Tag Archives: chile rellenos

Central Texas Foodie and Sightseeing Tour ~ Part 1

28 Jun
Blanco River in Wimberley

Blanco River in Wimberley

Warning: Long post. I did split it out into two posts, though, with another one coming soon. You’ll also notice in this first post that I don’t have many of my own pictures as I didn’t snap many photos until about half-way through the trip.

I had sort of promised a recipe from Texas in my last post, but decided instead to introduce you to some of the fine Texas fare we indulged in on our whirlwind trip for a family reunion, as well as some sightseeing tips if you ever happen to travel into that part of the country.

After the flight into Austin with my daughter (the hubby opted out of this trip), my parents picked us up and drove us 45 minutes away to Wimberley, a charming town on the Blanco River in the heart of Texas Hill Country. On our way out of Austin, I demanded to be brought to Taco Cabana, a fast-food Tex-Mex restaurant found all over Austin (and Texas) that was my cheap staple of late night cravings while attending college there in the early- to mid-80s. Hey, I was hungry!

Taco Cabana Salsa Bar

Taco Cabana Salsa Bar – photo credit Taco Cabana

I ordered a Carne Asada taco and a bean and cheese taco, and filled up several plastic containers with some of the six or seven fresh-made salsas they had at their salsa bar. They even had a pineapple chipotle salsa. It ain’t no Taco Bell, that’s for sure. You can find them by the bright pink signs off I-35.

The next day, we got up early-ish and set out for Houston to have lunch with my Aunt and Uncle on the other side of the family, one of my brothers, and several childhood friends I grew up with in Houston. Although the mileage is 175 miles, I made it to Houston in record time, as the speed limit is 75 mph there on I-10. Considering the max speed limit in my area is 55, and only 45 in town, I felt I made it there twice as fast. I might have, in fact, since my speedometer was pushing 85-ish most of the time lest I get run over by all the trucks. It felt strange driving so slow back in Oregon.

Chapultepec Lupita Restaurant in Houston ~ photo credit to christao408

Chapultepec Lupita Restaurant in Houston ~ photo credit christao408

We met at Chapultepec Lupita, which my Uncle promised was The Best Houston Tex-Mex place to eat. It’s located in the middle of an old downtown neighborhood in a dive of a building, but it was charming! I’ve mentioned before that my litmus test of a good Tex-Mex restaurant is by ordering the chile rellenos, which is exactly what I did. The tortilla chips they served before the meal were a bit disappointing because they were stale (boo hiss) but my chile rellenos, beans, and rice were done to perfection. Good job!

After a mediocre dinner with my daughter and Uncle at an unnamed tavern, we retired for the night and then got up the next day to travel to Pflugerville, north of Austin. Again, record time. My dear Uncle told us we HAD to stop at Buc-ees in Bastrop, a truck stop on the way back for lunch. He said they have THE cleanest bathrooms anywhere around. I had to check that out.

Buc-ees

Buc-ees ~ photo credit Robin Jerstad, For The Express-News

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it sure was interesting. It was the size of a department store, with everything from ordering food at computer terminals, to souvenirs up the yahoo, to a complete grocery store, a camping/hunting section, and about 50 gas pumps out front. Very surreal. I had me some BBQ brisket sandwich, with pickles and onion. Not bad, really. They made it right there in front of you. And, the bathrooms were spotless.

We then spent the afternoon with yet another brother and his wife and their daughter in Pflugerville (I love saying that name), then left my own daughter there to spend the night with her cousin a year older than her. Apparently they shopped at “The Domain,” a trendy outdoor mall in Austin, while I then traveled 20 more miles north up the road to visit a dear high school friend in Georgetown. We quaffed more than a few beers and she made us some yummy taco salad for dinner. Can’t have enough Tex-Mex while in Texas!

Chuy's Carne Guisada

Chuy’s Carne Guisada ~ My cell phone takes horrid pictures!

The next day, we lazily got out of bed and decided on Chuy’s for lunch in Round Rock. Chuy’s is an iconic Tex-Mex restaurant that has its roots in Austin near Zilker Park, and has branched out to other areas. I adore Chuy’s with their funky atmosphere and to-die-for Charro Beans and light, crisp (and fresh!) tortilla chips. Lucky me, their Carne Guisada was on special, so of course had to get that along with the Charro Beans. I swear I swooned eating my meal. Just. That. Good. I also bought the hubs one of their t-shirts for a souvenir, because every time I go to Texas he gets a new one. This time he got the funky tie-dyed fish on black. Cool.

Chuy's Fish T-Shirt

Chuy’s Fish T-Shirt ~ photo credit Chuy’s

Onward back to Austin! Now I’m at my sister’s then brother’s house in East Austin (they live a block apart), and most of my relatives are now showing up from Oregon. My brother has a bunch of chickens and chicken paraphernalia around his house. He loves his chickens, and so do I!

Chickens in the Window

Chickens in the Window ~ My brother’s chickens love to check things out in the kitchen!

My parents then showed up with with massive containers of family-sized take-out from Trudy’s Texas Star Cafe, another iconic Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin just off the UT campus. I worked the late shift there in college, and was so happy to have some of that food even if I didn’t make to the restaurant. We chowed on various tacos, enchiladas, beans, and rice. My sister made an awesome homemade guacamole to go with it all. If you ever make it to Austin, this is another great restaurant to stop in for some Tex-Mex.

Me and Sister with Trudy's Plate of Food

Me and Sister with Trudy’s Plate of Food

We stayed the night at my sister’s house, then again lazily got up and walked approximately two blocks to experience The Best Taco Truck in Austin, called Veracruz All Natural. It sits next to a Shell Gas Station and Piñata store in a parking lot. Seriously! My sister said I had to order the Migas Tacos, so of course I did. WOW! I can now say I’ve had the best breakfast tacos ever in my life. And the homemade salsa was divine, served in an authentic molcajete bowl.

Veracruz All Natural Migas Taco

Veracruz All Natural Migas Taco ~ photo credit ginnysaustin.com

The next most amazing thing I had was their Watermelon Agua Fresca. I didn’t order it at first because I’d brought a bottle of water with me, but then tasted my sister’s and fell in love. Ever “drink” a watermelon?? It comes in this ginormous styrofoam cup, and didn’t think I could handle that much liquid, so ordered a small. “I’m sorry, it only comes in one size.” I looked over at my daughter’s smoothie she ordered in a small styrofoam cup, but let it go. My taco order wasn’t out yet, and who am I to complain with the one making my meal? OK, large it is. And yes, I drank every last drop of it!

Next stop: Tubing the San Marcos River… to be continued later this weekend!

Chile Rellenos Soufflé with a Kick!

6 Jan

Chile Rellenos Souffle

My litmus test for Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants is whether their chile rellenos pass muster with me. I have always been very picky with how chile rellenos are prepared and taste. I have never been fond of deep fried rellenos that arrive soggy, greasy,  and so over-breaded that it’s almost impossible to find the chile pepper in the inside of it.

I began my quest for the “perfect” chile relleno recipe shortly out of college. After many years of trial and error, I think I have come up with the perfect balance of taste and lightness for both the chile and the batter that enfolds it.  Embarrassing to say, but I used to use canned chiles in the recipe. But after finding out how easy it is to roast and prepare fresh chiles, I blanch at the thought that I ever did that.

Although there are many soufflé-type recipes for rellenos, what I found was they lacked the yummy corn taste that came with the cornmeal breaded and fried counterparts. My secret is adding a small amount of cornmeal and flour to the egg yolks before folding it into the fluffy beaten egg whites.

Stuffed Roasted Peppers

Oh! And the “kick” I promised! I also have always dressed up a can of red enchilada sauce with ground beef and other spices to pour over the top. But for Christmas I received from my sister in Austin the cookbook The Homesick Texan, by Lisa Fain. She had a recipe for a chile con carne sauce to go over cheese enchiladas, so I used that recipe tonight to pour over the rellenos after they came out of the oven. It was an absolute perfect pairing!

Here is her website:  http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/.  I urge you to go check out her musings of Texas food, her writing style is refreshing and poignant. Her book also has many recipes not found on her blog. The sauce makes enough for 4-6, so my recipe has four peppers in it although I only used two this time. I am still awaiting confirmation to publish her recipe, so when I do hear back from her I will update this column to include it too if I get permission.  In the meantime, you can use any enchilada sauce you prefer for the rellenos.

Chile Rellenos Soufflé

4 Poblano or Passilla  peppers
Shredded cheese, any kind, enough to stuff peppers
3 eggs, separated into two bowls
2 teaspoons flour
2 teaspoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons water
Dash of salt
Paprika

1. Broil the peppers in the oven until they are blackened, turning often, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Place them immediately in a tightly sealed bag for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, begin to prepare chile con carne sauce or enchilada sauce of your preference.
4. Peel the skin off the peppers, and cut a slit in them and remove seeds and rinse.
5. Place them in a lightly oil-sprayed casserole dish, and stuff with shredded cheese.
6. Mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and water into the bowl with the egg yolks.
7. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in the other bowl until foamy. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and beat until stiff, but not dry.
8. Fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites gently, until no more white is visible.
9. Pour the batter evenly over the peppers and sprinkle with paprika
10. Bake at 325 degrees, until puffed and lightly browned, about 40 minutes.

Serve with Chile con Carne or enchilada sauce, cilantro and sour cream, or any other garnishes you prefer, such as sliced avocado.

Bubbling Chile con Carne Sauce

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