Sweet Potato Chilaquiles

This popular Mexican brunch casserole pairs well with cold Bohemia beer or margaritas. The recipe comes from chef and restaurant owner Stephan Pyles, a fifth generation Texan who, along with chef Dean Fearing, was a founding father of Southwestern cuisine in Texas.

Ingredients:

2 small onions
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or fruit vinegar
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk
Vegetable oil for frying
12 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, homemade or store-bought
8 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening or vegetable oil
1 sweet potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and finely diced
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced

Directions:

Slice one onion into very thin strips. Combine with the vinegar in a bowl and set aside. Chop the other onion coarsely and set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk the sour cream and milk together.

In a large skillet, pour enough vegetable oil to come 1/4 inch up the sides. Heat the oil over medium heat until lightly smoking. Fry the tortillas, one or two at a time (or as many as will fit in the pan), just until crisp, about one minute. (You may need to add a little more oil for the last few tortillas.) Drain on paper towels.

Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the tomatillos and cook until tender, about six minutes; drain, reserving the stock. Place the tomatillos, jalapeños, chopped onion, garlic, and cilantro in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the vegetable shortening until lightly smoking. Pour in the tomatillo mixture and stir constantly for about five minutes, until thick and dark. Add the reserved stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for eight to ten minutes; the sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F (176.6°C).

Add the sweet potato to a saucepan of boiling salted water and blanch for 3 minutes, or until tender. Drain and refresh in ice water to stop the cooking process.

Line an eight-inch square baking pan with three tortillas; they will overlap slightly. Pour one quarter of the tomatillo sauce on top, and pour one quarter of the sour cream-milk mixture on top of the sauce. Top with one quarter of the cheese, and place a third of the poblanos and sweet potatoes over the cheese. Repeat this process with the remaining tortillas, sauce, sour cream mixture, and cheese: the top layer will not have poblanos or sweet potato.

Cover the baking pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove and top with the drained marinated onions. Serve with salsa.

Servings: Serves eight to ten.

Deep in the Heart of Texas Backyard Barbecue Chicken

Dean Fearing, the chef/owner of Fearing’s restaurant and longtime chef at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, shares this recipe for authentic Texas barbecue chicken. Fire up the grill and enjoy the true taste of Texas in your own backyard.

Ingredients:

3 whole chickens (3-4 pounds each), each cut into eight pieces
3 Tablespoons canola oil
Dried thyme to taste
Crushed red bell pepper flakes to taste
2 quarts your favorite barbecue sauce
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions:

Rinse chickens under running water. Cut each into eight pieces, brush with vegetable oil, and season to taste with salt, pepper, thyme, and red pepper flakes on both sides. Set aside.

Using a clean grill, add wood charcoal and ignite. When charcoal has burned to white ash, add chicken quarters skin side down. The process now is to render as much grease from the skin without burning the skin or causing the grease to flare-up on the fire and burn the skin. Take your time and be attentive to the cooking of the chicken. Do not overload the grill. Chicken may have to be cooked in batches depending on the size of your grill.

At this point, add water-soaked hickory chips (a small handful at a time) to the edge of the fire. This will start the smoking process. Seal in the smoke with a lid or the top of the grill. Remember to keep an eye on the chicken and turn when skin is rendered, about eight to ten minutes. If the smoke dies down, add another handful of hickory chips.

Grill and smoke chicken for about 15 minutes making sure the meat is cooking evenly on both sides. Check chicken for doneness. Then begin basting each piece of chicken with barbecue sauce. Don't be afraid to brush on a lot of barbecue sauce heavy and keep turning each piece to prevent burning in one area of the grill. Remove from grill and serve family style.

Servings: Serves 12.

Fire Roasted Salsa

The chefs at Blue Mesa Grill in Dallas make this smoky salsa daily, but you can keep a batch in the refrigerator for up to two days. Serve with tortilla chips and use as a topping or mix-in to add a Texas-size bite to any dish.

Ingredients:

7 medium tomatoes, cored
6 green onions, trimmed
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 serrano peppers, stemmed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and very finely chopped
Juice of one lime
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano

Directions:

Place the tomatoes and green onions on a hot grill—over hot coals, not high flames. Pile cilantro on top, so that it does not touch the grill. Remove the tomatoes when they begin to blacken. Grill the remaining vegetables for a few minutes until they wilt.

Heat oil in sauté pan and sauté serrano peppers until soft.

Remove cilantro stems. Place serranos, tomatoes, onions and cilantro leaves in food processor and pulse until just coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Servings: Makes about four cups.

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