Javier's, Dallas

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

After a wonderful baby shower, Leigh Anne invited her hostesses to join us for dinner at this authentic Mexican restaurant located on the edge of Highland Park. Eight of us were seated in the rear of the restaurant. We had a great waiter, Roger, that kept our water full and chips and salsa replenished. It was so tempting to dig into the chips and salsa, but I just couldn't because I gave chips for Lent, dang it. They also served butter, red salsa and a green salsa. Everyone loved it. Luckily I was seated next to Jacqueline. She and I met about 8 years ago when I flew to Phoenix for a girls weekend when Leigh Anne had a work trip scheduled and brought us two along. That was a great weekend, I love Phoenix.

Anywho, Javier's prides itself in being authentic Mexico City cuisine, not Tex-Mex. You'll notice this on the menu of featuring entree choices like the Filete Cantinflas, this is a steak filled with Chihuahua cheese and seasoned butter, topped with a mild chile mulatto and sliced avocado served with rice and black beans. This entree was talked about after the baby shower because everyone was thrilled about going to Javier's for dinner. I was thinking where in the world are we going that serves a steak full of cheese and butter...Leigh Anne ordered this and gave me a taste of it, and it was divine. In fact, I was sorry I didn't order it even though I don't eat a lot of meat. I ordered the Red Snapper Mojo De Ajo which is sauteed in special garlic and lemon sauce served with two vegetables of the day. I skipped the veggies and asked for a side of the rice and black beans. It was really, really good. I loved the fish, it was very delicate.

No dessert for us, just fun sitting next to a table of I'd say, 30 plus men and daughters from the SMU Pi Phi dad's weekend. At first we all commented that those young girls couldn't be their wives, but we were in Dallas, so who knows. Jacqueline and Jennifer were next to me near this large table. They made comments to them when the waiter brought two shots of something to everyone. One older man gave Jacqueline and Jennifer his shot, it was tequila followed by a shot of bloody mary mix. They joined the fun and were invited to go with the group to a wine bar not once, but twice. They didn't crash the dad's weekend fun but they enjoyed the invite.

Ahh Javier's, it's been in business since 1977 and is sure to deliver good service, authentic mexicano food and a fun time. I hope to be back next time I'm in big D, maybe when Rofonzo Haugh is born in April....

Javier's Gourmet Mexicano, 4912 Cole Ave., Dallas, TX, 212-521-4211 www.javiers.net

The Mercury, Dallas

Friday, February 26, 2010

My best friend from Fayetteville is having a baby shower here in fabulous Dallas. I love, love the big city, it reminds me so much of my hometown. You'll remember Leigh Anne from my Chicago and A&M/Arkansas blogs. She is due to have a boy in April and I am excited to be a hostess at her shower.

But first things first, we have to have dinner, duh! My dad picked me up at Lovefield to take me to see my step-mother, who had a stroke during surgery last September in Dallas. He picked me up and we went to the rehab facility in Anna, Texas, north of McKinney. Her physical therapists all had a meeting scheduled with him about her progress and future at the rehab facility. She has made strides but it's a slow progress. We had a good visit and dad and I loaded back up for the trek to Leigh Anne's. Oh the traffic in Dallas, it's amazing. Although I complain when tractors or other large farm or road equipment pass through Birdeye at a snail's pace, I wanted to use sentence enhancers to describe those Dallas drivers blowing by us on the tollway. I think we missed paying at least two tolls because of being trapped. But when we got to Leigh Anne's, we were tired and hungry. Dad and I followed her and Doug to this culinary diamond on Preston and Forrest. It's located in the Northwest side of the Forrest Shopping Center.

We were greeted by a slew hosts and were seated immediately in a booth/table against a wall. Leigh Anne and I sat on the booth side which gave me an excellent view of this modern, eclectic restaurant. Dallas renowned chef, Chris Ward, oversees this new American restaurant with French and Mediterranean influences. Our wonderful waiter Shay, got us off to a good start offering cocktails and water. Doug got his usual vodka/soda with his signature brand of vodka, "whatever the well offers." Leigh Anne, Dad and I all had water and I have to compliment that it was cold water without ice, which was a nice touch when I always fight off a dripping glass on my clothes and an ice break on my face while drinking. As you all know, I didn't order an appetizer, but I did order the Shaved Artichoke, Fennel and Arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette. I love arugula and look forward to this year's harvest in my backyard. Leigh Anne and Doug skipped a salad but enjoyed the homemade bread and pate on the table. They replenished the bread and our water throughout the evening.

For dinner, Leigh Anne ordered the 48 hour braised short ribs with potato puree. She loved it and she added macaroni and cheese, it was served family style so we all got to try it. It was so good! It must have had Gouda and sharp cheddar cheese in it. Dad ordered the Filet, he loved it and it was gone like the rest of our food. I ordered the Pan Seared Halibut with artichoke cocktail and roasted vegetables with a truffle sauce (pic #3). Amazing, the halibut was cooked perfectly. Doug, now, he can order. He got the Prime New York Strip with watercress salad and lyonnaise potatoes. The potatoes were served in a little kettle and he loved, loved them. He said his steak was overcooked, as he ordered it medium-rare, but Doug is so classy, he didn't send it back, that's a nice touch. Doug and I both had a wonderful glass of Cabernet that I didn't write down. Our waiter offered a tasting of a Red Zinfandel and the Cab. We both agreed on the Cab, it was perfect with his steak and I loved it with my fish.

For dessert I ordered coffee, of course, and it was great and perfectly strong enough. For Lent I gave up chocolate and chips, so I steered clear of most of the choices but was thrilled with the Brioche Bread Pudding with homemade vanilla ice cream (pic #2). We got one to share for the four of us, and it was the best bread pudding ever. It was a generous warm slice with cherries, raisins and cinnamon. The ice cream was a perfect accompaniment for the dish. We all enjoyed our dinner and I loved the time with my dad, which is a rare thing since he's in Tulsa. He and Doug had lots to talk about, even though the subjects were off limits with strangers in my book...politics, religion, money...I told dad that he only skipped two more subjects. Doug could hang and so could dad. I quit fearing for my life during their conversation when Doug gave him directions to get back on Central for the trip home.
You'll love the Mercury for it's service, inventive entrees and the feel of the restaurant. But don't freak when you get the check, it was $320 for four.

The Mercury, 11909 Preston Rd., Dallas, 214-443-9898. Visit this great website, www.mcrowd.com/mercury

(My dad is amazing, we've been apart for a long time but he is my dad no matter what. I'll love him forever and I ache for him and his pain with my step-mother. My mother is a wonderful, talented woman who is hilarious, smart, beautiful, successful and the reason behind my community service. I was born a volunteer like she is. How nice it is to be blessed by her. My hope and prayers are that Chloe will be diligent in her studies, do what she loves and loves what she does, no matter what. Because after all, it's the after college experience of success that we want for all our children. Gary, my step-dad is the bomb, a real gift all these years. Supportive, quiet and good to the core)

Zaxby's, Marion, Ark.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

After another foot race, this one a 10K in Memphis, Jackie, Martin and I were famished. We picked Chloe up at Bailey Bigger's house in Marion, her best friend for years, and ventured on home but stopping first at this chain chicken restaurant. If you read my blog, you know I can't stand chains but I've also blogged about the ones worth noting. Zaxby's is a clean establishment featuring chicken a gazillion ways, on salads, boneless wings, breaded strips, sandwiches and the like as well as those Otis Spunkmeyer cookies that are so good. This chain originates in Georgia founded by two best friends over a basketball game, how original.

The beauty of the girls is they knew exactly what to order, there were only three choices on the kid's menu. Kidz Nibbler, which is a mini chicken sandwich that Bailey ordered, the Kiddie Cheese that Chloe ordered, which is a half a grilled cheese or the Kiddie Fingers, which is obvious what that is. All three are served with french fries, drink and Scooby Snacks, which are graham crackers, a nice touch similar to my favorite burger restaurant, Johnnie's in OKC.

There are three sauces available for wings. The Tongue Torch, Nuclear and the Insane. Martin ordered first, he got the 10 piece boneless wings in Insane sauce. It had three triple X's by its name on the menu. I guess that was a warning of its hot status. I ordered 10 wings to share with Jackie one step down on the hot menu, the Nuclear. Of course, Martin got his wings first and sat down with his paper plate and said, "Ah, wimpy." I agreed looking at the wings served ranch sauce and 4 celery sticks. Then our order came and when I brought it to the table, yes I am wondering the same thing, I did get our order while Jackie relaxed at the table, Martin had downed two of his wings. I wondered how hot they were and he said, "at first they're no big deal, then....", he said, "by the second, I can't taste the chicken only the sauce." Jackie and I chuckled as we got the girl's meals rolling.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Martin was choking and spitting and flaming after his third wing. He was soaking up the ranch and celery in between breaths all the while getting his second large glass of unsweet tea. I was surprised I didn't think to order milk to drink, milk is the only beverage to really soothe your mouth while on fire. Jackie and I slowly got into our Nuclear version of the wing worrying we'd be next in on the flames. Ours was very hot but not over the top, it lingered on the tongue for a while. I did pull a rare thing, I ordered some breaded spicy mushrooms because I was needing to carb up after the race. The mushrooms were good and I liked the remoulade sauce that accompanied them. We all got to chuckling and I have to confess, we all were thinking about the cooks in the kitchen and what their comments are when people order the Insane wings. We thought they were back there cracking up, making wisecracks about the wing eaters going out on a limb and ordering up the triple X sauce.

Martin and I go way back in our quest for eating hot things. He loves heat and enjoys challenging me on heat levels. One of Kara's pharmacy clients who has a crush on her, he is 90 by the way, gave her some marinated habaneros last summer. Martin said he thought they were pepperoncini and ate one whole. He said he could feel the pepper going down his throat, to his stomach, in his intestines and, I'll be candid here, he figured out what fire in the hole really means. I am cracking up, my abs are sore from all the laughing I've done writing this review....I've laughed more today than I have all week...

Martin said that the Insane wings must have had habanero in the sauce, the reason he said, was that his eyeballs were sweating. And he used 10 napkins, I'd say, for every wing he ate to wipe off his brow. I never did see actual sweat but his eyes were red and draining. I am a witness to that. We did offer to let him out on our way home to use the bathroom but he said he could hold it...I am dying here...hahahahahahhahahaha....

Chloe loved, loved her grilled cheese and loved getting her own ketchup out of the automated server. I really loved their unsweet tea too, it was fresh and strong. The girls ventured into the restroom before our 20 minute trip home, and I can report the facilities were in perfect shape. Our meal for 4 cost $25, so have your debit card or cash ready, they don't take checks. Zaxby's is a sure thing, offering good items and a definite sure thing on the heat in their sauce. You might want to start with the Tongue Torch and a glass of milk.

Zaxby's, 306 Bancario Rd., Marion, Ark. 870-739-4888 www.zaxbys.com

Chicken Tamale Soup

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Well another day without school brought me to my favorite cookbook in all the land, Fresh, the one from Lake Austin Spa. By the way, Kara is headed there this weekend with her mother and sister in tow, at least she plans on it if the weather will break. It's amazing, literally amazing, that I had the ingredients for this recipe in my pantry after getting in late Saturday night from Hot Springs and running the Burns Park 15K that morning. In other words, I haven't been to the grocery store since last Thursday. Anyhow, I love, love this recipe. I had time on my hands, even though I got the opportunity to keep Whit and Stella, my fabulous nephew and niece, today. They are so easy, they played while I made this soup that features tamales topped with cilantro and feta cheese. It was really good and I look forward to getting into this soup later in the week.

Chicken Tamale Soup (Fresh cookbook, Lake Austin Spa)

1-1/2 C. masa harina de maiz
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. warmed chicken stock, I used chicken broth
3 T. light butter, I used 4 T. real butter, dang it
6 oz, skinless chicken or turkey, shredded, I cooked 4 thighs in the microwave, then shredded them
1/4 C. red or green salsa, homemade or commercial, I used Pancho's mild
1/2 C. diced carrot
1/2 C. diced onion
1/4 t. dried oregano, I used 1/2 because I love oregano
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 garlic clove minced, I used 2
3 C. chicken stock, I used broth
1/2 C. diced tomatoes undrained, I used stewed tomatoes
1/4 C. tomato puree
1/4 C. diced zucchini, I did not have this
1/2 C. corn
1/2 C. chick-peas, garbanzo beans
1/2 t. adobo paste from canned chipolte peppers
1/4 C. chopped fresh cilantro, I used 1/2 C. because I had it and love, love it
3 T. feta cheese
4 lime wedges, I skipped this

Combine the masa, salt and 3/4 c. stock in a large bowl. Whip the butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy (this is a good technique). Mix the butter into the masa dough. Divide and spread the masa onto 8 8X10 aluminum foil sheets and top each with chicken. Using the foil as a guide, fold the tamale lengthwise, shaping the packet with your fingertips, until the filing is completely enclosed. Fold the foil to seal the tamale, first along the long side, then folding in the ends to form a packet. You should have enough filing for 8 tamales. Steam the tamales in a steamer set over boiling water for 1-1/2 hours.

Heat a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the carrot and onion and cook until the onion is soft, covering the pan. Add the oregano, cumin and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add 3 C. stock and bring the mixture to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Add the tomato, tomato puree, zucchini, corn, chickpeas and adobo paste and simmer for 10 minutes. Unwrap the tamales and place 2 in each of 4 wide bottom bowls and ladle soup over top. (I don't have wide bottom bowls so I did one tamale and topped with soup, feta and cilantro). Garnish with cilantro, feta and a squeeze of lime juice. I also added dashes of Tabasco on mine.

The beauty of this recipe is that I just did tamales last week so I knew a little about how to get them rolled and what to expect. I loved this recipe, Jackie just smirked when he decided he didn't want another bowl. I think he needs alligator in his tamale instead of a chicken.

On Monday I did try the Fresh Cookbook recipe for Red Lentil Soup and again, it was very good. This cookbook is so fabulous, encouraging low-fat choices and other "fresh" ingredients.

I added a pic of Chloe on top of her snowman with Whit and Stella, we made that snowman the day before, fun times at Birdeye!

Homemade Tamales, yes I said, homemade tamales...let the fun begin...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On my first day off as past president of the chamber, I had a ton of things to do and wrap up but I added this culinary chore to my day...and it was unbelievably worth it. In fact, it's just astounding...

I found a recipe for tamales in three of my cookbooks but for some reason I went straight to google. I said, "how to make tamales", and I found sonofthesouth.net/tamales. This is a candid recipe with step by step instructions of how to make this southern tradition.

I have to confess I put the pork roast on in this recipe at 7:00 a.m. when I was getting Chloe off to school, checking my email, then working out in between phone calls. I made the filling, Masa and soaked the husks and got about 1/2 prepared until I had to go to town for a meeting. I refrigerated it all except the husks and finished up at 3:30 after school. I freaked when I realized that I didn't have the apparatus to steam a batch and ended up using my stainless colander in a pot to steam these boys for 2 hours. One recipe on the Food Network said to cook them in a saucepan, filled tight with tamales and just a bit of water. It did work but my colander steam pan filled with the pan juices from cooking the pork was just a bit better. Even Jackie said, after a few minutes of processing his usual judgement on my cooking, "um, these are the best tamales I've ever had. Better than Doe's. You need to give these to Boone and Martin." Well, enough said. I've frozen the extra for later, the recipe recommends freezing in small batches so I did. A couple of days ago I grabbed one out of the freezer, microwaved it for 1-1/2 minutes on high and I was in heaven with several dashes of Tabasco.

Hot Tamale Recipe (you can read this via www.sonofthesouth.net, but I am adding what I did here....)
6-8 lb. pork butt roast, I used a 6 lb. on sale at Hays for $1.00/lb.
Corn oil, I used canola
6 lb. fryer chicken, I only used pork
Garlic Powder, you need 1/2 Cup
Chili Powder, you need 1/2 Cup
Ground Cumin
Cumin Seeds, you need this, don't skimp!
Paprika, you need 1/4 Cup
4 lb. bag Masa
Corn Husks, I used only one bag, found in the produce section
Tabasco, don't use Louisiana Hot Sauce or any other hot sauce, Tabasco is best!

Cut the pork roast into fist size chunks, I had about 6, cover with water in a large soup pot. Boil, then simmer with the lid on 2-1/2 hours. Keep the broth in the refrigerator (it does kinda stink) and cool meat and shred with hands, not forks. I also pulled the fat off using a knife, I didn't realize how much fat there was in a pork roast!!

Corn Husks:
Soak in a sink full of water for 2 hours. I did this half way through cooking the meat. Separate gently after they've soaked so they don't break apart. Then drain on kitchen towels, and I topped with a towel to help get the water off.

Season the meat:
1/2 C. corn oil, I used canola
6 T. chili powder
3 T. garlic powder
3 T. ground cumin
2 T. salt
1 T. pepper

Warm the oil and seasonings in a small saucepan and add to meat. Use your hands and really incorporate all of this into the meat so some isn't more coated than others. I don't eat a lot of meat but I nibbled on this during the process and it was divine!

Make the dough:
2 lbs. masa, 1/2 the 4 lb. bag
3 T. paprika
3 T. salt
1 T. cumin seeds
3 T. chili powder
3 T. garlic powder
2 C. canola oil
8 C. reserved broth, warmed

In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients very well. Then add oil incorporating throughout. Then add the broth, 1 cup at a time while mixing. I had to keep scraping off the bottom of the bowl to get it all mixed.

To make the tamale: (you might want to go to his website, it's very comical!)
Get a husk and put a good amount of masa in the center and one said and all the way to the tip. Put about 2 tablespoons meat or so in the middle and roll up and turn the bottom up. It took me about an hour to roll them all myself. Jackie also told me to practice rolling them out better so they don't fall apart, but he didn't let his tamale rest before he opened it and ate it, dang it.

To cook tamales:
I used a colander but I am shopping for the right equipment. Use some of that broth and water and boil in a big soup pan and steam the tamales for 2 hours with the lid on. Your house will smell like an El Chico but it is so worth it. I did steam just a few at a time because of my mini steel colander. I took the advice of the Food Network version and tightly packed a saucepan with water in the bottom and put the lid on, the tamales did get damp on the bottom so I think the steamer version is better.

I am tired here, but it was a worthwhile event! Kara told me next time to have a Tamale Party, they are so good it would be fun to share them with my culinary friends! I am craving one right now...I think I'll head to my freezer...