The Nacho

I talk about my experiences in Texas quiet a bit on this site. After all, Dallas, and Texas for that matter, was where I really began to experience food from other cultures. When I first moved to Dallas, I quickly began to experience what is known as Tex Mex food. Granted these were huge platters of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, with sides of refried beans and a dollop of salad and rice, it was simply a beautiful experience, yet one that was a bit too much during the week.

Basic Nacho Recipe

After moving around during those handful of years, I finally found a small little one bedroom apartment in the heart of little Mexico. The neighborhood was awesome, and it really showed the diversity of Dallas. My friends Jeremy, Troy, and a handful of others, were simply 2-3 blocks worth of skateboarding away. My neighbors on the right were entrepreneurs, and the ones on the left, well, true Mexicans. I say this as when I woke up early in the morning to head to work, there were about 3-4 Mexicans, in cowboy hats, sitting on the back of their Ford F150, drinking beer and cranking great Tejano music. This was at 7:15 a.m. mind you. So as you can see, Dallas was a place where not only did I start my career, but it was a place where I found great friends, and great food.

As I began to explore my neighborhood, I found two, well, possibly three great locations. Nearly a block away from one another, and about a block or so away from where I was living, were a Korean grocery store, and down the way, a great little Mexican mercado. I frequented both of these areas quiet a bit. The Korean store provided me with good beer and conversation from the owner, and the mercado provided me great tortillas, cheeses, and fresh jalapenos, limes, and cilantro.

When I began to slow down a bit towards my stay in Dallas, I realized that I was beginning to cook really simple dishes throughout the week and one that I was went to was the basic nacho. My wife and I laugh when we reflect on that time, and she always questions me like “That is what you made throughout the week, for dinner?”. Nachos pulled me through like you won’t believe, well, that, some aggressive skateboarding, rockabilly, great friends, and cold beer.

Now sure you have probably seen my take on the game day nachos, ones that are truly loaded with whatever you like, however while living in Dallas, I stuck with the real roots of the true Mexican nacho, one that is quickly bypassed in this modern day. The simplicity of the nacho is really one that yields the true flavor of what possibly became Tex Mex cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Corn tortillas, quartered
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese
  • pickled jalapeno slices

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Stack your tortillas, and slice them in half. Stack them again and slice in half. Now you have fresh tortilla triangles, well close to being a triangle.  In a large skillet, heat your oil. Add in a handful of tortillas, and cook only for a couple of minutes. You want a texture that is between fully cooked (not burnt), with a little bit of flex. Remove and set on some paper towel to drain any excess oil. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Get your baking sheet out and take your cooked tortilla chips and lay them out on the sheet. Top each chip with the shredded cheddar cheese. Top each tortilla with a jalapeno slice and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and bubbly. Remove, plate and serve. Enjoy.

Note: you can prebake the chips if you do not want to lightly fry them in oil. Another alternative is to place a bit of refried beans as your base, top with the cheese, and jalapeno slice.

Mustard and Jalapeno Rubbed Bacon

Bacon. The sound of it, the smell of it, and the taste of it is something truly wonderful. I use bacon quiet a bit. It is one of those things that if I am making it in the morning, my kids get excited (I do to). There is something so powerful about bacon, even if we are kids, or adults, it often times is a go to comfort food; delicious for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and heck now you are seeing it dipped in chocolate and served as dessert!

Mustard and Jalapeno Rubbed Bacon

As I have had a desire to join a bacon of the month club, I have yet to do so, however I have been sampling a lot of different types. One of my favorite brands of bacon thus far is a brand called Nueske’s bacon. As I normally slow cook my bacon in a skillet, I wanted to try a different take on it, not only in its cooking method, but also in its flavor profile.

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices of thick smoked bacon
  • 1/2 cup of yellow mustard
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed, minced
  • 1/4/ tsp turmeric powder
  • pinch of cracked black pepper

Begin by adding the mustard, jalapeno peppers, and turmeric powder to a bowl and mix well. Set aside and let the flavors combine for 30-60 minutes. Next, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add your bacon slices to a cooking grid, or a baking pan that is rimmed. Sprinkle with the black pepper and cook for about 8-10 minutes on one side. Pour out the fat, and turn over, cooking an addition 5 minutes or so. Once cooked, pour out the fat, and brush on the mustard sauce. Return to the oven, cooking for about 4 minutes. Remove, turn over, and repeat with the mustard sauce, cooking an additional 3 minutes.

Plate and serve. This bacon is meant for a really great sandwich, but can hold its own at any serving. Enjoy.

Blue Crab Curry

While I lived in Dallas, Texas, I found an abundance of crayfish, and blue crabs. Something that I really miss here in the Midwest. In all honesty, both of those items are really difficult to find, but with careful investigation, and my weekend shopping at the ethnic stores, I finally found fresh blue crabs. Trust me, I have asked my local grocers, my higher-end markets, and the local fish factory, and nothing. My local Asian mart pulled through, even on a week day. I had stopped at Anh Chau on my way home from work to pick up some curry paste and coconut milk, when low and behold, I heard the scuffling around of blue crabs. I cannot tell you how excited I got. I finally found fresh blue crab!

Blue Crab Curry

Now I have prepared these a couple of different ways in the past; one simply steamed and served with a nice garlic butter, and the other prepared with red curry paste and coconut milk. Both are super delicious, but the Thai red curry and coconut milk has a flavor that can compete with anything. Creamy, spicy, and a dish that you really get to eat with your hands, this one is sure to be fun, delicious, and a bit messy.

Ingredients:

  • Blue crabs, as many as you think you can eat, cleaned, split in half
  • 1 (or more) tbsp red curry paste
  • 15 oz can of coconut milk
  • Fresh basil, chopped
  • Cooked rice

Begin by using tongs to grab your live crab. This is always fun as they like to attack your tongs. Flip the crab over onto it’s back, and puncture it with a sharp knife, right in the middle. Yes, this is often painful to watch, but it has got to be done. Now with your knife, split the crab in half, lengthwise. The important thing here is to remove the gills, up near the face, as well as removing the apron, near the bottom. Once those are removed, rinse the crab in cold water, and set aside, repeating the process.

To a large wok, heat the curry paste. I say one tablespoon of the paste, however, if you and your friends like it spicier, add more curry paste. Once the paste is heated, roughly a couple of minutes, add in your coconut milk, and stir, bringing to a small boil. Add in the crab, reduce the heat, and cook for about 20-25 minutes.

Plate on a large serving platter by adding rice as the base (or served as a side), and layout the crab. Nothing fancy here as this is truly a finger food where you are bound to get a bit messy. Sprinkle the chopped basil on top, and prepare yourself for a feast of sweet crab with a wonderful spice.

Excellent Greek Burger

I only know a few people who do not like olives, but I am not one of them. I love them. I love them stuffed, put in drinks, and placed in all kinds of foods. I think one of my favorite olives is the kalamata. Every time I pass by them in the market, I buy a small container of them. There is something about the meaty little things, and it probably has something to do with the perfect amount of saltiness and meatiness of them. So as I recently picked up a container of them, and I wanted to actually use them in a dish (rather than nibbling on them), and I immediately thought of a burger; a Greek burger.

Greek Burger with Tzatziki Sauce

So this past weekend was just beautiful in Milwaukee, and we were blessed to have our nephews over for a whole day. It was a perfect day for grilling and a great day to experiment with a new burger.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb of fresh ground lamb
  • 1/2 lb of ground sirloin
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • red onion, thick slices
  • kalamata olives, pitted, chopped
  • feta cheese, crumbled
  • tzatziki sauce
  • buns, toasted

Lately I have been grinding my own meat, probably because I am losing more and more faith in the common ground meat that you pick up in the market, and I would prefer to know that the cut of meat I am buying, is a bit more pure, in a general sense, plus I have a meat grinder attachment. So start by breaking down your meat into large chunks, and grind it down. Mix both meats in a large bowl with the minced garlic, mint, oregano, and salt and pepper. Now you have to make the choice here. Do you want to add in your olives and feta cheese at this point in time? I do not, as I prefer a bit of a nice presentation at the end, but the choice is yours.

Mix well, and form into patties. Depending on who you have over, you can shape the patties large or small. I was serving my wife, sister-n-law, and my nephews, so the patties were on the smaller side. Once formed, place them on a large plate and let them chill in the refrigerator for roughly 3o minutes.

Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat. Lightly oil the grill grates, and place the patties on the grill. Cook for about 5-6 minutes per side. Before removing from the grill, place the crumbled feta on top of each burger. Cover, and cook just another minute or so, lowering the heat. The cheese will not melt, but it will soften and warm up.

During this time, place your buns on the grill to get some nice grill marks, warm them up, and build a nice texture.

Remove the buns and burger from the grill. Place one patty on a bun, place a slice of red onion on top, spoon in the tzatziki sauce inside the ring, and place the kalamata olives on top. Serve with homemade french fries with lemon zest and parsley.

Trust me on this one. The tender meat, and the lamb bring this burger up to the next level. Tzatziki sauce is a killer condiment as well, and now I am thinking it should be put on most every burger. Enjoy.