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The Cookhouse Opens, Bringing a Taste of New Orleans to East Mistletoe

The Cookhouse Opens, Bringing a Taste of New Orleans to East Mistletoe

cookhouse sign

The revitalization of the North St. Mary’s Street area near U.S. 281 continues tonight with the opening of Pieter Sypesteyn‘s Cookhouse at 720 E. Mistletoe Ave.

Pieter Sypesteyn

Pieter Sypesteyn

The space, which previously housed Carmens de la Calle, will be the home of New Orleans food filtered through Sypesteyn‘s culinary talent.

The restaurant opens at 5 p.m. this Friday and Saturday. Next week, lunch will be added, and the restaurant will be open Tuesday through Saturday.

Sypesteyn‘s work is known to fans of food trucks in the city. His Where Y’At truck, parked most often at Alamo Street Eat Bar on South Alamo Street, has gathered a host of fans because of his po’boys, including the Peacemaker, which features a winning mix of fried oysters and crisp pork belly.

You’ll find that sometimes on the lunch menu, when the New Orleans sandwiches are offered with such filings as fried shrimp, fried catfish, hot roast beef, hot sauce and cheeseburger.

At dinner, entrees might include Sypesteyn‘s award-winning New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, Paneed Pork Chops and charbroiled oysters. The lineup will change regularly with stuffed mirliton, a k a chayote squash and a real NOLA favorite, filled with shrimp and ham; roasted duck and dumplings; hanger steak with bone marrow butter; and, for the vegetarians in the house, tomato artichoke cannoli with handmade pasta.

Turtle soup; Gulf oysters; a wedge salad with bacon, pecans and blue cheese dressing; shrimp remoulade; and smoked duck boudin are among some of the other dishes you might find there.

For more on the Cookhouse, click here or call (210) 320-8211.

With Tycoon Flats, Faust, TBA and Candlelight all nearby (not to mention El Milagrito, which closes far too early in the day), this is a great time for a pub crawl through the area.

Attagirl in the works

attagirlSypesteyn‘s neighboring truck at Alamo Street Eat Bar is Chris Cullum’s Attaboy, known for its hamburgers made from freshly ground beef on a house-made bun and topped with other handmade treats. Cullum is going to be his neighbor again when he opens Attagirl Ice House at 726 E. Mistletoe Ave.

The space once housed Willard’s Jamaican Jerk and still has the barbecue pit out back, which Cullum is planning to put back into use. The menu is still under construction as renovations on the space continue, but Cullum is hoping to have the space open in October.

It’s Cullum’s latest venture after taking over Tucker’s Kozy Korner on East Houston Street, another area that is showing welcome signs of revival.

Carmens wants to come back

If you are among the crowd that misses Carmens de la Calle, the sangria, the tapas or the flamenco, then you may be interested in the fact that the search is on for a new location. To fund the new space, the owners will be launching a Kickstarter campaign on Sept. 17, according a post on Carmens’ Facebook page. Click here for more. (By the way, Sypesteyn used Kickstarter to get Cookhouse funded.)

Posted in Featured, Restaurants0 Comments

Luca Della Casa’s Star Is Shining

Luca Della Casa’s Star Is Shining

Think TV doesn’t change a person? Ask Luca Della Casa, who recently spent a season on the cooking show, “Food Network Star.” He emerged from the show in second place, as the runner-up to cowboy chef Lenny McNabb, and he says the experience has helped him become “a better version of myself.”

It’s not just talk. Those who knew Della Casa before the show can sense a difference in the way he carries himself. There’s a greater poise in his manner as he sits down for a chat or greets his customers. His face is more open and welcoming, as he flashes his now-famous, dimpled smile. There’s more of a connection when he carries on a conversation. And, yes, it’s all because of being on TV week in and week out for an entire season.

Luca Della Casa sits down for a talk at Nosh.

Luca Della Casa sits down for a talk at Nosh.

It wasn’t easy work. Della Casa wasn’t used to being “judged so directly,” as he calls it. When a Bobby Flay or an Alton Brown takes you to task with a camera rolling, it’s tough. So, the Italian chef who runs the kitchens at Silo Alamo Heights and Nosh on Austin Highway had to learn not to take everything on an emotional level. “I learned to accept criticism in a more constructive way,” he says.

He also had to learn how to keep his energy levels up because there might be a long lull between shots. He drank a lot of coffee, which wasn’t always the best answer because “I would get nervous waiting,” he says. That came out when he had to pour a sauce over a dish he had to prepare for the judges, and his hand started to shake so badly that Brown reached out to steady it. “I wanted to stop it, but there was no way,” he says.

Then there is the stress, part of which comes from the whole setup. “TV is unreal,” Della Casa says, adding that during the filming of “Food Network Star” “there were hundreds of people around us at every turn. It was worse at the very beginning because there were so many of us.”

Still, “Food Network Star” fans could see Della Casa’s progress happen slowly but deliberately. It began after he got kicked off early in the process because he had failed to connect with the camera while cooking. His food, as local fans will attest, won raves, but he just didn’t raise his head as he prepared his food. So, he went to the online redemption show, “Star Salvation.” After several weeks of winning those judges over with his panini, his culinary skills and his engaging personality, he earned his way back onto the main show.

More changes began occurring. His first episode back was in Las Vegas, and he found himself surrounded by gorgeous women who had really taken to his charm, his good looks and his accent. It was something that had not escaped the attention of the show’s third host, Giada de Laurentiis. A sex symbol was being born. He looks back on that episode with a sheepish grin. “I’m flattered,” he says of all the attention. “But I didn’t earn it. It wasn’t anything I did.” He credits his parents’ gene pools with the way he turned out and leaves it at that.

Luca Della Casa thanks San Antonio for the support he's received while he was on "Food Network Star."

Luca Della Casa thanks San Antonio for the support he’s received while he was on “Food Network Star.”

Della Casa gives plenty of credit to his wife, Marcella Algarra Della Casa, for the rest of his success on the show. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” he says. Marcella is an attorney who spends her some of her time addressing justices and juries, so she knows something about speaking in public. She drew on her background and Toastmasters to help him before more confident. “She told me, ‘You’ve got to get better at speaking in front of people,’” he says, adding that it helped him find himself in a way that made him become relaxed at ease in front of other celebrity chefs, his fellow contestants and the camera.

It helped that Della Casa is “a quick learner,” as he describes himself. His efforts, combined with his culinary skills, propelled him on to the finals, against McNabb and Nicole Gaffney. The outcome was voted on by viewers of the show, not the judges, and no one knew who would be the winner. “I thought Nicole was my first competition, which shows you what I know,” he says with a laugh. “I’m really happy for Lenny.”

This has been the latest chapter in Della Casa’s culinary journey from his hometown in Torino, Italy to the Canary Islands and then to Texas. “I didn’t go to culinary school,” he says. “I use the memory of certain flavors and I learned from other chefs,” as well as the grandmother he referred to often on “Food Network Star.”

“My food is the sum of all of these,” he says.

Ten years ago, he arrived in San Antonio to work for Massimo Pallottelli at Sage in the Fairmount Hotel. From there, he went to work for Andrew Weissman at Le Rêve and Il Sogno, and then Fralo’s before going to work at Silo and Nosh.

One night while visiting Copa Wine Bar on Stone Oak Parkway for a wine tasting, he noticed a woman who had come in to buy a bottle of wine. That turned out to be Marcella, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Luca Della Casa hopes his appearance on "Food Network Star" brings attention to San Antonio's culinary scene.

Luca Della Casa hopes his appearance on “Food Network Star” brings attention to San Antonio’s culinary scene.

When the opportunity to appear on “Food Network Star” arose, Della Casa pursued it vigorously; but he didn’t tell his boss, owner Patrick Richardson, until he had been accepted on the show. The chef was a bit nervous about that, but Richardson was excited for him and offered his support.

Della Casa is repaying that trust by pouring his energies into his work now that he’s back in town. “My first thoughts are about coming back to the restaurant,” he says. Fall menus are being planned and they could include some of the dishes he prepared on the show, dishes that made an appearance at a special meal Silo offered while the chef was still competing. There might even be a collaborative dinner with one of the other contestants from the show.

As if that’s not enough, Della Casa’s also helping local restaurateur and bar owner Chris Erck of Swig Martini Bar and Viva TacoLand, among other ventures, launch Panzanella Pizzeria, which will feature salads and pizza by the slice. The new eatery will open this fall with two locations, including one next to Erck’s Stay Golden Social Club on Pearl Parkway.

Della Casa is grateful for the encouragement he’s received from San Antonio throughout the “Food Network Season” and after it. “I couldn’t believe the kind of support I’ve received from everyone here and on social networks,” he says. “I feel blessed.”

Is there any more TV in Luca Della Casa’s future? “I’m confident that something good is going to come of it,” he says. “Where I am now is just the beginning.”



Posted in Featured, Restaurants, Video0 Comments

Ask a Foodie: What Is Pumpkin Pie Spice?

Ask a Foodie: What Is Pumpkin Pie Spice?

Q.: What does it mean when a recipe calls for “pumpkin pie spice”? Is this something special that I need to buy?


Season your pumpkin pie to suit your tastes.

Season your pumpkin pie to suit your tastes.

Pumpkin pie spice is a seasoning blend that you can buy in the store or you can make using the spices that you like in a pumpkin pie.

McCormick makes a version that features cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice plus some “sulfiting agents” to keep it shelf stable. A 1-ounce container sells for about $3.65 at H-E-B.

If you’re only going to make one or two pies a year, you might as well make your own from scratch. Here’s where you can personalize the blend to suit your taste. Before you start, think about what flavors you like in your pumpkin pie. Ground cinnamon is practically a given, and ginger, too. But what about allspice? Would you rather have ground cloves? And what about using mace instead of nutmeg?

These variations will change the nature of your pumpkin pie (and possibly your warm spiced cider punch, if you want to season that), so the best bet is to taste the blend before you use it. If there’s too much ginger or not enough nutmeg, you’ll notice that even more so when your pie is served.

So, here are a couple of pumpkin pie spice blends to get you started. Make only small batches (you can half these recipes, again adjusting to taste), so you won’t have any leftovers that need preserving. Just remember to be careful with spices such as cardamom and clove, both of which can overwhelm everything they’re in. Start small and build those up.

If you’re looking for a little heat to add to your pie, try a pinch or two of Raz el Hanôut, a Moroccan spice blend made up of warm spices but with a a lively touch of heat on the finish. It’s made from ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, mace, cloves, cayenne pepper and turmeric, and just a touch of that will give you a whole new way of enjoying pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend I

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tablespoons ground allspice

Mix spices together. Use in your pumpkin pie recipe as directed.

Makes 7 tablespoons.

Make your own pumpkin pie spice.

Make your own pumpkin pie spice.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend II

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix spices together. Use in your pumpkin pie recipe as directed.

Makes a little more than 5 tablespoons.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend III

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Mix spices together. Use in your pumpkin pie recipe as directed.

Makes a little more than 5 tablespoons.

From John Griffin


Posted in Ask A Foodie, Featured0 Comments

Add a Bacon and Onion Pie to Your Next Brunch

Add a Bacon and Onion Pie to Your Next Brunch

Bacon and Onion Pie

Bacon and Onion Pie

An invitation to a potluck brunch had me searching for something new and fun to try. That’s when I discovered Susan Spungen’s recipe for Caramelized Onion and Bacon Tart, which became the basis for this variation. As much as I love making tarts, I really wanted to make a pie instead. That necessitated upping the amount of onions needed, and I increased the amount of bacon, too, for good measure. Plus, I decided to add some oil-cured olives to the cheese base to add a depth of flavor to the cheese base.

Bacon and Onion Pie

1 (9-inch) pie crust
6 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 small onions, cut in half lengthwise and thickly sliced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped, divided use
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup oil-cured olives, pitted and finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided use

Bacon and Onion Pie

Bacon and Onion Pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cover the pie crust with foil and weights. When oven is ready, pre-bake crust for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and weights, and let rest until ready to use.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat until fat is mostly rendered and bacon is crisp around edges. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and set aside, leaving 1 tablespoon bacon fat in pan. You may need to add olive oil if there is not 1 tablespoon left. Crumble bacon after cooling.

Add onions to pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about 8 minutes. Turn heat to medium-low and add 1 tablespoon thyme and pinch of salt. Continue to cook until onions are soft and deep golden brown, about 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, combine ricotta, egg yolks, olives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pinch of pepper, remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and 1/4 cup Parmigiano in a small bowl. Stir well to combine.

Spread ricotta mixture evenly on the bottom of tart shell. Arrange onions on top of ricotta and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Parmigiano. Sprinkle bacon over top. Transfer to oven and bake until edges of filling are golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

Adapted from “Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook” by Susan Spungen

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Shrimp and Corn Pie:  A Lowcountry Classic

Shrimp and Corn Pie: A Lowcountry Classic

Shrimp and Corn Pie 3A friend at church recently gave me a copy of “Charleston Receipts,” which is the oldest Junior League cookbook still in print and a book that has been praised by several generations of food lovers and writers,  including Pat Conroy, since it appeared in 1950. My copy dates from the late 1970s, which means it’s far from the first edition, but it contains all of the original recipes that are still treasured in the South Carolina Lowcountry, from benne wafers to cooter soup. (The recipe for the latter which begins with “Kill cooter by chopping off head …”)

I may not be making that soup any time soon, but I have been longing to make the recipe for Shrimp and Corn Pie ever since I came across it.

This is a simple side dish to put together, as there aren’t many ingredients. That means you need the finest and freshest you can find. Don’t skimp on either the corn or the shrimp, or you’ll be able to taste it in every bite.

I doubled the recipe, which necessitated a longer cooking time in order for the custard set up. I turned it into a main course with a small green salad on the side.

Since the recipe didn’t specify what size shrimp to use, I used what I had on hand: colossal shrimp (15 to a pound). That was great for a main course. But if I were making this as a side dish, I would probably use something much smaller, maybe medium or medium large shrimp, so you can eat everything together easily without having to cut the shrimp before taking a bite.

The recipe also didn’t specify what size dish to bake this in. I used a small, 10 1/2 x 7-inch casserole dish for double the recipe.

Have fun playing around with the ingredients. Use crab meat instead of shrimp. Kick things up a notch by including 1/4 cup of onion and minced jalapeño sautéed in butter, or perhaps you could use cayenne pepper in addition to black pepper. Try adding crumbled bacon to the mix.

A word of warning: A very little mace goes a long way in this dish. If it’s not your favorite spice, think about leaving it out altogether.

Shrimp and Corn Pie

2 cups corn, grated or cut from cob or 1 (16-ounce) can of corn
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cooked shrimp
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Mace, to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

To grated corn, add eggs, butter, milk, shrimp, Worcestershire sauce and seasoning. Bake in a buttered casserole for 30 minutes or until the custard sets.

Makes 6 servings.

From Mrs. Rees F. Fraser (Mary Maybank)/”Charleston Receipts”


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Like a Good Brew? There Are Plenty of Chances to Enjoy One

Like a Good Brew? There Are Plenty of Chances to Enjoy One

The arrival of September means Oktoberfest is in the air. And Oktoberfest means beer, beer and more beer. Plenty of events, new beers and old favorites are waiting for you.

Alamo brewery aims for Dec. 6

Alamo-Golden-Beer-BottlesAlamo Beer Company’s plans to build a brewery in downtown San Antonio have progressed to the point that president Eugene Simor has announced that it will be open for business on Fridays, starting Dec. 6.

Private parties can also be held there starting in November and continuing through March, when the full facility should be up and running.

This has been the biggest step in the development of the San Antonio brewery, which has been on the scene for more than 10 years.

If you have questions about Alamo Beer, email

Untapped set for Sept. 20

Untapped, the Houston festival celebrating independent music and beer, is set for Sept. 20. It will be at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St.

Participating breweries include Saint Arnold, Karbach, Real Ale, Shiner, Jester King, Martin House, Oasis Texas Brewing Co., Goose Island and Abita, among others.

Musicians in the lineup include the Toadies, Bad Books, Bright Light Social Hour and Robert Ellis.

Tickets are $30 for the music only, $38 for music and beer, and $62 for a VIP ticket. For more information, click here.

San Antonio Beer Festival on Oct. 13

beer fest logoThe SA Current is hosting the 2014 San Antonio Beer Festival on Oct. 18 at Maverick Park at the corner of Broadway and Jones Avenue.

More than 200 craft and premium beers will be poured during the event, including brews from the Granary, Branchline Brewing, Blue Star Brewing Co., Ranger Creek, Independence Brewing Co., (512) Brewing Company, Twisted X Brewing Company, Save The World Brewing Co. and 5 Stones Artisan Brewery.

Right now, tickets for the event are priced at $35 apiece, or $80 for VIP tickets. But they will go up Sept. 15 and again Oct. 13. Food will be available for purchase. For more information, click here or call (210) 227-0044.

Saint Arnold dinner at Q

Q Kitchen|Bar Beer at the downtown Hyatt, 123 Losoya St., is hosting a Saint Arnold beer dinner at 6 p.m. Sept. 8.

“We selected Saint Arnold Brewing Company for the rich, full flavors that perfectly enhance the cuisine being prepared by Chef Russell Young,” says Hyatt Regency Food and Beverage Director, Stephen Drew. “Plus, their seasonal brew is outstanding!”

The evening will begin with passed hors d’oeuvres including BBQ deviled eggs, mini twice-baked potatoes with smoked pork and black drum ceviche with Fancy Lawnmower, a German-style Kölsch that is crisp, with a sweet, malty body. They will be followed by a three-course dinner featuring wild boar-stuffed squid and Oktoberfest, a full-bodied, malty, slightly sweet beer; braised beef short rib and the peachy double IPA Endeavour; and Mexican spiced cake with the floral Santo.

Tickets are available at $45 per person and can be purchased by calling Q Kitchen|Bar at (210) 510-4477.

Busted Sandal dinner at La Cantera

busted sandalLa Cantera Resort, 16641 La Cantera Parkway, is hosting a Busted Sandal dinner at 8 p.m. Sept. 27.

The menu includes a deep-fried citrus turkey egg roll and split pea dip paired with 210 Ale, barbecued eel and foie gras toast points and chili mole with a caramel baked apple paired with El Robusto Porter, hickory grilled pork tenderloin with Slippery Rock, and Fire Pit Wit fruit cake with Fire Pit Wit.

The price is $50 a person. Call (210) 558-6500 for reservations.

Twang sees orange

Twang, the maker of beer salts, has introduced a new flavor, orange, just in time for Texas Longhorns season. It tastes a little like Tang or a Pixie Stix with salt added, and that ain’t so bad. Try it with a hefeweissen or a Belgian wheat beer for a real treat.


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Oasis Texas Brewing Co. Has Plenty of Pleasure on Tap

Oasis Texas Brewing Co. Has Plenty of Pleasure on Tap

The Oasis Texas Brewing Co. is now open over Lake Travis in Austin.

The Oasis Texas Brewing Co. is now open over Lake Travis in Austin.

Perched high above Austin’s Lake Travis sits the Oasis Texas Brewing Co., one of the state’s newest breweries. It’s part of the sprawling, multi-story development where the Oasis restaurant has entertained locals and tourists alike for more than a decade.

At the Oasis Texas Brewing Co., you can enjoy a beer, have food and relax.

At the Oasis Texas Brewing Co., you can enjoy a beer, have food and relax.

The complex has served as the home of Lakeview Winery for several years now, so it somehow makes sense to add a brewery to the mix. But the brewery’s space, on the top level, isn’t just for tanks. You can also taste the beer and get dinner while watching the sun set or people as they enjoy the water below. Live music and sports events on the various TV screens are also part of the experience.

But it’s the brew that makes or breaks an enterprise like Oasis, and it’s nice to report that each of the brewery’s initial offerings are refreshing in their individual ways. The lineup includes three offerings in 12-ounce cans, each with an alcohol percentage below 5 percent, which means you can likely have more than one without feeling tipsy or bloated:

Luchesa Lager — This unfiltered pils, with a green eye on the label, is “brewed in the traditional Kellerbier style, where subtle malt notes marry with assertive Hallertau and Saaz hops,” the can says. What it doesn’t say is how clean and crisp it is. This is a perfect brew for after you’ve mowed the lawn or worked in the garden on a sweltering September afternoon.  You’re greeted by a slightly sour aroma as you pour the pale yellow liquid into the glass. A nice amount of bubbles greets your eye, and the taste is pleasantly bitter. 4.8 percent alcohol; original gravity 11.5; and International Bittering Units 35.

London Homesick Ale — The can tells you this ale is made with “copious amounts of English Challenger hops and a classic English yeast strain,” but a sip or  two of the contents might leave you scratching your head at that description. The hops are well in check, with some malty and yeasty notes on the nose, but nothing “copious” awaits you — except perhaps copious pleasure from a brew that gains a little complexity from some fruity notes under a welcome blend of malt and bread flavors. 4.9 percent alcohol; og 12.5; ibu 27.

oasis2Slow Ride Pale Ale — The side of the can calls this an “American muscle beer” that’s been “super-charged with Chinook, Cascade and Columbus hops.” This American pale ale is the one beer in the Oasis lineup that lives up to its description. There’s a pleasant citrus quality to the aroma as you pour it into the glass. There’s a shiny copper color with a touch of haze and a steady bubble. The expected bitterness from the promised hops is made all the more welcome by a certain tingle that wakes up your tongue and taste buds. While I liked all of the Oasis offerings, this was my favorite by far. 4.8 percent alcohol; og 12; ibu 35.

The brewers are Spencer Tielkemeier and Kirby Kirkconnell, both of whom have had experience at (512) Brewing Company among other places.

To judge for yourself, you can find Oasis beers in San Antonio at Gabriel’s Superstore as well as Freetail Brewing, Tuk Tuk Taproom and Big Hops Gastropub among other restaurants and stores. Or you can visit the taproom at 6550 Comanche Trail, Austin, from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, 2 p.m. to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. For more information, click here.

Play games or watch them on TV at the Oasis Texas Brewing Co.

Play games or watch them on TV at the Oasis Texas Brewing Co.


Posted in Beer of the Week, Drinks0 Comments

Griffin to Go: On the Trail of Slang Jang

Griffin to Go: On the Trail of Slang Jang

When Bonnie Walker and I were driving across the state to research our new book, “Barbecue Lover’s Texas” (Globe Pequot Press, $21.95), we learned about Texas culinary treats that went far beyond brisket and the pit. One was a dish that bore the odd name of slang jang.

Slang Jang made with fresh ingredients.

Slang Jang made with fresh ingredients.

I never encountered it at a barbecue joint. I came across it, instead, in the “Eats: A Folk History of Texas Foods,” by Ernestine Sewell Linck and Joyce Gibson Roach. It was in a chapter on Central Texas foods, and the authors included a recipe but little context, except to say it was part of a proper Sunday dinner and was served over peas. Not green peas, mind you, but cream peas or black-eyed peas.

The recipe looked good, really good. It was a mix of items fresh from the garden, including tomato, green pepper, celery and onion dressed in vinegar and a little hot pepper.

I wanted to learn more, so I turned to the Internet. That’s when things started to get weird.

Mary Anne Thurman, in a post on the northeastern town of Honey Grove, Texas, said the dish originated with a bunch of men in a grocery store who just started mixing things together. Their recipe didn’t include too many fresh ingredients, as her recipe illustrates:

Mix undrained canned tomatoes with chopped dill pickles and chopped onion to taste.  Add a can of oysters, chopped.  Add Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste.  Add ice cubes to chill.  Serve with saltine crackers.

Many people vary this recipe.  Some add canned salmon or Vienna sausage in place of the oysters, or in addition to the oysters.

Thurman goes on to offer a vegetarian version that included crumbled saltines to thicken the mix.

Really? No, really?

No answers were forthcoming in September 2006 article in the Dallas Morning News, in which Angie Rhodes of another northeastern town, Malakoff, talks about the dish. But she did add a hyphen to the name:

“My dad grew up in a small town in northeast Texas in the ‘30s. During warm months, families in the community would come together on Saturday nights to visit and play dominoes. Each would bring an ingredient that would be mixed in a giant washtub for dinner. It was a sort of cold stew called ‘slang-jang.’ The ingredients were canned salmon, oysters, green onions, dill pickles, Vienna sausages and canned tomatoes.”

The recipes began to vary wildly, too, such as the Oxmoor House version, which calls for three tins of oysters mixed with three heads of cabbage, apples and hard-boiled eggs. Recipe Binder‘s version calls for tequila, Dijon mustard and barbecue sauce in addition to the tomatoes, onions and peppers, and you can use it on “burgers, dogs and sausages.”

The articles on slang jang go back to the Lawrence Journal-World of 1922, which describes the dish as “neither liquid salad nor chop suey, but a combination with a Mexican piquancy and a sufficient relish to satisfy a healthy appetite.” It goes on to quote a newspaper publisher’s wife, Mrs. J.R. Ransone Jr. of the Dallas area town of Cleburne, as being “a square meal, which will put so much pep in a person that he will feel he has supped from the fountain of youth, for what one ingredient fails to give, another furnishes fully.”

Ransone’s recipe includes a host of canned and preserved items, including oysters, tomatoes, sweet pickle and Tabasco as well as saltines.

The article does make a veiled reference to another legend about the recipe’s origin, which is that those men in that grocery store Thurman referred to were actually a bunch of guys who tied one on and wanted something to ease their hangover. That would explain the mix of ready-to-eat foods easily grabbed off shelves, from oysters to tomatoes, and the welcome touch of something spicy, which can help take the edge off.

So, is slang jang something made with canned goods or fresh foods? Of course, it’s made however you want to make it. No two recipes are alike. It is what you want to make it.

But that didn’t stop my research. In fact, it made me want to find other variations. So, I turned to my collection of community cookbooks from across Texas. No mentions of slang jang were found in any of cookbooks from towns west of the Piney Woods, but it was fairly common in those from East Texas. That sent me to the Deep South to see what I could find. Sure enough, there’s a version in the hefty “The Cotton Country Collection” from the Junior Charity League of Monroe, Louisiana.

Not all of these community cookbooks were easy to search. Not all have an index at the back, so I found myself leafing leaf through volume after volume to see if a slang jang recipe might be tucked in among appetizers (usually the version with smoked oysters) or grouped with relishes, pickles, condiments or accompaniments, which means it you might find it categorized with recipes for spicy broiled grapefruit, cherry sauce for ham, mustard pickled relish and even barbecue sauce.

But several of these recipes did feature another odd ingredient, Accent, otherwise known as monosodium glutamate, or MSG. Do you really want that in your food? That’s up to you.

Part of the fun of such research is experimentation, so I tried several of the recipes, including the oyster combination. It may sound bad and it lacked visual appeal, but it worked as a snack and the flavors blended together surprisingly well. I wouldn’t eat a lot of it, but I also wouldn’t try it with salmon and most definitely not Vienna sausages. I preferred the fresh version, such as the one in the recipe below. It is great by itself on a saltine or over black-eyed peas. That’s slang jang to me.

Mama Perkin’s Slang Jang

If you have a dish that needs a little zip, slang jang will do it. It’s traditionally served over freshly cooked purple-hull or black-eyed peas or butter beans.

2 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 hot peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Combine vegetables in a medium bowl. Add vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix well. Refrigerate.

Makes about 3 cups.

From “More Tastes & Tales From Texas With Love” by Peg Hein


Posted in Griffin to Go2 Comments

If You Pour Margaritas, San Antonio Will Come

If You Pour Margaritas, San Antonio Will Come

Pour a margarita, get an audience.

Pour a margarita, get an audience.

Sunday brought the second annual Margarita Meltdown to La Villita, and temperatures in the upper 90s made it seem as if melting were on the menu. But the showcase, sponsored in part by Milagro Tequila, still drew hundreds of thirsty San Antonians to sip their way through samples from a dozen places around town.

La Fogata has its own margarita fountain.

La Fogata has its own margarita fountain.

The list of participants included Cha-Cha’s, Alamo Cafe, Two Step Restaurant, Cafe Ole, Henry’s Puffy Tacos, the Cork Bar at the Hotel Contessa, La Tequilera del Patron, Ojos Locos Sports Cantina and La Fogata. Whiskey Cake also poured their margarita even though their restaurant isn’t set to open at the Shops at La Cantera until early November. Margarita Texas, a mix in need of only tequila and ice, also poured their version of the local favorite.

Cha-Cha's offers tacos as well as margaritas.

Cha-Cha’s offers tacos as well as margaritas.

Tuk Tuk Taproom and Cha-Cha’s were among the restaurants offer snacks to munch on between sips.

Fresh squeezed lime juice, tequila and agave nectar were all popular ingredients, though some booths also added their unique touch, including cucumber, mango, peach and even some spices and herbs, from cilantro to chipotle.

In case you missed the event but still want to enjoy a tasty variation on this classic cocktail, here’s a version from the 1970s as it appears in the Houston cookbook, “Cooking Collectibles.”


Place glasses in freezer after dampening edges and spinning the rim in salt.

3 ounces tequila
1 1/2 ounces triple sec or Cointreau liqueur
1 1/2 ounces lemon juice

Stir ingredients with ice. Strain into chilled glass.

Makes 1 serving.

From “Cooking Collectibles: Favorite Recipes from the Friends of the Greater Houston American Cancer Society,” edited by Ann Criswell.

James Gonzaba hands out margaritas from La Tequilera del Patron.

James Gonzaba hands out margaritas from La Tequilera del Patron.

The Puffy Taco wants a margarita.

The Puffy Taco wants a margarita.

Henry's Puffy Tacos uses an ice sculpture to chill its margaritas.

Henry’s Puffy Tacos uses an ice sculpture to chill its margaritas.

Posted in Drinks2 Comments

Chef Hamlet Dishes Up a Simple, Sensual White Bean Veloute

Chef Hamlet Dishes Up a Simple, Sensual White Bean Veloute

Chef Hamlet's White Bean Veloute

Chef Hamlet’s White Bean Veloute

Chef Hamlet Garcia, or simply Chef Hamlet to the lovers of TV food programs, was in San Antonio Wednesday as part of a fundraiser for KLRN. The star of “Vme Cocina” presented a cooking demonstration of the various dishes that were presented in a lavish dinner held at La Taquilera del Patron, 17776 Blanco Road.

One of the dishes from his Venezuelan homeland was a velvety white bean soup topped with queso fresco, bacon, chives and the earthy brilliance of a few drops of truffle oil. The soup is easy to make, though it takes a day to let the beans soak.

White Bean Veloute

12 slices of bacon
2 pounds of white beans, preferably soaked in water for 24 hours and drained
2 large ribs celery
1 large white onion, chopped in squares
5 cloves garlic, peeled
Fresh thyme
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 gallon chicken broth
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Queso fresco, cut into small cubes, for garnish
1/2 cup sliced chives, for garnish
4 tablespoons truffle oil, for garnish

Chef Hamlet speaks with guests at the KLRN dinner.

Chef Hamlet speaks with guests at the KLRN dinner.

Cook the bacon in the oven or in a pan until it is very crisp. Remove from the pot and save the fat for later. Finely chop or crush the bacon in a food processor; reserve for garnishing the dish.

In a saucepan, add the bacon fat and briefly cook the onion and celery in it; stir constantly without browning. When the onions are translucent, add the drained white beans, thyme, garlic, butter, cream and chicken broth. When the liquid is boiling, simmer the beans for 90 minutes, stirring and mixing the ingredients occasionally in the pot. Add salt and pepper as necessary.

When the beans are tender, remove the pot from the heat and let it stand for one hour. Then, reserve a little of the broth and add the mixture in a blender or food processor; blend until it achieves a velvety texture. Then add the reserved broth and add salt and pepper as necessary to achieve the desired texture or taste.

Garnish each serving with queso fresco cubes, chives, bacon pieces and a few drops of truffle oil.

Makes 4-6 servings.

From Chef Hamlet

Posted in Featured, Recipes0 Comments


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