Tejas Cookers Are World Champions: Best Barbecue Ribs!


Alex Gutierrez, Vice President of Tejas Cookers, holds the prized World Champion trophy

The Tejas Cookers, under the leadership of Travis Lemos, won the 2014 Top Prize for barbecue ribs at the Houston Rodeo World Championship Bar-B-Que Contest.

The name Tejas refers to the first peoples of Texas who, living around Houston and East Texas about 11,500 years ago, developed highly organized civilizations.  Known as the “Hasinai” or “Tejas” chiefdom, they were powerful into the seventeenth century (La Vere, 2004).  Tejas Cooker, Travis Lemos, says “I love my heritage, my family, and friends.”

The competition at Reliant Stadium was fierce at the 2014 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, Feb. 27- March 1. Hundreds of barbecue pits, flamed and smoked in the Houston sun where more than 400 of the state and the nation’s Top barbecue teams competed for that coveted grand prize, what the Houston Rodeo brands, “World Champion.”  It was the Tejas Cookers who, with their Barbecue Ribs, took the trophy.


Adán Medrano (left) with Alfonso (Al) De La Fuente who, along with Duke Lemos and his son, Travis Lemos, were the original members of Tejas Cookers back in 1993.

The striking element in their style of cooking is cultural.  It’s all wrapped up in family, friendships, history, ritual and hospitality.  You can’t  just take the food separate from hospitality.  You’ve got to take the whole cultural, community context, and that surely makes the food more delicious.  “I love the ‘atmosphere’ of barbecue” says Travis.

Travis explains that “Tejas” is an ancient word that means friends and allies. When I approached the Tejas Cookers Tent at Reliant Stadium, Alfonso (Al) De La Fuente, one of the three original Tejas Cookers team(they are nine now) described the cookers as close friends and relatives from Houston and nearby Stafford.  Travis is the President and the Vice President is Alex Gutierrez from Houston.


Travis Lemos, President of Tejas Cookers, serving their grilled ribeye steaks for the Excelsior wine pairings.

Al introduced me to the other cookers and volunteers who prepare the tables and feed their guests. Raising money for charity is the goal.

“We love to help the community, and Rodeo raises money for scholarships,” says Lemos.   He repeats, “We love the livestock show and rodeo because they raise money for scholarship. It’s the biggest social event of the year.”

Travis learned his championship skills from his dad, Duke Lemos, whose barbecue skills kept him busy around town cooking for the extended family and friends.  With his father, Travis participated in other barbecue teams but kept saying to his father, “let’s do our own thing.”  Travis finally did so in 1993 when he started Tejas Cookers.  His dad, Duke, is the Executive Chef of the group.

Travis says that his own culinary approach is grounded in the tastes of his mother’s cooking.  “Momma’s home cooking: picadillo, carne guisada, homemade tortillas, and, of course his dad’s  barbecue and ribs.” He says his mom used chiles,  Jalapeños, and always a molcajete.

TejasCookersChampionSignThe tradition of cooking meats on an open fire and in wrappings is one handed down over thousands of years here in Texas, and the Tejas peoples developed culinary techniques that included making sausage, braising, roasting and steaming.  They were highly skilled pottery makers and used bowls and dishes to both cook and serve meals.  The various names used for sectors of this extended civilization include Caddos and Hasinai.  The Spaniards in Mexico had received news about the Caddo city-states of East Tejas, as noted in a letter written in 1676 by the bishop of Guadalajara:

“a populous nation of people, and so extensive that those who give detailed reports of them do not know where it ends.  These [who give the reports] are many, through having communicated with the people of that nation, which they call Tejas, and who, they maintain, live under an organized government, congregated in their pueblos, and….They have houses made of wood, cultivate the soil, plant maize and other crops, wear clothes and punish misdemeanors, especially theft.”(La Vere, 2004) (Bolton 1912)

Tejas Cookers are not afraid to explore new avenues.  This year they accepted a request from Glazer’s Distributors to hold a wine tasting event that would pair their barbecue with wines from Chile and Argentina distributed by Excelsior Wines.  As with most Texans, and certainly among Mexican American families, it’s obvious that barbecues don’t traditionally include wines.  Texans and Tejas folk like iced tea, BEER, agua fresca, soft drinks.  When Glazer’s invited me to attend the wine tasting event as a VIP blogger, I was readily interested:  trying new things can be delicious.


Argentinian Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011, from Excelsior Wines. Perfect with ribeye steak hot off the grill.

We tasted 2 whites and 3 reds, Casillero Del Diablo (Chile) and Trivento (Argentina) vineyards among them.  They were selected by JR Trevino, CSW, District Manager of Excelsior wines for central and south Texas.  The variations were interesting, delightful and demonstrated, again, the fabulous character of wines from Chile and Argentina. The Trivento Eolo Malbec, 2010 was a particularly nice discovery for me, since I don’t normally order Malbecs at restaurants.  I certainly will now.  This one is wonderfully rich and complex, with elegant floral aromas.  Brilliant.  JR, Excelsior, let me take a bottle home with me.

Among the Tejas cookers and volunteers, I did not see any wine tasting at all,  but the invited guests from hotels and hospitality surely did enjoy, as I did, the broad range of flavors, textures, and character presented.  So, when the Tejas Cooker volunteers served me a beautifully grilled ribeye steak with a lush Cabernet, I just forgot about everything and enjoyed the wonderful pairing, thinking to myself, “I don’t want to take notes, I just want to eat and drink.”  But, actually, my thoughts were about whether wine at barbecues among Texans and Tejas communities will become integrated into what Travis calls the “atmosphere” of barbecue.

After all is said and done, I find it intriguing that wines are dialoguing with communities of Native Americans and others.

The ancient architectures and language of the Tejas peoples who lived on the land where now stands Reliant Stadium are lost in time.  But the people themselves and their culinary customs live on, and the Tejas Cookers prove that delicious food never dies.

Travis says that they want to share their recipes and their methods. “Its so good to know someone else can cook just as well as you do. It’s time to start teaching people what you know.”

This is the recipe and method for Tejas Cookers World Champion Barbecue Ribs:


Take off the back, the silver skin of the ribs. With the spices, lightly coat the sides and don’t rub, just press down, on the meat.  The special rub is his own blend and it is called Tejas seasonings. (He will gladly share it, so leave a request on the Tejas Cookers FB page).  Then go ahead and cook for 3 hours at 275 F. Then you pull off the meat to wrap, using honey and light brown sugar on both sides. Put the meat side down, wrap in foil for 1 ½ hours at 275 F.  Then when you take it off, let it rest for 45 minutes to an hour. Then coat it with your favorite bbq sauce. Serve warm.

Congratulations and thank you for your generous spirit, World Champions, Tejas Cookers.

La Vere, D. (2004). The texas indians. College Station: Texas A & M University Press.
Bolton, Herbert. “The Spanish Occupation of Texas, 1519-1690.” The Southwester Historical Quarterly. no. 1 (1912): 1-26.

University of Houston Lecture: Texas Mexican Cuisine

This is a bookmark for students of yesterday’s class, part of the course, “Mexican American Culture,” at the University of Houston.TexasMexicanCuisine1The central, gulf coast and southern regions of Texas are the ancestral homelands of indigenous peoples, like the Karnkawas, Tonkawas, Coapites, our ancestors, who taught us the culinary techniques, ingredients and tools that we use today in Mexican American homes.  This is the site of the Olmos  Dam archaeological dig in San Antonio.  Found during a construction project in 1980′s, archaeologists believe this to be an earth oven.  The Olmos Dam site is 100 acres large and was home to generations of Native Americans, ancestors of today’s San Antonio Mexican Americans.  Baking, roasting, steaming and other techniques are handed down from generation to the next.  The date of this San Antonio earth oven has been fixed at between 4,000 and 4,5000 years ago (Dial et al. August 2010).
OmosDamSiteOvenThese are some of the dishes that we discussed during the class:  Agua de Jamaica, Albóndigas de Chile Ancho, and Chile Relleno.  All of the dishes use chiles (Well, not the Agua de Jamaica.  That has vodka).  But remember that chiles are for flavor and aroma, not for the level of capsaicin.  If you emphasize the level of “heat” and are going down the path of “killer” this or “3 alarm” that,  you’ve taken the wrong culinary turn.  It’s about the taste, flavor, aroma.TexasMexicanDishes3I have a select bibliography about Texas Indians and Texas Mexican food.  If you’d like a copy, please leave a comment or email me.

Let’s talk again and, next time, do some cooking.
Thank you.

Dial, Susan, and Steve Black. Texas Beyond History, Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, University of Texas at Austin, “Olmos Dam.” Last modified August 2010. Accessed April 16, 2014.

New Book on Texas Mexican Food, with 100 Recipes

Available now for advance purchase at Amazon,   Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and other retailers.Truly Texas Mexican_coverTruly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage In Recipes is the culinary story of the Texas Indians, Native Americans who are the ancestors of today’s Mexican American people of Texas.

Here’s what Chefs are saying:

  • “Adán Medrano speaks from his roots and shares his passion for food, providing an insightful perspective on an often mischaracterized Texas Mexican cuisine.”
    Alain Dubernard, CMB, The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio
  • “In the deepest part of our soul we are celebrating food and hospitality. These recipes share not only where our culinary traditions come from, but the resiliency of our ancestors and the healing power of food.”
    ―Johnny Hernández
    , chef/owner of La Gloria Street Foods of Mexico, The Frutería-Botanero, and El Machito
  •  ”Adán Medrano is putting the spotlight on a style of food that often has been overlooked. Once you explore this remarkable Texas Mexican cuisine you will discover a richness that will be cherished for generations to come.”
    Diana Barrios Treviño, owner of Los Barrios Enterprises

 Beginning in 900 AD, the point at which anthropologists identify distinct native communities and cultures in Texas, I describe the hundreds of indigenous tribes and their cuisine:  how they gathered and hunted food, planted gardens and cooked.  By detailing their culinary techniques developed over centuries–roasting, boiling, steaming, salting, drying, grinding, blending– I show the progression of foodways from one generation to the next. Blending foreign with native ingredients and using tested techniques, they created the delicious flavor profile of Indigenous Texas Mexican cooking today.

I should mention that my book is not about what is termed Tex-Mex food.  In Truly Texas Mexican I explain the differences between so-called Tex-Mex and the flavor profile of our indigenous Texas Mexican food.

AnaheimchilesmlThis unique flavor profile is laid out extensively in 100 recipes, each kitchen-tested and with step-by-step instructions.  Illustrated with full color photographs, the recipes shed a new culinary perspective on well-known dishes, like enchiladas and tamales by explaining the complexities of aromatic chiles and variously textured corn flours.  The recipes show how to develop flavor through technique as much as through ingredients.  The secrets of lesser known culinary delights are freely shared, such as the recipe for Turcos, sweet aromatic pork pastries, and  Posole, giant white corn treated with calcium hydroxide.

I learned these recipes from my amá (mother) and family since childhood.  Later, as I worked professionally, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and reconnected with home cooks, I came to realize that cooking is a powerful cultural practice integral to the history of Texas Indians, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Chicano people of today.

In sharing personal anecdotes, I hope to illuminate the role this cuisine plays in identity and community.  I also want to share with the wider cooking community:  delicous recipes, steeped in tradition, cooked for today’s lifestyle.

Grilled Clams in Tequila Broth

This recipe uses ingredients that were being employed and enjoyed by our Texas Indian ancestors long before 1400.  Archeologists have been able to determine that clams along the coastal bays were harvested most heavily from mid-April to late-July.  They were sometimes steamed in earth ovens lined with shells, but they were also cooked and smoked over hot rocks. (Dial, Black, Ricklis, Weinstein & ….Smith, 2009)

In this Texas Mexican recipe I grill the clams over an open Pecan wood fire. Then I toss them in a broth that combines Tequila with the juice of tomatoes and onions.  Mexican oregano finishes the dish with  an aromatic flair. 
The grilled, smoked elotes (corn) in the background make an excellent accompaniment.  That’s a party!

Recipe (serves 4 as an appetizer)

12 clams, washed and scrubbed
2 fluid ounces good quality white tequila.
2 Roma tomatoes, small dice
1 1/2 Tbsp white onion, minced
1 Tbsp Mexican Oregano, minced
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Light a small fire using Pecan wood. I use small pieces or logs of wood (10″) so you can control the heat.  To ignite them, use little balls of paper towels soaked in vegetable oil if you don’t have kindling.  When coals form, distribute them such that you have a hot zone (you can hold your hand over the coals no more than 3 seconds) and a less hot zone (5 seconds).

  • Alternately, use store-bought charcoal or your gas or electric grill.  I suggest adding some Pecan wood chips soaked in water if you can.  The smoke really infuses a wonderful taste dimension.

2. Place the tequila, tomatoes, onion, oregano and salt in a saucepan.  Place it over the low heat zone until the onions and tomatoes get soft and a juicy broth forms.  Meanwhile, relax and enjoy a beer.

3. Place the scrubbed clams directly on the grill on the hot zone.  In about five minutes the clams will start to pop open and as they do they’ll absorb the pecan smoke flavor.

4. Using a spatula or a large spoon, remove the clams from the smoke and place them in the tequila broth, tossing them slightly to combine all the ingredients.  The shells will be very hot and help to cook the vegetables further in the clam juice.

5. At this point you can hold them warm on the grill until you are ready to serve them with a nice crusty bread.  Invite me to your party!

¡Buen Provecho!


Dial, S., Black, S., Ricklis, R., Weinstein, R., & .Smith, S. (2009, Spring). Texas beyond history, shellfish. Retrieved from http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/coast/nature/images/shellfish.html



Posole, Pozole: White Corn Flowerettes In Aromatic Red Chile


Large white corn kernels pop open to form small little flowers.
Brilliant the cook that invented this attractive dish.PozoleKernelssml

Cooked with special combinations of red chiles it is a traditional dish that is also cooked by native communities northwest of us, Pueblos in New Mexico and Navajos in Arizona (Keegan, 2010). It is traditional from our Texas Mexican region all the day down to Jalisco, Mexico. It is spelled with an S in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico and with a Z in Mexico.  Pork is used to make the broth.  In this version I omit the pork and it is a vegan feast recalling the pre-pork days of our cuisine.

The process is molecular. Boil white, dry corn with calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) a process called nixtamalization which was invented by indigenous cooks thousands of years ago. Nixtamalization is from the Nahuatl root words, “nextli,” ashes and “tamallii,” tamal. The process changes the chemical structure of the kernel, making niacin available in digestion and boosting the availability of protein.


Nixtamalization heightens the availability of protein and removes the hull. The pedicle is removed for visual effect.


It also removes the skin from the kernel and improves the taste.  This is natural molecular cooking and the result is wonderfully nutty hominy.

If you don’t have the time for nixtamalization, you can certainly use canned hominy, maiz pozolero.

Recipe:  (Serves 8-12)

For the corn
1 ½ lbs Cacahuazintle, dried white corn for pozole. In Houston I buy this large white dried corn from any of our corn mills that perform nixtamalization to make tortillas and masa for tamales.
1 Tbs Calcium Hydroxide (slaked lime)
5 Garlic cloves
1 Tbs Salt
1 White onion, peeled and  cut into quarters

For the chile paste:
3 Guajillo Chiles, deseeded and deveined
2 Chiles Ancho
3 Garlic cloves
1 Tbs dry Mexican Oregano
1 tsp Cumin seeds

½ Cabbage, sliced into thin strips (I sometimes use shredded Iceberg lettuce)
1 bunch Radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup White Onion, small dice
3 Mexican limes, cut into wedges
1 bunch fresh Cilantro, coarsely chopped

The corn:
1. The night before, place the dry corn in a large pot and fill with water 4 inches above the corn.  Soak overnight.

2.  The following day, discard the water, then add  clean water and the calcium hydroxide, “cal.” Bring the water to a boil and boil the corn for 15 minutes. Check doneness by taking out one kernel and rubbing between your thumb and forefinger. If the outer, slippery skin rubs off easily, the corn is done. Let the corn soak in the water for 10 minutes, then drain.MaizPozolerosml

3. Place the corn in a bowl or pot of clean water and vigorously rub the kernels together to scrape away the slippery skin from all the kernels. Change the water as needed until you get no debris and the corn is clean and white. This is labor intensive. Some of the little brown seed germs on the kernel tips will fall off. That’s very good, because they have to be removed.

4. Use your fingernails or a knife or scissors to take off the little brown seed germ, pedicel, at the tip of each kernel. Although it’s not traditional, you can leave the pedicel on if you like.  Set aside.

The Chile paste:

5. Remove the seeds from the chiles by cutting a slit lengthwise in each chile to open it and remove the stem with the attached seeds. Remove all the other seeds in the chile pod.

6. Place the chiles in a large pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let the chiles steep for 15 minutes so they will re-hydrate. Drain and allow to cool. Discard the water.

7. Place the chiles, garlic, oregano and cumin in a blender. Add one cup of clean water and blend on high until the paste is completely smooth, with no large particles. It is ok to add a little more water if needed. If there are large particles in the paste after you are done blending, strain the paste through a fine mesh sieve.

8. Add the chile paste to the cleaned corn, adding enough water to cover three inches above the corn, and boil it for one hour or longer until the kernels burst open like little flower buds.  If you have kids, they’ll love this transformation.

Serve the pozole in bowls accompanied by finely shredded cabbage, thinly sliced radishes, lime wedges, Cilantro and diced white onion. Of course, steaming corn tortillas.


Posole: A vegan feast recalling our pre-pork cuisine.


Keegan, M. (2010). Southwest indian cookbook. Santa Fe: Clear Light Publishing.



Texas Mexican Crab Cocktail

When I bite into the succulent, sweet Texas Gulf crab meat I am taken back in time.

It is 1528 when Karankawas find bedraggled Spaniards shipwrecked on their shores, now called Galveston Island. Lucky for the Spaniards that the Karankawa nurse them, feed them.  Evidence of Karankawa civilization and food dates back to 700 AD so that  by 1500 our  Texas Indian ancestors have been preparing and eating seafood for centuries.(1)  They grilled seafood and also steamed it in shell-lined hearths.  Every Texas Gulf seafood dish today recalls our indigenous past.

I’ve chosen to prepare this  Texas Mexican crab cocktail because it is delicious for Springtime.  It has three layers, each distinctive in flavor and texture, that blend together beautifully.

Recipe (serves four as an appetizer)


1/2 lb lump crab meat, picked over, rinsed thoroughly in iced water and patted dry.

For the Pico de Gallo (called “Salsa Mexicana” in Mexico)

4 roma tomatoes, concasse
3 Tbs white onion, small dice
2 Tbs Jalapeño chile, seeded, deveined and diced small
3 Tbs Cilantro, coarsely chopped
juice of 2 Mexican limes
1/4 tsp salt

4 sprigs Cilantro for garnish

One Guacamole recipe as in my previous blog, but omitting the diced tomato and diced onion at the end.

4 Mexican limes, sliced in half

To prepare the pico de gallo I peel and seed the tomatoes (concassé) which is anathema in Texas Mexican cuisine.  We never peel the tomatoes.  Tomato peel is rich in lycopene which is a super-effective anti-oxidant and adds significantly to a healthy diet.  But, I’m doing so in this particular dish just because I want to show how to peel tomatoes if you ever have to or want to.   Besides, it gives a nod to the French side of our Texas Mexican history.  In regular pico de gallo the tomato is not peeled.

1. In a 3-quart saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.

2. With a sharp knife, pierce the skin of each tomato by making an X that extends all across the tomato.  You can see this in the picture to the right.  As best you can, cut only the skin and not the flesh.

3.  Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for only 30 seconds.

4.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.

5.  Peel the skin off each tomato, quarter them and seed them.  Then dice them small.

6. Combine the tomatoes concassé with the diced onion, diced Jalapeño chile, Cilantro, lime and salt.  Felicidades!  That’s the pico de gallo.

7.  In chilled sherbet glasses layer the guacamole on the bottom, then the pico de gallo (NOTE: save some for garnish on top) and finally the lump crabmeat.

8. Garnish with a little pico de gallo and a sprig of Cilantro.   Serve with halved Mexican limes.

As always, please let me know how this turns out if you make it. Hasta luego,


NOTES:  (1) The Indians of Texas, W.W. Newcomb, Jr.


Meatballs in Tomato Sauce – Albóndigas en Salsa De Tomate

Meatballs can be German, Swedish, Italian, Spanish or Mexican, pivoting toward this way or that, depending on the addition of ingredients specific to a country’s flavor profile.

My recipe here is in no way a traditional Mexican albóndiga, but it is Mexican-inspired because it is based on the classic trio combination of chile (here it’s Chile De Arbol), white onion and garlic.  The flavor  all happens in a molcajete, as you’llChileAjoPasteMolcajetesee in the recipe.   To reduce the amount of fat, I oven-roast the meatballs on high heat, browning them and thus imparting flavor and color. By adding the Mexican oregano, not from central Mexico but the one  that is native to Texas and northern Mexico, Poliomintha longiflora, these albóndigas become quite delicious Texas Mexican meatballs immersed in hearty tomato sauce.

Recipe:(makes 18 meatballs)

1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1-2 slices bread, ground finely into bread crumbs, 1/2 cup
1 Chile De Arbol
2 Garlic Cloves
3 Tbs white onion, small dice
1 tsp Salt
3 Tbs Parsley, finely minced
Hearty  Tomato Sauce Recipe from blog post
2-3 sprigs Texas Mexican Oregano

ChileAjoPasteMolcajetesmlMethod: Preheat oven to 4000F
1.  In a molcajete, grind the chile, onion, garlic and salt into a fine paste
2. In a large bowl combine the pork, beef,  molcajete paste, parsley and bread crumbs.  Make sure the molcajete paste is thoroughly combined into the meat.
3. Form into 2 1/2 inches diameter balls and place two inches apart on a baking sheet with sides.
4.  Place in the pre-heated oven and roast for 40-45 minutes until they develop a deep brown color and slightly crispy exterior.
5.  Transfer to a caserrole and cover with the hearty tomato sauce, adding the sprigs of oregano.   You can hold the dish warm until you are ready to serve.

When ready to serve, heat in a 3000F oven until the sauce bubbles.

¡Buen provecho!



Pimento Cheese Spread — Chile Dulce With Cheese

I love this chile-cheese spread.  It’s common all across the southern US, and it is so beloved that folk get into nasty fights and feuds about the correct ingredients and taste.
Long live beloved food! ChileDulceConQueso

This recipe is rich and bold, contrasting the roasted, pungent sweetness of Chile Dulce (red bell pepper or pimento) with really good Cheddar cheese.  I add some Chile De Arbol for a slight fiery kick that heightens the taste.

ChileDulceStripssmlChile Dulce  is native to Mexico and was taken to Spain  by Christopher Columbus.  The Spaniards loved the sweet, non-hot taste of this chile, and eventually made it an essential ingredient of their traditional cuisine.  They call it Pimentón.  By the 1560′s, these chiles had reached the Balkans where they were called peperke or paparka (Filippone).   Hungary was particularly creative in making a home for the Chile Dulce, calling it “Paprika,” and it is now central to Hungarian cuisine.

The name change from “chile” to “pepper” is based on the confusion of the Europeans upon encountering the Mexican chiles.  Columbus and others were actually looking for India, so when they landed in the Caribbean and South America they called us “Indians.”  The name stuck.  Also, the only hot, fiery spice the Spaniards knew was the Black Pepper of India, “Pimienta.” So, they applied that name to the chile, “Pimentón.”  And that’s how we now  have “Pimento Cheese” instead of what I call it: “Chile Dulce With Cheese.”  Hmmm, language and food.

Enough talk.  Let’s eat!

Recipe (Makes 3 cups)

1 lb Cheddar Cheese, grated.  Use really tasty cheddar.
10 ounces Roasted “Red Bell Peppers,” small dice. Store-bought, usually in a 12-ounce jar.
3/4 cup Mayonnaise.  You’re probably not making your own, so buy a high quality brand.
1 Large Chile De Arbol (1/4 tsp) ground to a fine powder using a molcajete or spice grinder
Salt to taste
A generous grind of Black Pepper, “Pimienta”

1.  In a large bowl,  blend together the mayonnaise and chile de arbol
2.  Add the cheddar, the chile dulce, and mix thouroughly using a rubber spatula.
3. Taste, and add a little salt if needed.  I usually add about 1/4 tsp, depending on the saltiness of the cheese.  Give a good grind with the Black Pepper mill.
3. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  Before serving, make sure to bring it back to room temperature to release the aroma and flavors.

Serve it as a spread with a variety of crackers or make sandwiches, cut into quarters.


Filippone, P. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/paprikahistory.htm

What Do Food And Film Have in Common? #3: “Layering”

Logo Adan

“Layering” happens when one element is placed over another so that we experience them separately and also together over time.  Both film and food use the technique of layering to provide a dense and revelatory experience that pushes us beyond a one-dimensional and simplistic way of experiencing the world around us.  Think of the many layers of textures and taste in a breakfast taco and compare that to films that superimpose images one over another.

Houston is a new feature by Bastian Günther that relies on the layering of images, one over the other, to create its view that today’s corporate, commercial, global economy is vapid.  The film is visually stunning, due in no small part to the use of found old camera lenses that refract light magnificently and during important scenes flood the screen image with multi-colored beams and spots.

Shooting completely on 35mm film, not digital as is mainly the case today, Günther worked with cameraman, Michael Kotschi, to first find the lenses (Europe and LA) and then use them to capture light and layer it over the image to give certain scenes added dimensions of meaning.  The movie is about Clemens Trunschka, a depressed headhunter from Germany travelling to Houston to hire a high-ranking executive.  His trip is a miserable failure.  What enriches the film’s fine writing and directing and helps make it go beyond the expected “blame global corporations for our troubles” films is this use of layering.  When I saw the lens flares, spots and beams (and there are a lot of them in this film) I found myself considering other questions about how natural elements are always at play with humanly-constructed ones, and that light is pervasive.

A second layering technique Günther uses is superimposition.  HoustonLayering1sml

Not to worry, he stays very far from clichés and pointless artifice.  When he overlays certain images over others, they make sense individually and together to advance the movie’s point that we are all bundled up with money, technology, a corporate economy and we are trying to make our way through this stuff.  The film is really intriguing, and every shot is there for a reason. I often wonder if only independent filmmakers are capable of making films that are so visually rich.  Well probably not, but it’s interesting that the Houston premiere of Houston was hosted not by a commercial venue but by The Southwest Alternate Media Project, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Cinema Arts Festival and the Houston Film Commission.

“Layering” is a culinary term that describes how one flavor or texture  is placed over another to create a dish that besides being delicious, is rich, multifaceted, complex.  Chef Hinnerk Von Bargen, Faculty at the Culinary Institute of America and author of the book, Street Foods, explains that “everything is assembled, sometimes at the last moment, and you first detect each individual flavor, then it gradually comes altogether, but not in a homogenous way.”  He points to French ratatouille and German braised cabbage as dishes that develop phenomenal flavor as a result of layering.  A very familiar example is a hamburger where the lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle are layered over the meat and the bun is layered over that.  Chef Von Bargen says that even the sesame seed on top of the bun is a layered flavor and texture element that helps to nuance the eating experience.

Papas con Huevo 3

“Papas Con Huevo” taco employs the culinary technique of layering flavors.

“Papas Con Huevo” taco is a perfect example of successful layering.  In this taco, the potato is first layered with a crisped surface, this accomplished by sautéeing, which changes both the color and the taste of the potato.  Egg is layered over that.

The flour tortilla has two layers, a softer inner core and a thin, crispy surface leaf that develops when cooked properly.  In the picture you can see that the surface leaf is bubbling out.  Honestly, I sometimes cannot wait for the taco and I just eat the tortilla as is. I advise my friends to never think of a tortilla as a “wrap.” That understanding of the tortilla is simplistic, one-dimensional, and ignores the several taste and texture dimensions that are a result of layering.

It’s obvious, of course that placing the “papa con huevo” inside the tortilla is creating yet another layer of complexity.  And when you finish the taco with a layer of red salsa, oh my goodness, you have created a taco that is rich, multifaceted, and perfectly delicious.

“Layering” helps both film and food become art forms that are dense, complex and beautiful.


2013 End Of Year: Food & Film

I burn this fire on the last day of the year.
On a piece of paper, I write my ups and downs of 2013 and sign it.
I throw it into the fire.

In this last blog I’m going to simply list some favorite 2013 food and film posts.  I hope I’ve posted some things that you found interesting.  It’s been a delicious year, and I welcome all that 2014 will bring.

Chicano Films and Indigenous Texas Mexican Food

Grilled Clams in Tequila Broth ClamsElote2sml

Stereotypes In Food & Film

Chef Iliana De La Vega Admonition on how to cook good food, culturally relevant and delicious.

Chef Johnny Hernandez emphasizes the subtleties of food, and the importance of ownership.

And finally, a toast to the new year and my New Book with a Red Jalapeño Champagne Cocktail.

Truly Texas Mexican_cover










Happy 2014!