The nearly ubiquitous sopa de tortilla, or tortilla soup, now refers to almost any brothy concoction that is garnished with crispy tortilla strips, chiles, and cheese. Most restaurant cooks use fruity, dried ancho chiles, but some cooks add an extra dimension with the dark pasilla chile.
Mexico has an extensive repertoire of seafood soups, and some of them have also found their way on to Texas menus.
Caldo Tlalpeño, a more sophisticated version of the home-style caldo de pollo, is another traditional soup now found in many Tex-Mex restaurants. Made in much the same way as caldo xóchitl, this Tlalpán-style soup includes chicken as well as several fresh vegetables and garbanzo beans.
A corn-bisque flavored with mild poblano chiles--this exquisitely rich dish manages to be sophisticated and earthy at the same time.
This salad hails from the Gristmill River Restaurant in Gruene. Note that the tenderloin is marinated only briefly. If you like, refrigerate the remaining marinade, reserving it for other cuts of meat (most will require longer marinating); just be sure to use it within a couple of days.
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (recipe follows)
2 c. frozen corn, thawed
1/2 sweet red pepper, diced and seeded
1/2 poblano pepper, diced and seeded
8 chicken breast halves, cooked and diced
2 T. Creole seasoning (such as Zatarain’s or Tony Chachere’s)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 c. chopped fresh green chiles
2 c. waffle mix
1 1/2 c. beer vegetable oil
Prepare Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, and keep warm. Combine corn and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl, and mix well. Combine waffle mix and beer, and add to corn mixture. Mix well, thickening with flour, if needed, to hold mixture together. Pour about 1/4 c. batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle. Turn fritters once, removing when both sides are brown. Place about 1/4 c. Roasted Red Pepper Sauce on a plate, and top with fritter. Serve warm. Yield: 8 servings.
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
3 red bell peppers, roasted
1/4 yellow onion
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 T. chicken base (a concentrated-chicken-stock paste sold in large supermarkets)
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
3 1/2 c. heavy cream
Place roasted peppers in a paper bag to steam for 10-15 minutes; remove skins when cool. Remove seeds, and purée. Remove from blender, and set aside. Place onion, garlic, chicken base, and cumin in a blender, and purée; set aside. Pour cream into a heavy saucepan, and bring to a boil. Immediately stir in both reserved mixtures. Add salt to taste. Yield: Enough sauce for 8 fritters.
Although this very large cake isn’t on Green Pastures’ menu, you can order it for special occasions. Our food stylist observed that it’s not as tall as most cakes, but cut into party-size slices, it will serve 40 people. If you want a taller cake or don’t have 10-inch cake pans, use two 9-inch pans—just plan on baking the layers 5-10 minutes longer.
Associate editor Nola McKey recently tried Blessing Hotel and Coffee Shop owner/cook Helen Feldhousen’s recipe for chocolate pie, and pronounces it a good ’un. The recipe, which follows, is included in Sheryl Smith-Rodgers’ book Texas Old-Time Restaurants and Cafes (Republic of Texas Press, 2000), which features recipes from places (like the Blessing) that have been around at least 20 years.
You can find dried hibiscus flowers at Central Market, Whole Foods, most HEBs, Mexican grocery stores, and health food stores, or you can order it from MexGrocer.com or the Fredericksburg Herb Farm (800/259-4372; www.fredericksburgherbfarm.com). Yield: 20 servings.