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Broyles: Geography, history inform ‘United Tastes of Texas’ cookbook


Texas natives know that El Pasoans share more roots with New Mexicans than with the folks who grew up in the swamps of Beaumont and East Texas. But that’s still news to many transplants and other outsiders who enjoy Texas culture.

“Texas is the same size as France, and what they eat in Paris isn’t at all what they eat in the south of France,” says Jessica Dupuy, the Austin-based author of “United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes From All Corners of the Lone Star State,” a book she recently published with Southern Living and its Oxmoor House imprint.

This is the first solo cookbook for Dupuy, a history major at Trinity University who writes about wine for publications including Texas Monthly and Imbibe magazines. Her previous books have been jointly written with the chefs behind Uchi, Jack Allen’s and the Salt Lick, but this time, she tapped into her own fascination with the past to explore Texas’ cultural history through food.

“It became clear to me while talking to the editors that a lot of Texas is misunderstood with its foods,” she says. Texas sometimes gets lumped in with the South, but other times, its cuisine gets boiled down to two parts. “People say, ‘Y’all are known for Tex-Mex or barbecue,’ both of which are true, but it’s more than that.”

Recipes from West Texas are closer to California’s cuisine, both literally and figuratively, than Georgia’s, but Texans have an easier time wrapping their heads around the diversity inherent to the state than those looking in.

In the book, she interviews Melissa Guerra, who grew up in South Texas on land that had been in her family for more than half a dozen generations. “At the time, that was part of Mexico. The border always hopped her family,” Dupuy says.

Each time the flag changed and more people moved in, the cuisine changed, too. “We’re keeping so many things alive by cooking these recipes. They are woven together in history. I just love that,” she says.

So many books have been written about Texas cuisine, and many of them fall in the wide wake that famed Texas cookbook author Helen Corbitt left behind. “She did a great job of putting a voice to the cuisine of this state,” Dupuy says. “She said, ‘Let’s put a name to what we are doing.’”

Then chefs Robert Del Grande, Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles redefined Texas cuisine to include a Southwestern flair. “That was the first stab at Texas getting the type of notoriety that comes out of this state,” she says. “Now, it’s the barbecue revolution, where Aaron Franklin is getting recognition for cooking nothing more than a slab of meat.”

Throughout the book, she include interviews with leading chefs from around the state, including Jesse Griffiths and Andrew Wiseheart of Austin, Johnny Hernandez of San Antonio and Tim Byres of Dallas, about how they are reimagining Texas food with flavors that originate far outside the traditional Southern canon.

Dupuy says these chefs are well-versed in Texas classics, but they see how many other cultures now influence the Lone Star State, thanks in no small part to a quickly growing population with immigrants moving here from all over the world. These chefs “have traveled around the world and studied food in an academic way, and then they come back to their roots. They can have new eyes on something old.”

The book starts with what might be the most personal recipe: bacon-wrapped dove poppers stuffed with strips of jalapeño. Dupuy grew up in a hunting family, and as soon as dove season rolls around, it’s time to fire up the grill for what might be the most popular way to eat these birds.

The book features three quesos, two gumbos, more than half a dozen salsas, three enchilada sauces (including gravy), puffy tacos, breakfast tacos, fish tacos, steaks and fajitas, migas and chilaquiles.

Instead of including a variation on Franklin’s brisket technique, Dupuy instead looked to her dad, who had his own method for smoking in an offset smoker. When the recipe testers at the Southern Living kitchen in Birmingham, Ala., went to test that recipe, she had to persuade them to do it on an offset smoker. “I had to stand firm,” she says.

Another standoff she won was over the nachos, which traditionally aren’t served in a mountain covered with cheese, as they are elsewhere in the country. “I had to fight for the nacho,” Dupuy says. In her simple version, each chip gets a small slice of Cheddar cheese, a dollop of beans and a slice of jalapeño. Each chip has the perfect amount of all the topping ingredients, and they stay crispy when baked quickly at 400 degrees.

When asked what she’d cook for a Texas Independence Day party, Dupuy says queso with a pinch of cumin and a splash of chicken stock, or maybe an avocado mango salsa, as well as a pot of carne guisada or chili. And don’t forget the margaritas. “I’d make something big so that people can mingle and talk and enjoy time together,” she says.

Dupuy says it was a big leap to go from cookbook co-author to one who had to pass the rigors of Southern Living.

“I grew up reading Southern Living magazines. That’s what my mother did; that’s what my grandmother did. We read recipes as if they were hallowed,” she says. Those recipes were so reliable that when more than 100 of her own recipes went through the testing process, it was a huge relief when she got approval. “That was one of the best rewards I’ve ever received.”

King Ranch Chicken

Hailing from an era when casseroles were king, this Tex-Mex addition reigns supreme as the staple dish for church suppers and neighborhood potlucks. Though not an invention of the famed King Ranch — it’s more likely the invention of a Junior League member — the spicy flavors of chili powder, roasted peppers and cumin never fail to please.

— Jessica Dupuy

Vegetable cooking spray

6 Tbsp. butter

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 cup chopped poblano peppers (about 2 medium peppers)

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 3/4 cups chicken broth

1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained

1 1/2 cups sour cream

2 lb. Smoked Chicken (recipe follows), coarsely chopped (about 5 cups)

1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

18 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1/4 cup canola oil

For garnish: chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients; sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute.

Sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Whisk in broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Add tomatoes and sour cream.

Stir together chicken and cilantro; stir in vegetable mixture until blended. Combine cheeses in a small bowl.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Lightly brush each tortilla on both sides with oil. Cook tortillas, in batches, in hot skillet until lightly browned and crisp on both sides.

Line bottom of prepared baking dish with 6 tortillas, overlapping slightly, to cover bottom of dish. Top with half of chicken mixture and 1/3 of cheese. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining tortillas and cheese. Lightly coat a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned on top. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro. Serves 12.

— From “United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State” by Jessica Dupuy (Oxmoor House, $24.95)

Smoked Chicken

Piloncillo is a raw sugar made from reduced cane juice. It’s sold molded into cone shapes and is sometimes labeled panela. To measure, place the cone in a zip-top plastic freezer bag and pound it with a meat mallet to break it apart.

— Jessica Dupuy

3 to 4 oak, hickory or pecan wood chunks

1 cup firmly packed piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar), about 1 (8-oz.) cone (can substitute dark brown sugar)

1 Tbsp. ancho chili powder

1 Tbsp. table salt

1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

4 (3 3/4- to 4-lb.) whole chickens

Soak wood chunks in water to cover 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine piloncillo and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub chickens with piloncillo mixture and let stand 30 minutes.

Prepare smoker according to manufacturer’s directions. Place water pan in smoker; add water to depth of fill line. Bring internal temperature to 225 degrees to 250 degrees and maintain temperature 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain wood chunks, and place on coals. Place chickens on food cooking grate; close smoker. Smoke 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of thighs registers 165 degrees.

Remove chickens from smoker and let stand 20 minutes before slicing. Serves 12.

— From “United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State” by Jessica Dupuy (Oxmoor House, $24.95)

Monument Cafe Chicken-Fried Steak

Chicken-fried steak originated in Texas. It was most likely created around where East and Central Texas meet. This is the place where traditional Southern deep-fried foods melded with the batter-dipped German-style schnitzel. Many roadside stops throughout the state claim to have the best chicken-fried steak. One of my favorites is found just north of Austin in Georgetown at the Monument Cafe, where owner Rusty Winkstern has made this Texas classic an art form.

— Jessica Dupuy

2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided

3/4 tsp. ground red pepper, divided

4 (4-oz.) cubed steaks

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

2 tsp. seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s, divided

1/2 cup canola oil

2 cups milk

Combine 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper and 1/4 tsp. red pepper in a bowl. Sprinkle cubed steaks with mixture, and place on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Whisk eggs and buttermilk in a shallow dish. Let steaks and buttermilk mixture come to room temperature (about 1 hour).

Meanwhile, combine 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. seasoned salt, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/4 tsp. red pepper in a shallow dish; repeat with remaining flour, seasoned salt, kosher salt, black pepper and red pepper in a second shallow dish. Reserve 3 Tbsp. flour mixture from 1 bowl.

Dredge steaks in flour mixture, dip in egg mixture and then dredge in the second bowl of flour mixture; shake off excess.

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high to 325°F. Fry steaks, in batches, 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on a wire rack in a jellyroll pan. Reserve 3 Tbsp. drippings in skillet.

Whisk 3 Tbsp. reserved flour mixture into hot drippings in skillet until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, 30 seconds or until bubbly and light brown. Gradually whisk in milk; cook, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, if desired. Serve steaks with gravy. Serves 4.

— From “United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State” by Jessica Dupuy (Oxmoor House, $24.95)

Texas Sheet Cake

Somehow Texas claimed the sheet cake as its own in the mid-20th century, perhaps because of the pecans in the frosting, an ingredient that grows in abundance throughout the Lone Star State. The defining element is a large baking sheet or jellyroll pan for baking … and the frosting, which has to be heated and poured on the cake while the cake is warm out of the oven. The result is a rich, chocolaty treat that’s synonymous with Texas.

— Jessica Dupuy

1 1/2 cups spicy cola soft drink, such as Dr Pepper

1 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. table salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the fudge frosting:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 (4-oz.) unsweetened chocolate baking bar, chopped

3 Tbsp. milk

3 Tbsp. spicy cola soft drink

4 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups chopped toasted pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often. Remove from heat.

Whisk together flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl until blended; add warm soft drink mixture. Whisk in buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour batter into a lightly greased 17 1/2-inch-by-12 1/2-inch jellyroll pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Prepare frosting: Heat butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in milk and soft drink until blended. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and sugar dissolves. Pour over warm cake, spreading gently to edges. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Cool completely in pan (about 1 hour). Serves 24.

— From “United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State” by Jessica Dupuy (Oxmoor House, $24.95)


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