Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fletcher Corny Dogs, Julia Child and Sunshine

Once mid-September hits, Dallasites change their usual greeting. We go from saying, “How are you?” to “Have you had your corny dog yet?”  It’s State Fair season and no one goes without eating a genuine Fletcher’s corny dog. After all, it’s only once per year.

Fletcher Corny Dogs are like no other corny dogs in the world.

It’s a chilly, rainy Sunday;  I get my State Fair coupons and look for a Fletchers stand.  You can always tell – they are the stands with the lines.  Inside the stands, cooks prepare the dogs, dipping once, turning up to make the batter cover the dog, and then dipping again. They slowly release the dogs into the boiling oil. Steam escapes, clouding the small kitchen.

I order my dog; the overcast skies blanket the fair in chilly darkness. The attendant pulls out a freshly fried dog, wraps it in parchment.  The parchment absorbs the last few drops of hot grease. With a warm smile and a wink, he says, “It’s hot. It’s a hand warmer!!” Unwrapping the parchment, the dog warms and relaxes my cold stiff fingers.  Large pump bottles of ketchup and mustard stand waiting. These are your only two options.  You don’t need any others.  I choose mustard.

Biting into a corny dog, the crust doesn’t simply crunch; it shatters. Slightly sweet cornmeal accents the meatiness of the dog.  The yellow mustard tastes bright and hot. This must be what it’s like to eat sunshine. 

The clouds begin to part.

The story goes that one year, in her old age, Julia Child came to be the celebrity judge for the cake contest.  She was terribly late. People began to worry and wonder if anything  had happened to the aging icon.   By and by, she walked in briskly, carrying a corny dog in each hand.

Even culinary giants bow to corny dog greatness.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Finding Purpose in the Leaves

How often do we discard something simply because we cannot find a use for it?

Case in point: celery leaves.  They end up in your compost heap at best, your garbage at worst. Right?  You're throwing away flavor, my friend.

When life gives me celery leaves, I make celery soup! This is nice and comforting on a rainy day.  Add a teaspoon of curry powder to give additional kick.

Celery Soup

3 tablespoons butter or cholesterol-lowering margarine
2 cups finely chopped celery leaves and stems
½ cup finely chopped onion (I prefer yellow onion.)
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons flour (preferably a quick-mixing flour such as Wondra)
 (1 teaspoon curry powder – optional)
4 cups milk
Pepper to taste (optional)

In medium sized pot, heat butter or margarine over  medium heat.   Add celery and onions.  Cook until celery is no longer crispy, but still firm and onions are translucent. Do not brown.

Add salt and flour (and curry powder if using).  Stir thoroughly and cook about one minute, but do not brown.  Add milk.  Gently bring to boil over medium heat, be mindful to not let soup burn on the bottom.  If soup begins to stick to bottom, take off heat for five minutes, stir and continue cooking.    Let boil gently for one minute and serve. Season to taste with pepper, if using.

Note: Using quick-mixing flour assures no lumps.  The temperature of the milk does not matter when using this flour.

Poetry, Food and Sex

Well, my friends, I must confess; I've been busy all day. It is 11:59 and I have but one minute to blog. So instead of waxing poetic, I'll leave that to you.  Here's a little something for you to ponder:

Food is more intimate that sex. When food enters our bodies, it actually becomes our body -- every cell of our bodies.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wine, Abraham and Sin

My friend, Julia, has been asking me for wine suggestions.  This one's for you, girl.

Here's a few wines I've tried recently and really like. They are all very reasonably priced.

Hubert Veneau Pouilly Fume (nice complex flavor)
Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (love those New Zealand whites!)
Peter Brum Bacchus Rheinhessen (sweeter, but flavorful)
Las Rochas Garnacha (yummy red, complex, Parker 90)

But my new found love is Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc! Refreshingly bright with a distinctive grapefruit taste.  It has a Robert Parker rating of 90; not too shabby for a wine under $20.

I discovered this gem while dining at Salum, the restaurant owned by my friend, Abraham Salum.  His food is so sexy,  you'll probably commit at least three mortal sins every time you go there.  Book a table for tonight and a priest for tomorrow. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Have you tried the fried butter?

Culinarily speaking, it seems the question on everyone’s lips this year is “Have you tried the fried butter?” It’s been covered by every major news source. Shoot. Even David Letterman has a top ten list for it.

They’re asking about the Winner of Most Creative in the Big Tex Choice Awards competition. Every year, the State Fair of Texas holds a contest among its vendors.  This year, Abel Gonzales' fried butter is getting all the buzz.  Mr. Gonzales is the creator of fried coke and fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. His booth is lined with Big Tex award statues. The man is held in high State Fair reverence, second only to Big Tex himself.

But what does fried butter taste like? Your Auntie will tell you.  Firstly, it is not at all as one would expect. You were expecting a big lump of grease weren’t you? Nope. Not going to get it. That will relieve some; disappoint others.

Dough is wrapped around a piece of frozen whipped butter. The dough is then fried. The butter melts into the dough, giving it a rich flavor, but hardly noticeable. The fried dough balls are dusted with powdered sugar. The dough itself is rather plain, with a pleasant slight saltiness. The saltiness compliments the sweetness of the toppings.

The toppings, in fact, give most of the flavor.  They come in original (dusted with powdered sugar), cherry, grape or garlic. “Garlic?!” you say. Yes, garlic. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Standing in line, I noticed the sauce seemed a lot like cherry or grape jelly.  I had feared it would be some sort of neon fruit-like substance. However, it looked quite tasty and I decided to go for the cherry. I was glad I did. The slight saltiness of the dough underscored the tart sweetness of the cherry sauce.

I expected a little puddle of butter to ooze out of the center. However, the butter melted into the dough. As you can see in the picture, there is no hole where the butter once resided.

After tasting them, garlic seemed like a very good idea. I imagine it will taste much like garlic bread.  I’ll have to try that the next time I go to the State Fair.

All in all, they remind me of buttery beignets, but with a slightly firmer dough.  They come four to a basket at a cost of four dollars. Mr. Gonzales’ stand is located on Nimitz Drive and open only during the duration of the fair.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jury Rig My Life

Well, my friends, I’ve been amiss.  I have neglected this blog as a result of personal obligations. The plan was to post regularly every Wednesday. Now, it seems, there is more to blog about than I could have imagined. People keep asking me culinary questions and the pressure is mounting to answer. So, for a few days, weeks, months, (who knows?) I’ll be posting like a mad woman.

So, be on the look out for oodles of interesting topics. There will be recipes, ‘natch. Also, you’ll be seeing posts on a restaurant or two or three.  I’ll be giving you the heads up on wines I discover in my escapades. My wonderful niece, to whom this site is dedicated, will figure in future pieces.  Culinary exploits have brought wonderfully interesting people into my life. There’s lots of exciting news from the State Fair of Texas. I’ve been asked to write a piece for another blog on how to cook in the fireplace. That should be an interesting adventure.

Speaking of interesting adventures, my oven is downright busted. The heating coil is broken. The replacement part cannot be found, since the oven company is no longer in business. Yes, I checked eBay. No luck. Sigh. So, the entire range needs to be replaced over one silly part. My old apartment had a gas range from the 1940’s. It still worked like a gem. They really don’t make them like they did, do they?  What a waste. Such a shame to add to another landfill just because of one silly part.

The oven plot thickens. It seems the previous owner who remodeled the kitchen did so by jury-rigging the cabinets to fit around that particular range. (Did I mention the cabinets are a risk to life and limb as well?) The floor tiles have been jury-rigged to fit around the cabinets. There’s a short in the electrical system that supplies the overhead lighting. It all boils down to this: I’ve got to remodel the entire kitchen just to cook a pizza.

This brings me to a question of my own I must ask myself. How can one run a food blog without a kitchen?