You can drink beer with anything--even breakfast--but that’s more a lifestyle than a culinary choice. There are, however, dishes that demand beer.
Books have been written about beer food--strong-flavored and hearty stuff that occasionally parades under the dated name “men’s food.” Usually, this is food without much subtlety, food that wins with sheer force of personality rather than creativity.
But Stephen Pyles knows better.
Former chef at Dallas’ Routh Street Cafe, Pyles has written “The New Texas Cuisine” (Doubleday: $30, 1993), a book about food that has both heft and glamour. Consider the likes of honey-fried chicken with thyme-mint cream sauce, which is at once hearty and intriguing. Or enchiladas stuffed with shrimp and papaya and sauced with an avocado-tomatillo salsa.
Pyles grew up in the big sandy of Big Spring, where his family ran one of the best truck-stop cafes in West Texas. After graduating from college with a degree in music, he toured France and fell under the spell of haute cuisine. After working with chefs Alain Chapel and Roger Verge, he returned to Texas in 1974.
A summer job at the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1980 gave him the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in French cuisine--Michel Guerard, the brothers Troisgros and George Blanc. In 1981 he returned to France to study pastries with Gaston Lenotre.
In 1984, he opened Routh Street, which was instantly acclaimed as one of the two or three best restaurants in Texas. Before long, it was being mentioned as one of the nation’s best, though it closed earlier this year.
Routh Street also had a more casual spinoff called Baby Routh that opened in 1986, and in 1987, Pyles and his partner John Dayton opened their third and fourth restaurants, Goodfellows and Tejas, in Minneapolis.
Pyles is a gifted natural cook--perhaps too natural for cookbooks. The fine details of time and measurement sometimes seem to have escaped him. Specifically, The Times Test Kitchen ran into problems with timing on several of the recipes in his new book. The following recipes have been corrected, but when following the book, be sure to cook until done, not when the recipe tells you. Persevere, though; the flavors are worth it.
And if it gets too much, just have a beer.
SHRIMP AND PAPAYA
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 ancho chiles, pureed (about 6 tablespoons)
1 papaya, peeled, seeded and diced
4 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
14 ounces shredded Chihuahua or Jack cheese
Freshly ground pepper
Vegetable or canola oil
18 corn tortillas
3 tablespoons water
1 cup Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa
Heat olive oil in large skillet until lightly smoking. Saute onions and garlic in oil 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Add shrimp and continue to cook until they just begin to turn pink. Add cilantro, 4 tablespoons ancho puree, papaya and poblano chiles. Cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add 6 ounces of cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well. Set aside.
Pour enough vegetable oil in skillet to come 1/2 inch up sides. Over medium heat, bring oil to 350 degrees or to just smoking. Submerge tortillas 1 at time in oil 5 seconds to soften. Place tortillas on paper towels to drain. Keep warm. Do not stack tortillas.
Combine remaining 2 tablespoons of ancho chile puree in bowl with water. Dip tortillas 1 at time into mixture, lightly coating both sides.
To assemble enchiladas, divide shrimp-papaya mixture among tortillas, spreading evenly down middle. Roll up tortillas and place seam-side-down on baking sheet or in oven-proof baking dish, placing them snugly together. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve 3 enchiladas per plate, together with Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa. Makes 6 servings.
Each serving contains about:
833 calories; 1,108 mg sodium; 242 mg cholesterol; 46 grams fat; 58 grams carbohydrates; 48 grams protein; 2.58 grams fiber.
Note : To puree ancho chiles, rinse chiles and thoroughly dry with paper towels. Cut off stems and slit open chiles with knife and remove seeds. Roast at 450 degrees in single layer on baking sheet 1 minute. Put chiles in bowl, cover with warm water and soak 30 minutes. Strain chiles, reserving liquid and place chiles in blender. Puree chiles, adding just enough soaking liquid to make pureeing possible. You should have thick paste. Puree can be passed through medium or fine strainer.
2 large avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into medium dice
1 teaspoon diced sweet red pepper
1 teaspoon diced green pepper
1 tablespoon diced green onion
4 tomatillos, husked, rinsed and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
2 serrano chiles, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
Combine avocados, sweet red pepper, green pepper, green onion and half of tomatillos in large mixing bowl. Place garlic, cilantro, serrano chiles, lime juice and remaining tomatillos in blender and puree until smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil.
Pour puree into avocado mixture. Combine thoroughly. Season to taste with salt. Let stand 30 minutes. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
WARM APPLE SPICE
1 cup cake flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups oil
2 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups chopped unpeeled green apples, such as Granny Smith or Pippin
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 cup raisins, plumped in bourbon
Vanilla ice cream
In mixing bowl sift flours, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, ginger and salt. Set aside.
Blend oil and sugar in electric mixer at medium speed 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at time. Beat well. Gradually fold dry ingredients into oil mixture. Combine thoroughly. Add apples, pecans and raisins. Blend well with spatula.
Pour batter into buttered and floured 8-inch springform pan. Bake at 325 degrees 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until knife inserted comes out dry. Drizzle some Caramel Sauce over slices of cake. Serve with 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream for each slice. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
Each serving, with ice cream and sauce, contains about:
1,027 calories; 201 mg sodium; 120 mg cholesterol; 55 grams fat; 132 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 0.66 gram fiber.
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light-brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup whipping cream
Mix granulated sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup and cream in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over high heat until mixture reaches 200 degrees on candy thermometer. Let cool 20 minutes. Skim surface if necessary.
SPICY WHIPPED SWEET
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 white potato, peeled and diced
6 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 cup tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
In saucepan bring potatoes to boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes until soft. Drain and transfer potatoes to food processor. Add maple syrup, salt, cayenne and chili powder. Process 1 minute while adding butter 1 tablespoon at time. Warm in pan and serve. Makes 6 servings.
Each serving contains about:
253 calories; 810 mg sodium; 41 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 28 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.83 gram fiber.
1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) chicken
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons raspberry or other fruit vinegar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup oil
Freshly ground pepper
Thyme-Mint Cream Sauce
Cut chicken into 6 serving pieces. Place in mixing bowl, reserving backbone, neck and wings for stock. Stir honey and vinegar together and pour over chicken. Marinate at least 2 hours, mixing occasionally.
In mixing bowl combine flours and cayenne. Set aside. In another mixing bowl whisk together eggs and buttermilk.
In large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat to 300 degrees. Cooking at low temperature will prevent honey from caramelizing too quickly and burning. Remove chicken from marinade and drain on paper towels. Dip chicken in egg wash. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour-cayenne mixture, coating thoroughly. Strain marinade and reserve 1 tablespoon for sauce.
Starting with dark meat first, gently drop chicken pieces into hot oil 5 to 6 minutes on first side until browned. Turn pieces, add white meat and continue cooking, adjusting heat so that chicken browns evenly on both sides without burning. Turn once more and cook until well browned and tender when pierced with fork.
Dark meat should cook 15 to 18 minutes. White meat should cook 10 to 12 minutes. If chicken browns too quickly, remove to baking pan and finish cooking in 300-degree oven. Serve with Thyme-Mint Cream Sauce. Makes 6 servings.
Each serving contains about:
890 calories; 301 mg sodium; 240 mg cholesterol; 79 grams fat; 19 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 0.36 gram fiber.
Thyme-Mint Cream Sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon reserved marinade
Take skillet used for frying chicken and pour off all oil, leaving any bits on bottom. Add white wine and chicken stock and cook over high heat, scraping up browned bits that stuck to pan. Reduce liquid by half over medium-high heat, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cream, mint, thyme, lemon zest and reserved marinade.
Reduce until sauce is thick enough to coat back of spoon, 5 to 6 minutes. Strain sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 cup.
ENDIVE SALAD WITH
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons tequila
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 cup corn oil
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper
2 heads Belgian endive, rinsed, dried and leaves separated
3 oranges, peeled and sections removed
2 medium jicamas, peeled and julienned
12 chives, snipped
Place orange juice, tequila, vinegar and shallot in blender. Blend at high speed. Slowly add oils while still blending. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
Arrange endive leaves in spoke pattern around outside of each plate. Place orange section on each leaf. Toss jicama with some of dressing and mound in middle of each plate. Ladle rest of dressing onto each plate and sprinkle with chives. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Each of 4 servings contains about:
500 calories; 121 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 41 grams fat; 28 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 3.19 grams fiber.