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“Robb Walsh is a Three Napkin Name”

Much obliged to Paul and Angela Knipple for the review of Texas Eats in their blog from the southern table.

There was one passage in the review that really made me smile. The authors were discussing the various kinds of cookbooks on the market and what makes one stand out from the others, here they noted:

“The right name on a cookbook cover will practically make you drool. Robb Walsh is that kind of writer. Robb Walsh is a three napkin name.”

Can’t imagine a nicer compliment.

Praise for Texas Eats!

A new review of Texas Eats by Mick Vann appeared in the Austin Chronicle today:

Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook
by Robb Walsh
Ten Speed Press, 304 pp., $25

51DiUddSQwL._SL500_AA300_“For 20 years or more, food writer and culinary historian Robb Walsh has branded himself as the culinary expert on all things Texan, successfully carving out a place as the definitive source. He’s published a slew of award-winning cookbooks covering a wide range of topics, but with Texas Eats his knowledge of cooking in Texas coalesces into a unified whole, providing a colorful culinary amalgam of history, anecdote, and 200-plus rock-solid recipes from the five culinary regions of the state. He divides the state into East, West, Central/Hill Country, South, and Coastal Bend, the most obvious separation geographically and ethnically. Rather than sort by courses, Walsh organizes by category, such as seafood, Tex-Mex, etc., with a rough alignment by historical timeline. The arrangement works well for what can be a widely varied yet cohesive cuisine.

Each section opens with a historical section to frame the populace, the cooking styles, and the ingredients. For example, there is an illuminating section describing life on a Texas shrimp boat, with details about bycatch and what used to be considered trash fish by pre-Vietnamese shrimper standards. The recipes included here would make Bubba Gump proud. There are sidebars in each section that feature well-known food producers, culinarians, and restaurants, and the recipes are derived from famous cooks both professional and casual, from winners in local cooking contests as well as from Walsh’s own research. The numerous and lush illustrations reveal the delectable character of Texas cuisine.

All of the standards are included, as well as some of the more modern fusion dishes that combine elements of two ethnic cuisines. The bottom line is that the recipes are easy to follow, not too fussy, and yield damn good food that any Texan granny would be proud to serve. Walsh has managed to produce a cookbook that is honest to the varied foods of Texas and shows why Texas is “a whole ‘nother country.” Published in March of last year, this is the Texas cookbook that I refer back to in my own kitchen, and the one I give as a gift to non-Texans.” -Mick Vann

Update: Kudos for Hot Sauce

Review in the Oregonian: “In a nutshell: If you like to pour on the heat, you’ll dig the firepower in this new cookbook of pepper sauce recipes. Rather than offering creative uses for bottled sauces, hot sauce authority Robb Walsh shows how you can create fresher versions using chiles, fresh veggies and basic kitchen tools. Then he uses them to ramp up everything from Bloody Marys and buffalo wings to ice cream. And the hot stuff isn’t limited to American palates — there are dishes representing the spicy fare of African and Southeast Asian cuisine — proof that hot sauce has global appeal.” -Grant Butler

Robb Walsh is the founder of the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, now in its 23rd year. As the former editor-in-chief of Chile Pepper Magazine, he is a recognized authority on all things piquant. His new combination cookbook/fermentation project manual/food history will appeal to the legions of chileheads around the world. With chapters on the history of hot sauce, tips and recipes for making your own sauces at home, and more than 50 recipes using hot sauce- ranging from Nuclear Wings to Carolina Sloppy Joes to Spicy Bloody Marys to Pickapeppa Pot Roast – The Hot Sauce Cookbook is the ultimate cookbook for pepper sauce aficionados.

Order the Hot Sauce Cookbook now!

Sneak Preview: Houston on Burger Land TV

A sneak preview of the Houston Burger Land episode that will air Monday, May 6 at 8 p.m on the Travel Channel.

The Ramen Tsunami: Tatsu-ya Austin

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Tatsu-ya Ramen has taken Austin by storm. Rumor has it the owners will soon launch a second location in Houston. Here’s a few impressions from a recent visit to the Austin ramen hot spot.

Saturday Ramen

By  Katie Walsh

Early on a Saturday night, the line at Tatsu-ya is manageable. We seem to arrive at just the right time; by the time my friends and I take our first slurp of cream-colored pork bone tonkotsu, the line is very long and the crowd is getting loud and rowdy.

Tatsu-ya was the first of the ramen tsunami to hit Austin back in September, and it made quite a splash, drawing steady lines ever since and scoring a 2012 Eater Austin “So Hot Right Now” award.

Many have raved about their tonkotsu, the main menu item; ramen with a rich, milky colored broth that they reduce for anywhere from 12 to 60 hours. The tonkotsu comes three ways, so we ordered it three ways (they also serve a veggie ramen, but only on Sundays).

The Number 1 Original ($8.50, pictured above) is the straight-up classic tonkotsu. It comes with a slice of chashu pork belly, naruto maki fish cake, curls of woodear mushroom and fresh scallions.

Oh, and a super silky ajitama soft-boiled egg, which is soaked in a seasoned soy sauce marinade until the white deepens in color, and then sliced in half to reveal an almost jam-like, sultry golden yolk.

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My friend ordered hers with the Corn on the Bomb ($1), one of many flavor “bombs” you can mix into your broth. An indulgent ball of sweet butter and fresh corn kernels, we stirred small bits into spoonfuls of soup for sinfully creamy bites. The broth is deeply rich on its own, so a little of this bomb goes a long way.

I went for the Number 2 Sho-yu ($8.75), made with a special house-made soy sauce, bamboo shoots, peppercorn, and roasted nori seaweed. I added a topping of roasted Brussels sprouts and a homemade chile garlic Spicy Bomb, both of which I strongly recommend.

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Our dining companion chose the Number 3 Mi-So-Hot/Mi-So-Not, ($9 for not, $10 for hot), which has miso mixed into the broth and is served with ground pork, cabbage and bean sprouts. While the first two are pretty similar, this one really has a unique flavor; earthy and malty from the miso and heartier on the pork flavor.

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Tatsu-ya also serves a dipping ramen with lime called Tsukemen, citrus-shichimi-jalapeño edamame, mochi ice and other little bites. But looking around the place, jam-packed and bumpin’, almost everyone is twirling noodles and slurping that pearly broth—the tonkotsu is clearly the star.

Don’t bother trying to skip the lines by getting your ramen to go. The restaurant is known for firm, al dente noodles and the owners discourage to-go boxes and flatly refuse take-out orders–they want to insure you eat your noodles fresh and not soggy.

Come hungry. Get comfy.

 

Walsh Family Venison Pâté

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By Katie Walsh

I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.

Up to my elbows in bits of raw venison, trimming away pieces of membrane and feeding chunks of clean meat into the sausage grinder, my adventures with meat had reached their peak. It was pâté day.

My friends crinkle their noses when I recall that afternoon on the back porch (where Dad and I had preemptively banished ourselves to contain the mess), and my fellow veggie-heads seem downright bewildered that I describe it with excitement and not trauma.

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Dad showing me how to skim away the slimy membrane

But raw meat don’t give me no willies; in fact I got some sort of primal pleasure out of handling the flesh and bones myself, and especially out of creating something from an animal I’d all but known personally. This deer and I had travelled great lengths together.

When I told my Uncle Dave that I was heading to Houston to cook meat with Dad, he promptly began arranging to send me down with some of the spoils of his latest hunting trip. As I’d dragged my luggage up to the Megabus in Austin, the cargo guy raised his eyebrows at me.

“What’s in the cooler?” he asked.

“Deer meat,” I said simply.

read more Walsh Family Venison Pâté »

Book Release Update


Dining with Dad: The Pass, Taste-By-Taste

By guest blogger Katie Walsh

I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.

A few weeks ago, I was oblivious to the French-style “tasting menu” trend sweeping the restaurant scene. Riding around Houston with Dad, he broke it down for me (as he does in this month’s Houstonia review of his birthday dinner at Tony’s); its degustation origins, its surge in popularity, its delights, and the outcries it’s inspired. On this night, he’d made reservations for just the two of us at the tasting menu half of Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan’s The Pass & Provisions.

 

As we walked through Provisions to get to The Pass, I couldn’t help noticing that the former seemed like the place to be. Big groups, lots of laughter, colorful outfits and characters. The hostess pushed all of her weight into the far wall as we followed and it gave, an entire solid section sliding back like a hidden passageway, revealing the entrance to the quieter, dimmer, intimate dining room of The Pass.

The first morsel to hit our table was an off-menu amuse-bouche, a wildly shaped dehydrated shrimp chip served in a rough stone pedestal, like an artwork. Translucent and flecked with bits of Japanese shichimi togarashi spice and black sesame seed, it burst with flavor and then almost melted in the mouth.

Then the tasting officially began. We each went with the full eight-course menu.

1. “Snacks”

Oyster on the half shell, simple and clean with a vibrant mignonette and small sprig of fennel; Old Fashioned cocktail “foie gras” (“It’s like a jello shot!” said Dad) and a Pocky stick coated in white chocolate and dehydrated black olive, which worked way better than I expected, sweet and salty and crunchy.

The standout of this course was a warm, pureed shot of green soup topped with a hearty dose of orange foam, made from nasturtium—all the way from its green leaves to its orange flowers. Herbal, floral, beautifully spiced and a lovely taste of comfort next to all the snacks. I took baby sips of mine, savoring every bit.

read more Dining with Dad: The Pass, Taste-By-Taste »

Mutt City: Hot Breads and Himalaya Sweets

Anglo-Indian chicken tikka in French pastry. Welcome to Houston.

By guest blogger Katie Walsh

I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.

Taking a break from the kitchen and riding along with Dad on various stops around town, I gasped at a familiar sight as we made our way down Hillcroft.

“HOT BREADS!” I said, wiggling my eyebrows up and down at him. He obliged, pulling into the parking lot as I eagerly unbuckled my seatbelt.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly ten years since my sister Julia and I sampled the Euro-Indian fusion fare of this spicy bakery for a story Dad was working on. The “goat doughnuts,” as we’d affectionately dubbed their curry goat croissants, looked just as tasty as ever.

Hot Breads is so dang cool because of the story it tells about fusion food and blending cultures. An Indian marketing professor returned to Madras after living abroad to open this European-style cafe and bakery, but instead of putting pepperoni on the pizza and ham in the croissants, he went with the popular ingredients of Southern India, creating a cross-cuisine hit. Hot Breads franchises became hugely popular on the subcontinent. Then in a baffling turnabout, franchisees took the concept to the NRI (non-resident Indian) community and all over the world. The huge Indian populations in Houston and New Jersey were easy targets.

Which is how we ended up with a Indian-owned, European-inspired bakery in Houston serving Indo-Chinese “chilli chicken puffs.” No wonder John T. Edge labeled Houston “Mutt City.”

Aside from the savory stuff, Hot Breads sells a ton of great cakes and cookies too, including egg-free stuff for the Jain crowd (and the vegans!). My all-time, hands-down, indisputable favorite is the mango gâteau (about halfway down the row in the picture).

Dreamily light and airy, its layers of lady finger and fluffy mousse burst with sweet, tangy fresh mango flavor. All those years ago, it was love at first bite.

“You’re gonna have to share,” Dad warns me as I watch the woman box it up. These days, the baby sibs are just as fond of Hot Breads mango cake.

read more Mutt City: Hot Breads and Himalaya Sweets »

Katie’s Meat Series: Wild Duck Gumbo

 

By guest blogger Katie Walsh

I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.

With a fridge full of fresh daikon pickles, the next lesson on Dad’s list was wild duck. And what better to do with wild duck than make a big pot of gumbo?

We opened Texas Eats to Chapter 5: The Cajun Invasion and read through a recipe from Jim Gossen. It called for 6 wild ducks—the exact number we had on hand.

As they defrosted, I asked my dad whether they were hard to clean—ours seemed ready to go except for one feathery wing still attached. He explained that usually, a kid at the hunting site charged a couple bucks each to clean them for you, stripping them down to the breast (where most of the meat is) and throwing the rest aside.

One wing had to remain in tact so that the game warden could identify the breed. So the first step was to chop it off.

Lots of teeny feathers had plastered themselves to the clean meat, so after that I carefully plucked them clean, rinsing each bird under water to make sure they were fuzz free. We seasoned the duck breasts inside and out with Cajun seasoning. Then, we covered them with water in a big pot to get the stock started.

Cooking wild duck takes forever. It’s very lean, and very tough, so in order to get it nice and tender you really have to be patient. It would usually take 3-4 hours, but lucky for us we had a pressure cooker, which took it down to a quick 30 minutes.

We lifted them out, replaced them with a whole chicken, and topped off the pot with water. The chicken would continue to flavor the stock and also tone down the strong gamey flavor of all that duck.

Once they were cool enough to handle, I broke the duck breasts away from the bone and pulled the meat apart.

We did the same with the chicken. Meanwhile, we made a copper penny-colored roux and cooled it down with the holy trinity (onions, green pepper and celery) and a couple of minced garlic cloves. We seasoned the roux with white pepper, red pepper, dried thyme, and a little more Cajun seasoning. Then we added the roux a little at a time to our stock to thicken it. Finally, we added all that chopped pulled poultry meat.

To serve it, we would mound rice in the middle of a soup bowl, slide a couple of raw, shucked oysters and then ladle in some hot gumbo. But duck gumbo is one of those dishes that tastes better after a few days in the fridge. So we stowed it away in anticipation of the big party we’d started to plan for the coming weekend.

It was time for a little lunch, anyway.

 

read more Katie’s Meat Series: Wild Duck Gumbo »