Smoking A Thanksgiving Turkey, “Guajolote Ahumado”

AMSmokingTurkeyandPorkKarla McLaughlin continues a practice that began here in 800 B.C., the domestication of turkeys.  I’m grateful to Karen who drove all the way from Montgomery to my home in Houston to deliver this 15 pound organic-fed, free-roaming turkey and two pork loins.  She generously took the time because I was in a pinch, facing a party deadline. She is a one-of-a-kind farm owner.  Knowledgeable, caring and meticulously strict about raising the turkeys and other animals that she and her husband, John, tend on their farm.

They call it “Olde World Farms” and it is located in Montgomery, Texas. No antibiotics, no animal products in their feed.  The turkeys stay inside large barns until they are big enough so that the hawks won’t swoop them up. Then they grouse around and eat freely on the farm.  On Saturdays Olde World Farms sells at the Urban Harvest Eastside Street Farmers Market.
SmokedTurkeyBordersmlTo prepare the turkey for smoking, this is what I used to make the
3 gallons warm water
1 lb salt
12 ounces light brown sugar
1 Tbs onion powder
1 Tbs garlic powder
Stir until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved then let the brine cool down completely.
1.  I used a syringe to inject some of the brine into the meat. the total amount of brine should be 10% of the weight of the turkey.  Here’s the math for a 15 lb turkey.
15 X 16 ounces = 240 ounces
240 ounces X .10 = 24 ounces of brine. (FYI: One fluid ounce of water weights exactly 1 ounce)
2.  Using a plastic or stainless steel container, submerge the turkey in the brine and refrigerate for 3 days. The container was too heavy and large for my refrigerator so I partially filled a large ice chest with ice and a little water and set the container in it.  Closing the ice chest, the temperature is maintained at a safe 37-39 degrees F
3. After the third day, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it thouroughly with fresh water, pat dry and place in the fridge, uncovered, for 16 hours until a pellicle forms on the skin.  This tacky glaze will help absorb smoke and keep in the moisture.  I hate to say this but in the interest of efficiency, omit this step if you don’t have time to do this or if there’s no room in the fridge.
4. Smoke the turkey in Pecan wood at 185 F for about 6-8 hours until the internal temperature reaches 165 F.
Ok, yes,  you can enjoy a beer meanwhile, and ponder this:
A)  The habit of cooking and eating turkey predates us by centuries and
B) The bird came from Mexico and is native to this land, Americas.mapCaboMexicoI’ve placed a dot on the location of Coba, Mexico, near Cancún.(1) This is where archeologists have found the earliest evidence of turkey remains.  They are dated 100 BCE-100 CE.  From there the turkey went north and populated North America, evidence of the vibrant trade and communication withiin the region pre-1400’s.   By the time the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, we had domesticated turkeys not just in Mexico but also in what is now the US New Mexico and Texas (2).  Thereafter the turkey, wild and domesticated, populated the whole of the US and some of Canada. By your second beer, you will have pondered that we and the turkey go back a long way.Let me know how it turns out if you decide to smoke for Thanksgiving.  ¡Feliz Día de Dar Gracias!


(1) map used by permission of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

(2) “Native Americans First Tamed Turkeys 2,000 Years Ago” Feb 1, 2010 by Jennifer Viegas

(this post first published November 16, 2011)


Crock-Pot Carne Guisada, Salsa con Aguacate

In the morning I place all the ingredients in a crockpot, low heat. When it’s ready at suppertime I make a quick, fresh salsa that has bits of avocado, giving this taco a creamy mouth feel.

Taco de Carne Guisada

Carne Guisada is great in the crock pot, and it’s really exactly the technique that Texas natives were using in the Archaic and Prehistoric periods, 6,000 B.C to 1,500 A.D. (Mercado-Allinger, Aten, Avery, Bement, Blaine, …. & Weir, 2008)  They’d construct a bowl and use hot  stones to slow-boil meat and vegetables.

If you don’t have time in the morning to brown the meat and sauté the vegetables, skip that step and just place all the ingredients in the crock pot and turn it on.

Recipe: serves 4

1 lb round steak
1 green bell pepper
1 small white onion, sliced (approximately one cup in volume)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbs peanut, canola or other vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

For the Salsa:
1 Haas avocado (here’s a tip on how to select avocados at the grocery store)
1 small Serrano chile
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1/4 cup white onion, small dice
1/8 tsp salt

1. Dry the round steak and sprinkle with salt
2. In a skillet, heat the oil to the point that it shimmers and brown the steaks, just about 30 seconds on each side, then place them in a crockpot.  (Browning the beef gives it additional color and flavor. Omit this step if you’re in a rush.  You can also omit sautéeing the vegetables)
3. In the same skillet sauté the onions and green bell peppers until the onions are translucent.  Transfer them to the crock pot, covering the beef.
4. Deglaze the skillet with the water and add it also to the crock pot along with the garlic, salt and pepper.  Cook on slow heat for about 6-9 hours
5. With tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the beef and set aside.  It will be falling-apart tender.
6. Pour the liquid into a sauce pan or skillet and boil on high heat, mashing the ingredients a little to help thicken the sauce.  Cook uncovered until the sauce is reduced by half.  Add salt and pepper to correct the seasoning as necessary.
7. Add the beef to the sauce and heat through. It is ready to serve.

To make the Salsa con Aguacate:
1. Using a molcajete or other mortar and pestle, mash the salt and chile Serrano into a fine paste.
2. Add the tomato and smash it a bit to combine with the chile.
3. Fold in the onion and avocado dice.

Make tacos using hot flour tortillas and recount what happened during your day!

¡Buen provecho!


Mercado-Allinger, P., Aten, L., Avery, G., Bement, L., Blaine, J.,.,, & Weir, F. (2008). Cook stone. In Texas Beyond History. Austin: The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved from .html

Fried Chile De Arbol Salsa

The variations are many for developing flavor in chiles for adobos, moles or salsas.

In this salsa, the flavor of the Chile De Arbol is deepened by frying it together with onion and garlic. When it is served, the black flecks in the salsa make it look earthy, and I even detect some smokiness in the flavor.

Recipe: (makes 2 cups)

2 Chile de Arbol
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs white onion, diced
1 Tbs Canola or vegetable oil
4 roma tomatoes, canned or fresh, roughly cut up

1.Heat the oil in a skillet, add the chile de arbol, onion and garlic and fry them until the chile darkens in color and the onions are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside to cool.
2. Add the tomaotes to the same skillet and cook for 4 minutes on medium heat. Remove and set aside to cool.
3. When the ingredients are cool, place them in a blender and blend until you have a smooth purée. There will still be some small flecks of fried chile, adding nice texture and color to the salsa.

This is the type of salsa that you’ll want to add to egg tacos, potatoes, beef casseroles and any type of grilled fish or meats.  Make a batch and keep it handy in the fridge.  It will keep for 7 days.  ¡Buen Provecho!


“Truly Texas Mexican” Dishes Help Raise Money For Libraries


Guests and Members of the San Antonio Public Library L3 Committee enjoy a tasting of “Truly Texas Mexican” dishes

One of the pleasures, honors really, that this book has brought me is to be able to help raise funds for libraries.  Last month the L3 committee of dedicated volunteers raised funds for the San Antonio Library Latino Resources Center. The glittering evening was amazing and so meaningful because it will help the San Antonio Library for generations to come.

Next week I will be in Abilene, Texas, invited by the Friends Of The Library, for a book signing event and a gala dinner, black tie, that will feature four Texas cookbook authors.  It’s a privilege to join the other authors, whom I admire, and help the Abilene Library.  It will be held at the Abilene Country Club.


Black Tie Gala Dinner, Abilene Country Club, features four cookbook authors

I thought I’d share the menu that the chefs of the Abilene Country Club have decided to prepare for the black-tie gala.  The chefs pored through the hundreds of recipes in all four cookbooks and selected the following dishes to prepare, serve and pair with Texas wines. I’m looking forward to this marvelous gala dining experience.  Signing my book will be in the context (as it always is) of interesting conversations and sharing of varying perspectives.

September 25, 2014 – 6:00 p.m.
Abilene Country Club – 4039 Treadaway Blvd.


℘ ℘ Hors d’ Oeuvres
Polenta Rounds with Cheese, Chive Pesto, and Red Pepper Pastry Queen Parties
Ancho Chile Meatballs — Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage in Recipes
Landon Sparkling Red Moscato
Lost Oak Blanc du Bois

℘ ℘ Dinner Menu
Soup: Sopa de LimaThe Homesick Texan’s Family Table: Lone Star Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours
Traditional Pairing: Yellow Rose, Landon Winery
Daring Paring:   2012 Chenin Blanc, Becker Vineyards

Salad: El rancho Chopped Salad with Cornbread Croutons and Creamy Poblano Dressing Pastry Queen Parties
Traditional Pairing: 2013 Vermentino, Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards
Daring Paring:   2013 Provencal Becker Winery

First Entrée:CrabCakes2smlCrab Cakes with Chipotle Yerbaniz Mayonnaise— Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage in Recipes
Traditional Pairing: 2012 Viognier, Becker Winery
Daring Paring: 2012 La Reina Tempranillo, Red Caboose

Watermelon Ice with Blueberries — Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage in Recipes


This “Raspa De Sandía” takes me back to the San Antonio Westside.

Second Entrée: Jalapeno Pesto Stuffed Pork Roast with Orange Asparagus — The Homesick Texan’s Family Table: Lone Star Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours
and Purple Chipotle Garlic Mashed Potatoes   The Texas Holiday Cookbook

Traditional Pairing: 2012 Dawson Red, Lost Oak Winery
Daring Paring: Riesling, Landon Winery

Capirotada — Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage in Recipes

Traditional Pairing: Port Style “Some of that Red”, Red Caboose
Daring Paring: Besitos de Chocolate, Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards

Fricos With A Touch Of Chile

Serve these little curved wafers with sparkling wine.

FricoAndChampagnePoursmlThe lace-work texture is crispy, light, and perfect for enjoying the subtle flavors of wine. Parmesan cheese and black pepper are a natural combination, and I add a little chile de arbol to brighten things a bit.  It’s advantageous that these parmesan crisps can be done in minutes.  It’s like: “Enchílame otro!”

Recipe (makes eighteen  4″ fricos)

1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Small pinch of finely ground chile de arbol powder

Pre-heat oven to 375°
1.  Mix together the three ingredients so that they are evenly distributed
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place 1 Tablespoon of the cheese mixture in a mound, then spread into a 4-inch round. There should be no holes in the round. The lace-work holes will form during baking. Leave a 2-inch space between each round.
3. Place in the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes, until you see the cheese bubbling and getting just bit of color.FricoPlateClose4. Remove from the oven and, while they are still hot and pliable, use a spatula to lay each one onto a rolling pin, giving them a curved shape.  Allow them to cool, after which they will hold their shape.
5.  The fricos will keep for several days in an air-tight container.

Pop the bubbly!



Camarón y Calabacita – Shrimp with Squash Noodles

Sometimes, when you want a break from wheat and gluten, you can enjoy a variety of delicious dishes that harken back to the days before wheat was grown in the Americas.
This is one of them:  Shrimp with Tatuma Squash Noodles, “Camarón y Calabacita.”  The basic ingredients are all native to the Texas Mexican region:  tomato, Tatuma squash, chile, salt and Texas Gulf shrimp.  Onion, garlic and yummy olive oil, as ingredients arriving in the 1600s, chime in to make this a delicious dish for company.ShrimpCalabacitasml I use Chile De Arbol because of its light, subtle flavor.  Slow cooking the onions releases the sugars and adds a sweetness to the bite of the tomato and the mild chile (remove the seeds.)  You’ll find Italian dishes that are a variation of this original Mexican dish, like the delicious Pasta Fra Diavolo, named after an Italian opera, spicy and rogue.  This “calabacita” dish is only slightly spicy and certainly not rogue.

Recipe (serves 4)

"Calabacita" is also called "Tatuma" and is an heirloom squash native to MesoAmerica

“Calabacita” is also called “Tatuma” and is an heirloom squash native to MesoAmerica

24 Shrimp, peeled and deveined (30-35 per pound)
10 Roma Tomatoes, sliced lengthwise into 4 or 6 slices
1 Yellow Onion, large, thinly sliced
3 Calabacitas or Tatuma Squash, large, unpeeled, sliced into 1/8″ inch square noodle shapes (you can subsitute Zuchinni)
2 Chiles De Arbol, seeds removed and ground into a fine powder using a molcajete or spice grinder
3 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil and an additional
2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil for sautéing the squash
1 1/2 tsp Salt or to taste


1. Heat a large, deep sauté skillet over medium heat and add 1/4 cup olive oil and the sliced onions.  Lower the heat to low and cook the onions, uncovered, until they are very soft and translucent but not browned, about 20 minutes.
2.Slice the Tatuma squash, lengthwise, into 1/8 slices.  Then, holding the slices together, on top of each other, slice them again, lengthwise, making long 1/8 inch square strands.  Set aside.
3.  Add the tomatoes and chile and 1 tsp salt to the onions, raise the heat to medium high, and cook, uncovered, for five minutes.  The mixture should be soupy and watery.  If it is too dry, add 1/4 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil.
4.  Add the minced garlic and cook for one minute.
NOTE:  You can do this up to 6 hours before your party.  Hold both the tomato and the squash in the fridge until you are ready to finish the dish.
5. When the tomato mixture is boiling, add the shrimp and cook, uncovered, for about 3-4 minutes until the shrimp become bright white and just opaque.  Stir as necessary.  Don’t overcook the shrimp because they will become rubbery.  Adjust the salt.
6.  Heat a skillet over high heat and add 2 Tbs EVOO.  When the oil begins to shimmer, add the squash, 1/2 tsp salt, and cook until the squash is tender, stirring to insure even cooking, about 7 minutes.

Place a mound of the squash on each plate and top with the shrimp. Serve immediately.

Texas Mexican Breakfast: Migas con Chile

Migas is a traditional Texas Mexican breakfast.  I’d like to see more kitchens preparing it because it’s

1.  zesty and delicious,
2.  high in easily digestible protein1,
3. low-fat, and
4. rich in vitamins and minerals.

The word means crumbs and it refers to the pieces of corn tortillas that are used to make the dish.  Many cultures have developed their own crumb dishes as, for example, the Spanish with their version of migas and Italians with panzanella.  Ours is quick for breakfast and it’s nutritious.  I grew up eating migas this way. Notice there is no cheese (ugh) and there is no cilantro or oregano or cumin.  Who needs that for breakfast.

Recipe (serves 2)
(This recipe is excerpted from the book, Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage In Recipes, published by Texas Tech University Press in the series: Grover E. Murray Studies In The American Southwest)

4 Eggs (You can do what I do and discard two of the yolks to reduce fat and cholesterol. )
4 corn tortillas, each cut into eighths
 1 Tbs Canola oil
Salt to taste

For the Salsa de Chile Verde:
1 Chile Serrano, sliced
3/4 cup diced tomato
1/8 tsp salt


To make the salsa
1.  place the salt and Serrano chile in a molcajete and grind to a fine paste
2.  add the diced tomato and smash to blend well.




To make the migas.
1.  Heat a comal or griddle on medium heat and toast the tortilla pieces, turning them once and cooking  just enough so that they develop flavor and become crispy.  (NOTE It’s traditional, and easier, if you  toast the whole tortilla and once it is crisp just crumble it into pieces, making “migas.”  I’m doing triangles here because they look more snazzy in the pic.)
2.  While the tortillas are toasting, heat the Canola oil in a non-stick skillet on medium heat.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the tortilla pieces and toss for a few seconds to coat.
3. Turn down the heat and add the eggs and scramble until all the tortilla pieces are coated with egg.  Add the salt.  Cook the eggs through without drying them.

Serve with the salsa de chile verde,  a hot cup of coffee, and then go out and make this a better world!

¡Buen Provecho!






1.  Most corn tortillas you buy are prepared in the  old traditional way, a process the indigenous people call nixtamalization.  Look for “cal” or “lime” or “calcium hydroxide” in the ingredients.  The maize or corn is soaked in “cal,” calcium hydroxide, to dissolve the hard outer indigestible shell. This process was invented by indigenous peoples thousands of years ago.  The protein in the corn is more digestible and all the levels of vitamins and minerals are heightened.

Agua de Jamaica, Hibiscus

 Agua de Jamaica is as colorful as it is refreshing.  I love the delicious tart taste.

It is enjoyed all over Mexico and Central America.  Hibiscus flowers boiled in water with a little sugar, that’s all it is.  I suggest you make and taste this exactly as in the recipe so that you can see how it is enjoyed in this region. This is an insightful way to get to know a people and their culture: understanding through sharing a taste. It seems to me richer and more peace-like to understand the people and their taste first, before changing their food. (1)  This recipe is from Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage published by Texas Tech University Press.

Recipe (makes 2 quarts)

2 quarts filtered water
3/4 cup dried Flores de Jamaica, Hibiscus flowers
1/2 cup sugar or 1/3 cup light Agave Nectar

1.  Bring the water to a boil, add the flowers and boil for 15 minutes
2.  Turn off the heat and let the water cool to room temperature
3. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and cool in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Serve over ice.

NOTE:  (1)  Ahem, I add 2 oz Vodka to this and I call it the “Cancún!” A nice switch from that “Cape Cod” cocktail.

Mayonesa Texana – Chipotle/Yerbaniz Mayonnaise

This mayonnaise has a pinkish color from chipotles and a robust aroma that comes from yerbaniz, an herb that is sometimes called Mexican mint marigold.  I think “Mayonesa Texana” is an apt name because the chipotle and yerbaniz together give it a Texas Mexican profile.MayonesaTexanasmlSouthern Mexico and Guatemala are the birthplace of yerbaniz, but today it is naturalized all across Texas.  In our family we used it to make tea and cure colds, colic, and other stomach ailments. It goes great with fish, so I often serve this mayo with crab cakes or with fried fish.  I’ve been hearing that yerbaniz is hard to find in stores, so I recommend that you do what I do and buy a little plant (they are sold as annual flowers in nurseries) and let it go wild in your garden.  The aroma is wonderful.


PlantItForwardLogoIf you are in Houston, you can find it at our Farmers Markets.  This is a bunch sold by “Plant It Forward,” one of Houston’s finest farming, training and marketing organizations.

Recipe (yields one cup)
1 cup mayonnaise
3 chipotle chiles in adobo (canned)
3 teaspoons fresh yerbaniz, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon white onion
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

Place all of the ingredients, except the yerbaniz, in a blender and blend until all the ingredients form a smooth purée.  Then add the chopped yerbaniz and pulse for just a few seconds, just enough to break down the herb, but still have some visible flecks of the green yerbaniz.

Enjoy!  It’s both delicious and salutary.

Chile Relleno – Stuffed Poblano Chiles


Chile Relleno. Photo by César Martínez

This is a dish for dinner parties. The picture was taken by my dear friend, renowned visual artist Cesar Martínez, during a dinner at the CIA Nao Restaurant in San Antonio. Chef Gerónimo López and his CIA staff prepared a full dinner, with appetizers, featuring the recipes in my book, Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage In Recipes. Prepared this way, the chiles have a layered effect as you eat, first an airy crunch from the batter, then a substantial bite from the chile, and then softness towards the interior. Poblanos are sometimes called chile corazón and also chile joto in various regions of Mexico. Here in Texas the name is always Poblano.

They don’t have much capsaicin so they are perfect for various stuffings ranging from light to more flavorful. In Texas Mexican cooking, and in my childhood home, when we stuffed chiles, we most often used chile dulce (bell pepper) for the reason that we don’t want capsaicin getting in the way of the complex taste. The combination of pecans and raisins was one that my mother loved in cornbread stuffing, so I’ve used it here. She would have added diced potatoes.

For a fine-dining experience, add some edible flowers or micro greens, as in the picture. Doing so evokes our history as food foragers. In your backyard or garden you may have some edible dandelions or nasturtiums.


Chile Relleno y Arroz con Cilantro. Photo by César Martínez

Recipe (serves 6)
6 fresh, firm poblano chiles
1 pound ground sirloin
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons pecans, roasted in a 350°F oven for 8 minutes
1 cup water
For the Tomato Caldito (Soup, Juice)
8 Roma tomatoes
1/4 small white onion, peeled
1/2 teaspoon fresh Mexican oregano
1 garlic clove
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
For the Batter
10 ounces all-purpose flour (2-1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
16 fluid ounces water
1/2 cup additional flour for dredging
MethodFor the Chiles
1. Place the chiles under a broiler, turning them so that they are entirely charred and the skin has blistered. Place them in a paper bag, close tightly, and let them sweat for 15 minutes so that they will be easier to peel.
2. Place each chile flat on a cutting board and peel off the skin with your fingers. You can use a dull knife if you need to gently scrape off some of the skin, but this should not be necessary if the chiles are properly charred.
3. Keeping the chile flat, cut a slit lengthwise in each chile, and gently remove all the seeds. Do not remove the stem. You will find a big cluster of seeds just inside attached to the stem. You can use a small knife to cut off this cluster of seeds if you cannot break it off with your fingers. Set the cleaned chiles aside.
For the Beef Filling
4. Place the salt, garlic, and black peppercorns in a molcajete and grind into a smooth paste. Add 1/4 cup water and set aside.
5. Heat the canola oil in a skillet at medium heat. Add the beef and cook for 8–10 minutes until it has browned. Add the molcajete paste, the rest of thewater, and deglaze by scraping off the browned bits at the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spatula or spoon. Cook for another 8 minutes. Add the roasted pecans and raisins and continue to cook until the raisins are plump and most of the liquid is gone. Set aside.
For the Caldito
6. In a saucepan cover the tomatoes with water and boil them for 10–15 minutes until they are completelycooked, with the skin peeling off. Drain and reserve the liquid.
7. Place the cooked tomatoes, garlic, and onion in a blender and puree.
8. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and add the tomato puree slowly and carefully because the tomato will splatter when it meets the hot oil. Cook on medium, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the water from the cooked tomatoes and the oregano, and simmer for 15 minutes. The consistency should be that of a thin soup. Keep the caldito hot until you are ready to assemble.
9. In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
10. Beat the egg and water together, add to the dry ingredients, and whisk until the batter is smooth.
11. Place about 1/2 cup of flour in a large plate and lightly coat the exterior of each stuffed chile, shaking off excess. They are now ready for dipping and frying.
12. In a deep skillet add vegetable oil to a 1-1/2–inch depth and heat to the point that it is shimmering (350°F).
13. Using a spatula and tongs, dip each flour-coated, stuffed chile into the batter, place in the skillet, and fry each side for 2 minutes until golden brown.
Place on paper towels to drain.

To serve, place each chile on a plate and pour plenty of the hot caldito over each one. Here I serve it with cilantro rice. To say that this is heaven is no exaggeration.

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