting in a product known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, NIH says.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okHKr4sqw_A

The agency went on to recommend the following “if you have a fondness for black licorice”:

  • No matter what your age, don’t eat large amounts of black licorice at one time.
  • If you have been eating a lot of black licorice and have an irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating it immediately and contact your healthcare provider.
  • Black licorice can interact with some medications, herbs and dietary supplements. Consult a health care professional if you have questions about possible interactions with a drug or supplement you take.
  • If you’ve experienced any problems after eating licorice, contact the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

This easy-to-carry skillet cake is perfect for a Fourth of July party

You know I’ve been obsessing over local figs lately, but I’ve also been immersed in skillet cookies and cakes for an upcoming story.

This recipe from Ashley English in “A Year of Picnics: Recipes for Dining Well in the Great Outdoors” (Roost Books, $24.95) blends both into a dessert that would be perfect for a Fourth of July picnic or backyard party.

This fig and orange cake is from Ashley English’s “A Year of Picnics.” Contributed by Jen Altman

Fig and Orange Skillet Cake

I love skillet cakes. Served right out of the pan, they transfer seamlessly from the oven to the serving table — no extra cleanup necessary. Figs, oranges, and cinnamon form a flavorful holy trinity. Perfect for dessert, any leftovers are equally sublime for breakfast or at teatime. Note: You can easily bring refrigerated eggs to room tempera­ture by placing them in a bowl of hot tap water for about 10 minutes.

— Ashley English

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 pint small fresh figs, cut in half
1/4 cup turbinado sugar

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Liberally butter a 12-inch cast iron skillet and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter and regular sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the eggs to the creamed butter one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and beaters with a spatula as necessary. Add the orange zest and juice and the vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly combined.

With the mixer set to low, add half of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. Beat in the yogurt, then add the remaining half of the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, distributing it evenly. Press the fig halves partway into the batter, cut sides up, until they are even with the batter. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the surface of the batter.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving from the pan. Makes one 12-inch skillet cake.

— From “A Year of Picnics: Recipes for Dining Well in the Great Outdoors” by  Ashley English (Roost Books, $24.95)

An immigrant’s red, white and blue salad, serve with a side of patriotism

As we get ready for this holiday weekend — with our watermelons tapped, our briskets rubbed and our potato salads tossed — I wanted to share at least one red, white and blue recipe.

This one, however, comes with a twist.

This Fourth of July-inspired dessert comes from Deepa Thomas, the author of “Deepa’s Secrets,” who became a U.S. citizen in 2012. Contributed by Sherry Heck

Deepa Thomas is the New Delhi-born founder of a textile company who now lives in San Francisco and decided to pursue a second career in food. Her book, “Deepa’s Secrets: Slow Carb New Indian Cuisine” (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.99), comes out on July 4, and in it, you’ll find this simple yogurt dish.

It might look a lot like the other patriotic desserts you’ll see scrolling through social media this weekend, but this dish will stick with me because of Thomas’ headnote:

My small homage to this great country of ours. Thampy and I just earned our citizenship in 2012. The ceremony is one I believe every American should experience. Twelve hundred of us were sworn in. We each stood when the State department official thanked us in Hindi for choosing America — shukriya, a formal thank you. And we watched proudly while he did the same for the others, in their native languages, 140 countries in all. Proud of ourselves, proud of our fellow new citizens, proud of these United States of America.

The yogurt in this dish is infused with cardamom, a flavor that is equally as beloved in my ancestral homeland of Scandinavia as Thomas’ in India.

My Swedish ancestors didn’t record their feelings about the day they become American citizens sometime around the turn of the century, but having visited the place they left in the 1800s and never saw again, it’s not hard to imagine both the pride and bittersweetness that comes with such an act.

It’s easy to get jaded about what it means to be an American these days, but Thomas’ memory of her citizenship ceremony was just the reminder I needed this week to focus on the basics, especially the undeniable influence of immigrants on all aspects of our society and culture and why we’re better off because we live — and cook and eat — together.

Red, White, and Blue Berry Breakfast Salad

Yogurt mixture:
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon wild honey
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
Crowning flavor:
1/4 cup Go Nuts! (see below)

Stir ingredients for yogurt mixture well in a glass bowl. Check seasoning. Serve yogurt on individual plates or serve in a bowl, and top with berries and nuts. Serves 2.

— From “Deepa’s Secrets: Slow Carb New Indian Cuisine” by Deepa Thomas (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.99)

Go Nuts (Nut Mix)

Get out your biggest jar, then go buy one that’s twice that big. I am always reaching for this micronutrient-rich mix—a handful over yogurt and berries. Another at snack time. Again, on top of a salad. This makes about seven cups, so cut in half if you don’t think you’ll use it up in a few weeks.

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup sliced almonds
2 cups sunflower seeds
2 cups pumpkin seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon salt (truffle salt if you like)

Toast the seeds and nuts in a pan over medium heat until light brown (about 4 minutes), stirring constantly. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cayenne powder and salt. Store in an airtight glass jar.

— From “Deepa’s Secrets: Slow Carb New Indian Cuisine” by Deepa Thomas (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.99)

 

 

 

This secular Jew makes the case for hosting a Seder anyway

I’ve only been to a few Seders in my life, but none like Tamir Kalifa’s.

Even though Kalifa grew up in a Jewish household and still feels a strong connection to Jewish culture, he’s not exactly religious. Nonetheless, the Statesman photographer and Mother Falcon band member hosted his seventh annual Seder to celebrate the story of Passover and the power of ritual.

Tamir Kalifa hosted his first Seder in 2011 with three roommates and five close friends gathered around the dining room of his East Austin home. Tamir Kalifa / American-Statesman

MORE: Austin360Cooks: Just because it’s secular doesn’t mean it’s not Seder

When we showed up to Kalifa’s Seder, I was surprised just to see how many other non-Jews were there. Of the 50 or so folks in attendance, only a handful grew up attending Seders, and that’s one of the reasons Kalifa feels so compelled to host this dinner every year. Exposing people of all faiths to this singularly Jewish dinner helps us all learn more about Judaism and the principles behind it.

At Kalifa’s secular Seder, this means acknowledging the suffering in the world, the pain of the oppressed and the miraculously feeling of being free. He encouraged us to ask ourselves the hard questions: What are we free from? Who pays for that freedom? What ways do we support oppression, even in that freedom? So many existential questions to consider over the course of a three-hour dinner. (Good thing there was Lone Star to water down all that wine.)He wrote a really beautiful story for last week’s food section that I hope you’ll this Passover.

At Tamir Kalifa’s Seder, he served Lone Star beer with the traditional wine, and his haggadah featured emojis. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

I imagine that most of you already have your Seder dinner recipes ready, but if you wanted to learn more about haroset, one of the key dishes served at Seders around the world, here’s a primer from Joan Nathan, whose new book, “King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World,” is a must-buy for anyone with an appreciation for Jewish cuisine.

Persian Haroset with Dates, Apples, Pistachios and Pomegranate Juice (Halleq)

Haroset, a popular dipping sauce for feasts in Babylon, was brought to Jerusalem and later added to the Passover Seder after the destruction of the Second Temple. For centuries, the sauce, originally made of dates, was slowly cooked in copper pots, used to cook down the fruit into a syrupy honey, making the biblical date honey. Then, it was topped with ground walnuts.

Later, in Baghdad (about miles from Babylon), it was traditional to buy the dates, press them through a special machine, letting the syrup ooze out, and then heat the dates very slowly in a copper pot until they were the thick consistency of a jam-like syrup. I have heard stories about men and women who would roam the streets of Baghdad hawking this date honey served with clotted cream on bread or matzo for breakfast.

As Jews settled on the Silk Road or throughout the Mediterranean, they either brought with them their recipe for haroset, if they could find all the ingredients, or created new ones, based on ingredients where they lived. Egyptian haroset includes raisins, dates and nuts, and Persian haroset, called halleq, is filled with nuts and dried fruits, pomegranate juice, bananas and cardamom as the prominent spice, but uncooked.

Every Passover, I make about five kinds of haroset from different parts of the world. For me, the various blends, representing the mortar used to make bricks in slavery in ancient Egypt, reflect the regional dispersal of the Jews throughout history.

— Joan Nathan

1 cup almonds
1 cup roasted, shelled pistachios
1 cup walnuts
1 cup black raisins
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dates, pitted
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large apple, peeled, cored and quartered
1 large pear, peeled, cored and quartered
2 bananas, peeled
2 to 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 to 1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 to 1 cup sweet kosher wine

In a large food processor, combine the almonds, pistachios, walnuts, black and golden raisins, dates, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. Pulse until the nuts are coarsely chopped.

Add the apple, pear and bananas, then pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, 1/2 cup of the pomegranate juice and 1/2 cup of the wine. Pulse again, adding more vinegar, juice, or wine to taste or as needed to make a coarse paste. Do not purée; the mixture should retain some crunch. Makes 6 cups.

What’s the most Texas dish to celebrate Texas Independence Day?

There’s a movement afoot to change Texas’ official dish from chili to tacos.

This Missouri transplant certainly eats tacos more than chili, but I also enjoy my chili with beans and am still learning to say “fixin to” instead of “getting ready to.”

MORE: No fighting about breakfast tacos allowed in ‘Tacos of Texas’

I have, however, become super interested in food and Texas history since I moved here in 2005, including Texas Independence Day, which is today. (Here’s how/where to celebrate.)

Texas sheet cake, King Ranch chicken, Frito pie and Texas caviar are some of the state-specific foods I learned about when I arrived, and I’ve had fun profiling over Texas food history overs over the years.

K.R. Wood makes chili at his Manchaca home. KR Wood, a singing cowboy historian from Manchaca who teaches kids about Texas history through chuckwagon cooking, makes chili over a fire. 02.18. 2014 LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 022614 relish austin
KR Wood, a singing cowboy historian from Manchaca who teaches kids about Texas history through chuckwagon cooking, makes chili over a fire.
LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

There was this singing cowboy, who was probably my favorite.

Celebrating Texas Independence Day with a singing chuck wagon cook who knows his history

Last year, Jessica Dupuy published a “United Tastes of Texas” cookbook that included enough Texas recipes to keep you busy for a year.

King Ranch chicken is one of the classic Texas recipes from Jessica Dupuy's "United Tastes of Texas" cookbook. Photos from Southern Living
King Ranch chicken is one of the classic Texas recipes from Jessica Dupuy’s “United Tastes of Texas” cookbook. Photos from Southern Living

King Ranch Chicken

Hailing from an era when casseroles were king, this Tex-Mex addition reigns supreme as the staple dish for church suppers and neighborhood potlucks. Though not an invention of the famed King Ranch — it’s more likely the invention of a Junior League member — the spicy flavors of chili powder, roasted peppers and cumin never fail to please.

— Jessica Dupuy

Vegetable cooking spray
6 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped poblano peppers (about 2 medium peppers)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 lb. Smoked Chicken (recipe follows), coarsely chopped (about 5 cups)
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
18 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1/4 cup canola oil
For garnish: chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients; sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute.

Sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Whisk in broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Add tomatoes and sour cream.

Stir together chicken and cilantro; stir in vegetable mixture until blended. Combine cheeses in a small bowl.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Lightly brush each tortilla on both sides with oil. Cook tortillas, in batches, in hot skillet until lightly browned and crisp on both sides.

Line bottom of prepared baking dish with 6 tortillas, overlapping slightly, to cover bottom of dish. Top with half of chicken mixture and 1/3 of cheese. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining tortillas and cheese. Lightly coat a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned on top. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro. Serves 12.

— From “United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State” by Jessica Dupuy (Oxmoor House, $24.95)

Smoked Chicken

Piloncillo is a raw sugar made from reduced cane juice. It’s sold molded into cone shapes and is sometimes labeled panela. To measure, place the cone in a zip-top plastic freezer bag and pound it with a meat mallet to break it apart.

— Jessica Dupuy

3 to 4 oak, hickory or pecan wood chunks
1 cup firmly packed piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar), about 1 (8-oz.) cone (can substitute dark brown sugar)
1 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
1 Tbsp. table salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 (3 3/4- to 4-lb.) whole chickens

Soak wood chunks in water to cover 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine piloncillo and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub chickens with piloncillo mixture and let stand 30 minutes.

Prepare smoker according to manufacturer’s directions. Place water pan in smoker; add water to depth of fill line. Bring internal temperature to 225 degrees to 250 degrees and maintain temperature 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain wood chunks, and place on coals. Place chickens on food cooking grate; close smoker. Smoke 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of thighs registers 165 degrees.

Remove chickens from smoker and let stand 20 minutes before slicing. Serves 12.

— From “United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State” by Jessica Dupuy (Oxmoor House, $24.95)

Pancakes or king cake? How to kick off Lent with good food

Shrove Tuesday. Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. The last day before you can’t eat red meat on Fridays until Easter.

There are so many ways to look at this day. It’s just another Taco Tuesday for me, but I understand that lots of you might be looking for pancake recipes for Shrove Tuesday or tips on where to buy king cakes or eat some Cajun food to celebrate Mardi Gras.

What is Shrove Tuesday? Last year, freelancer Beth Goulart explained why many Protestants and Catholics stuff their faces with pancakes on this last day before the traditional fasting of Lent begins. (Did you know there’s an Epiphany king cake, too? That’s another religion/food story that Goulart has written for us.)

 

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⚜️Bringing some Mardi Gras to Austin ⚜️

A post shared by 2 Hungry Gals (@2hungrygals) on

 

Plenty of you have been posting photos of king cakes on Instagram today, and Melanie Haupt compiled a pretty excellent map of where to buy them over on Eater.

I’ve never tried to make a king cake, but I make pancakes (and waffles) enough to know that you can make them from bananas and that they don’t have to be as unhealthy as we make them out to be. (The cup of syrup I poured over my pancakes last weekend, however, is another story.)

Here’s a protein-packed, gluten-free pancake that shouldn’t make you feel guilty. There’s enough of that going around during the Lenten season.

Online friends Jessica Kahn and Rianna Alberty collaborated on a new mini-cookbook called "Stack'd," which features 30 recipes based on a nutrient-dense, protein-packed pancake recipe that is also gluten-free. Photos by Rianna Alberty.
Online friends Jessica Kahn and Rianna Alberty collaborated on a new mini-cookbook called “Stack’d,” which features 30 recipes based on a nutrient-dense, protein-packed pancake recipe that is also gluten-free. Photos by Rianna Alberty.

The Classic (Gluten-Free Protein Pancake)

A few years ago, Austin food stylist and photographer Rianna Alberty and Sacramento blogger Jessica Kahn collaborated on an e-cookbook called “Stack’d: The Gluten-Free Protein Pancake Cookbook.” The book transforms a basic recipe for a gluten-free, nutrient-dense pancake batter into 30 different dishes, from savory chive and cheddar flapjacks or sweet potato pancakes to lemon ricotta pancakes with berry compote or strawberry shortcake. All of them are based on the techniques and ingredients in this recipe, which they simply call The Classic.

Subtly sweet and altogether scrumptious, these classic cakes are simple to prepare and are the perfect springboard recipe should you get the hankering to have a little fun in the kitchen. If you’re not a fan of Greek yogurt, you can use cottage cheese or even a banana in its place. You also can replace the oats with half a cup of almond meal or flour.

3 Tbsp. milk
2 large eggs
2 tsp. agave syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. vanilla whey protein powder (optional)

To keep pancakes warm while you make the full batch, preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Using a blender, first add all of the wet then dry ingredients. This will expedite the blending process, brief though it may be. Blend until the oats are broken down and the batter is smooth, about 10 to 15 seconds.

Heat a non-stick griddle or pan to medium. Test the temperature with a quick spritz of water – just run water on your fingertips and flick it in the direction of the cooking surface. If it sizzles, it’s ready. Spray with a non-stick cooking spray and you’re all set for the batter.

Pour a scant 1/4 cup of batter per pancake onto the griddle or pan. Cook on the first side for 1 to 2 minutes or until the edges start to cook and bubbles appear on the surface. Lift the side of the pancake up just a bit to see where it is in the browning process. Ideally, let them cook until they are a golden, maple color.

Because these pancakes won’t have the rigidity of their flapjack forefathers, the swooshing technique can work wonders. Grab a spatula and, quite literally, swoosh it under the target pancake in one swift motion. Then flip it over.

Cook on the second side for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden-brown. Transfer to an oven-safe dish and keep warm in the oven. Continue with remaining batter. Serves one or two.

— From “Stack’d: The Gluten-Free Protein Pancake Cookbook” by Jessica Kahn and Rianna Alberty

No need for standing rib roast with this easy overnight pork roast

Making a big prime rib for Christmas might not be up your alley or in your budget.

It’s a delicious cut of meat, to be sure, but cooking it can be nerve-wrecking. Beef isn’t as forgiving as pork, and if you have some guests who don’t like beef that’s still pink in the center, you’ll be twisted into knots trying to cook the meat to everyone’s liking.

If you’re looking for another meaty main dish that is cheaper, easier and less fussy to prepare, check out this overnight roast pork from “Food52 A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead” (Ten Speed Press, $35) by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs.

This overnight pork roast might take a long time in the oven, but it's a relatively quick way to cook a nice big cut of meat that you might serve around the holidays. Contributed by James Ransom
This overnight pork roast might take a long time in the oven, but it’s a relatively quick way to cook a nice big cut of meat that you might serve around the holidays. Contributed by James Ransom

The method is simple: Make a paste with garlic, brown sugar and various spices. Rub it all over a boneless pork butt. Roast at a super high temperature for 10 to 15 minutes, and then drop the temperature to just about as low as your oven might go. Continue roasting 6 to 8 hours, and then you can serve the meat sliced on its own with juices from the pan or shredded and tucked into tamales or tacos.

You can take out the brown sugar and maple syrup and add red pepper flakes and paprika for an even bigger flavor, but don’t skip tying up the roast. No matter if you’re roasting pork or beef, using kitchen twine to make the meat more compact will keep the meat from falling apart in the oven, but more importantly, it creates an more uniform shape that ensures the meat cooks evenly.

This overnight pork roast might take a long time in the oven, but it's a relatively quick way to cook a nice big cut of meat that you might serve around the holidays. Contributed by James RansomOvernight Roast Pork

1 (5-lb.) boneless pork butt
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. ground chipotle (or chili powder in a pinch)

Tie the pork with twine in several places so that it’s nice and compact. Place it on a plate or small baking sheet and season liberally with salt. Let it sit at room temperature for about an hour.

Combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, thyme, garlic and ground chipotle in a small bowl. Add a couple pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 475 degrees. Smear the sugar, mustard and garlic mixture all over the pork, concentrating a good amount on the top of the roast, where the fat is. Nestle the pork (fat side up) into a roasting pan or cast iron baking dish just big enough to hold it. Put it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until you startto smell garlic and sugar. Remove the pork from the oven and cover the pan tightly with foil. Return the pork to the oven and turn the heat down to 200 degrees.

Leave the pork in the oven overnight to cook for at least 6 hours and up to 10 hours. When you wake up, your house will smell amazing and the pork will be tender. Cover the roast with foil, let cool and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days.

When you’re ready to eat it, slice or shred what you think you’ll need, put it in a covered baking dish, and reheat in a 200 degree oven. Serves 10-12.

— From “Food52 A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead” by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (Ten Speed Press, $35)