Fogo de Chao Dressing

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In New York City last week, we tasted a series of new fall items at our favoritre Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Chao. Those wonderful flavors made us wonder what they were cooking for Thanksgiving and how we could beg, borrow or steal the recipe. As it turned out, they figured we’d probably rather eat there for Thanksgiving than whip up their dressing of Brazilian sausage and Granny Smith apples. Actually, we can’t wait to try this recipe at home. It says it serves about 24 but, well, not if we’re around.

1/2 cup corn oil

20 ounces Brazilian Sausage

1 quart celery, 1/4” diced

1½ quart onions, 1/4” diced

1/2 cup chopped garlic

1 quart green apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2”cubes

2 quarts chicken broth

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 gallon seasoned croutons

2 cups chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place large pot on a burner on medium heat. Add oil and heat. Remove the casing of the sausage and break into small pieces. Add to pan and sauté until just cooked, about 3 minutes. Measure and add celery, onions, and garlic to the pot and sauté until onions are soft. Place apples in into the pot. Add chicken broth, poultry seasoning and salt. Mix well and remove from heat. Add croutons and mix until they are soft. Add parsley and mix well. Spray a large baking with vegetable spray and fill with stuffing mix. Cover with foil and bake for about 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Serves about 24.


Hungary Getting Hungry for Bocuse d’Or Competition

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After an evil 20th century of two world wars, dismemberment of empire, one or more revolutions (depending on your definition) and finally a new kind of freedom, the people of Hungary are rediscovering their favorite cuisine. Believe it or not, it’s Hungarian food.

This Central European country’s love affair with its own recipes, its own products and definitely its own wines will be on display May 10-11, 2016, when the culinary world comes calling for the Bocuse d’Or chef competition. Though some of the dishes the chefs will be cooking are French – the very name “Bocuse” requires a reverence for classical technique long taught in French or with a French accent – don’t be surprised if the Hungarian love of paprika sneaks in, along with produce, along with sausage and other meats, along with Hungary’s passion for its heritage.

“A Hungarian gastro-revolution has been in progress for decades,” says chef Zoltan Hamvas, who serves as president of the Hungarian Bocuse d’Or Academy. “The best people of the profession are united in order to renew Hungarian gastronomy. The organization of the Bocuse d’Or European final selection in Budapest will be an important milestone for our revolution.”

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A “revolution” certainly seems appropriate, as we learned recently sitting at a back table with Hamvas and fellow Hungarian chef Tomas Szell, honored with Bocuse d’Or success this past year. To talk about Hungarian cuisine with these two chefs is to talk about Hungarian history, and that’s to talk about the 20th century. Early on, after World War I, that meant the loss of national pride in the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – not to mention the loss of territory that gave Hungarians some of their favorite food products. After making another poor choice of allies in World War II, Hungary found itself part of the Soviet zone behind the Iron Curtain. This it didn’t enjoy one bit.

However, unlike others who didn’t enjoy being Soviet satellites, the Hungarians did something about it. They launched an ill-fated revolution in 1956, eventually crushed by Soviet tanks just as the Prague Spring would be crushed a dozen years later. If the Soviet overlords were anti-Hungarian-culture before the 1956 revolution, they despised it after and sought to erase it from the earth. Fat chance of that, fired back the Hungarians, even when it had to be in stunned silence. Hungarian cuisine, however, became an almost-banished affair.

Beginning with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the coming of freedom, along with the sometimes-baffling free market economy, in 1989, the people of Hungary slowly re-embraced their roots in both food and wine – literally with a vengeance. In wine, it meant clearing out the cheap grapes that covered hillsides and the ineffective techniques that produced high volumes of low-quality Soviet wine, replanting not only with better grapes but with native ones. Legendary regions like Tokaj could again demand global attention, thanks to a combination of native-born and imported winemakers from France and even California.

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In food, as originally in France and Italy and then decades ago with New American and specifically California cuisine, the emphasis was on local and traditional. Paprika started to turn up outside chicken paprikas and goulash, the two most famous traditional recipes – a reminder that this most “Hungarian” of ingredients came in with the hated Ottoman Turks during 150 years of occupation. So things go in the Old World. Today, a glance at a Bocuse d’Or promotional booklet turns up so much more than paprika. There’s water, salt, honey, pork from “happy” Mangalitza pigs, lamb, Herend porcelain to serve from (we enjoyed a visit to the factory), and the high-octane fruit spirit known as palinka. Hungarians are rightly proud of all these things. Whether you’re indulging yourself with Old World fine dining at Gundel in Budapest, restored some years back by Hungarian-American restaurant guru George Lang, or spooning up stew in the humblest country café, someone will tell you about what grows nearby and why it’s the best version anywhere.

Hungary is hopeful that, with the most talented chefs coming from all over Europe for the Bocuse d’Or competition, more and more of them will become aware not only of Hungarian history and culture but of foods and wines they can put on their menus back home. “This offers Hungary enormous opportunities and genuine marketing value, which will help the development and professional recognition that is increasingly important in the area of cuisine,” says Budapest mayor Istvan Tarlos. “Hungarian cuisine is one of the highlights of Hungarian culture. It is varied withy creative foods that offer a unique and characterful world of flavors.”

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Turkey and Sausage Gumbo

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Yesterday my daughter Sara Heald called to complain that, after a lifetime of enjoying my turkey and sausage gumbo, she couldn’t find a single published recipe that reflected how I actually make the stuff. So I talked her through the batch she made and wrote up the “updated” recipe. The photo Sara sent me is proof in the pudding.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound smoked sausage, cut in chunks or coins

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

Creole seasoning to taste

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 pound frozen cut okra

1 cup chunky tomato salsa

3 cups chopped cooked turkey meat

10 cups turkey or chicken stock

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

Louisiana hot sauce

Steamed white rice

Chopped green onion

Heat the olive oil in a kettle or soup pot with the sausage over medium-high heat, cooking until the sausage is crispy and brown around the edges. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery and cook until softened. Season sausage and vegetables with Creole seasoning, crushed red pepper, lemon pepper, garlic and onion powders. Stir in the cut okra and cook 1-2 minutes, then add the salsa, stirring to incorporate 1-2 minutes. Add the turkey meat and the stock. Stir and heat just to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.

In a separate pot, combine the flour with the oil to form a thick paste. Cook over Stir over medium high heat, stirring often, till it begins to darken where it touches the pan. Stir to bring up the brown and mix with the still white roux until paste becomes thick and dark brown, 12-15 minutes. To stop roux cooking at desired color, carefully add a cup full of liquid with vegetables from the gumbo pot. Stir, being careful not to get burned by steam. Add more liquid and vegetables until a smooth, reddish mash is achieved. Incorporate this into the gumbo in increments until it reaches your desired thickness. Add hot sauce to taste, along with additional Creole seasoning if needed. Let simmer for 1 hour for flavors to meld. Serve in bowls over steamed white rice. Sprinkle with green onion. Serves 8-10.

My Days with Chef Paul Prudhomme


They are probably the two professional compliments that I treasure the most in my life – and both came from Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme, who passed away in New Orleans today at age 75.

One was that he always claimed to be the one who told me I should write about food. “You be good to food and food’ll be good to you,” he quoted himself. Though I didn’t remember the encounter, I’m honored he thought I was worth claiming. The second was that he’d long considered the hour-long interview I did with him for my own EasyFood magazine in New Orleans the best article ever written about him. Sure, he must have known I’m a sucker for a pretty compliment, but that one has inspired me every day ever since.

I certainly wasn’t afraid of talking with him, since Paul Prudhomme could and would talk with anybody. It’s one of the things that made him a celebrity, in real life, in cookbooks and especially on his by-our-standards primitive Cajun cooking series. On another occasion, when I went to a taping at the PBS station in Baton Rouge, I was impressed that he kept a chair in which to take naps between recipe segments, while the set and cameras were being organized. To this day, I’m jealous of any nap taken by anybody anywhere.

But on this day, we talked about everything – include his “Fork in the Road” project that took him away from cooking Louisiana foods laden with butter and oil, about his years of anger at European chefs who prevented Americans from getting ahead, about how he learned that cooking for women equaled instant seduction (I was too married to do anything about it, but I took note. Hint: Apparently it only works if you cook like Paul Prudhomme) and even about early run-ins with the law I’d heard about from a friend from a small Cajun village near Paul’s. But then, gulping a bit, I risked being Ted Baxter and essentially asked him “how it felt” to lose his wife Kay (the “K in K-Paul’s) only months earlier at much too young an age, as though any age were not too young.

“I’ve always been a scattered person,” he said, walking around the question until he found a doorway inside, “never satisfied and always reaching for something else, whether it was a new dish of food or a new business. Kay wasn’t that way. Kay was in love with this restaurant. This was her restaurant in the sense that she would not allow it to change. She was in control, and I liked it that way. I would say jokingly, but I really meant it, that I cooked for her and created for her. As long as it satisfied her, we knew it was in the customer’s direction. Now that’s gone, and that’s a huge void for me.

“It doesn’t mean I want to give up the restaurant. It’s a huge part of my life, and it was the beginning of everything that’s happened to me in the last fifteen years. But I miss having that real solid connection, through her. Now if I want to have that connection, I have to spend every day, hours and hours here, to get the same I’d get from her in five minutes.” When Paul slowed down I asked him about his smile, the one that brightens any retail space from the cover of any of his cookbooks. Was it difficult to make that smile happen, I asked, to get it right, after Kay’s death? “It was relatively easy, because she would have wanted me to go on and do what I’m doing and have fun. That’s a fact. I knew what she wanted to leave behind and I knew what she wanted me to do after she left. She would want me to do it the best that I could. When I had to be on, it was easy, because I could be on for her.”

Aug. 22 Show: Hickory, Thanisch Wines

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We’re in Plano north of Dallas this week, celebrating the opening of a new, casual, fun and oh-so-flavorful concept by celebrity chef Kent Rathbun. The place is called Hickory, but it’s about a whole lot more than tried-and-true Texas barbecue. In our Grape & Grain segment, we taste and talk about the wines of Thanisch, made in the Mosel Valley of Germany for more than 350 years.

SAN ANTONIO Wednesdays 8-9 p.m., News Talk 930 KLUP

AUSTIN Saturdays 10-11 a.m., Talk 1370

HOUSTON Saturdays 2-3 p.m., News Talk 1070 KNTH

DALLAS Saturdays 7-8 p.m., 570 KLIF 


A Presentation of Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods 

Our 25th Year of Eating, Drinking and Telling You About It!

Salmon Quesadillas

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This wonderful recipe was created by culinary partner in crime Nancy Marr, for a cookbook we’re doing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Fischer & Wieser’s Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce. The sauce brings a special tang to the fresh salmon, which in turn adds a lot of interest and satisfaction to these quesadillas.

4 large shallots, sliced

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt and black pepper

4 flour tortillas

1/4 pound fresh salmon, skinned

1/4 pound smoked, uncured salmon (preferably oak smoked)

½ avocado, sliced lengthwise

½ cup Asadero or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons raspberry chipotle sauce, plus more for serving

Butter for grilling the tortillas

Cilantro leaves for garnish

For the shallots, in a small sauté pan over medium high heat, melt the butter. Add the

shallots and sauté for 2-3minutes. Season with salt and pepper and continue to sauté

about one minute more, until almost completely translucent. Sprinkle the sugar evenly

over the shallots and continue to cook until golden brown and caramelized. Taste, and

adjust seasoning, if needed.   Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Pat the fresh salmon dry and season with salt

and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and cover with the 2 tablespoons of Sauce, ensuring

that all sides and the bottom of the fish are brushed with the sauce. Roast the salmon for

15-20 minutes, or until pink inside and medium rare. (The fish will continue to cook in

the quesadilla.)   Cool completely.

Using your hands or two forks, gently flake the smoked salmon into a small bowl. Flake the cooled, roasted salmon, in the same manner into the same bowl. Pour in any residual roasting juices and sauce. Gently toss the flaked salmon with the sauce. Butter all four tortillas on one side each. Heat a skillet or flat griddle to medium-high heat. To assemble one quesadilla, place the buttered side of one tortilla down in the skillet or on the griddle and sprinkle grated cheese on top, carefully making sure that the cheese reaches the edges of the tortilla. The cheese will serve as the “glue” and hold the top and bottom tortillas together.

Lay half of the caramelized shallots on around the tortilla on top of the cheese. Follow with the mix of salmon and avocado slices. Add one more layer of cheese, covering edges previously missed. Top, with another tortilla, buttered side up. Repeat with the remaining two tortillas and fillings. Grill each quesadilla for 2-3 minutes per side, pressing down with a spatula to “glue” the quesadilla together with the melted cheese.

When both sides of the quesadilla are golden brown and the cheese is fully melted, transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board and let sit for 3-5 minutes before cutting into 1/4th or 1/6ths for smaller quesadillas. Arrange the slices nicely on a platter and scatter the cilantro leaves on and around the quesadillas. Serve with additional Sauce, for dipping. Serves 2-4





Aug. 15 Show: BCN Houston, Ara Wines


In Houston this week, we visit one of the most exciting developments in the cuisine of Spain to grace these shores in quite some time – a place called BCN Taste and Tradition. If you’re a frequent flyer, you might know BCN as the airport code of Barcelona. If not, you’ll soon know that BCN is glorious. In our Grape and Grain segment, we taste and talk about the New Zealand wines of Ara.

SAN ANTONIO Wednesdays 8-9 p.m., News Talk 930 KLUP

AUSTIN Saturdays 10-11 a.m., Talk 1370

HOUSTON Saturdays 2-3 p.m., News Talk 1070 KNTH

DALLAS Saturdays 7-8 p.m., 570 KLIF 

A Presentation of Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods

Our 25th Year of Eating, Drinking and Telling You About It!

Aug. 8 Show: Big Flavors from Irving


We’re in Irving this week, sampling the sights, sounds and especially tastes of a community that’s become such a major part of the DFW area. Some of the reason for that, of course, is the posh Las Colinas resort area, where we enjoy our Grape & Grain tasting of wine, cocktails and food with the gang at the Omni Resort. But we also grab up local favorites at places called Big State and Po’ Melvins.

SAN ANTONIO Wednesdays 8-9 p.m., News Talk 930 KLUP

AUSTIN Saturdays 10-11 a.m., Talk 1370

HOUSTON Saturdays 2-3 p.m., News Talk 1070 KNTH

DALLAS Saturdays 7-8 p.m., 570 KLIF 

A Presentation of Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods 

Our 25th Year of Eating, Drinking and Telling You About It!

Greek Village Salad

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Almost every restaurant in America has, at one time or another, served something called a “Greek salad.” At the brand-new Helen Greek Food and Wine in Houston, though, the trick is not only using the freshest local produce but using olive oil, olives and oregano from Greece. And yes, for this particularly authentic salad, the lack of lettuce is intentional.

2 cups diced heirloom tomatoes

1/2 cup sliced red onions

1 cup sliced Persian cucumbers

1 handful of Kalamata olives

1 cup Greek extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons dried wild Greek oregano

4 ounces Greek feta cheese

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

Combine tomatoes, onions and cucumbers with all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Carefully toss together without breaking up the feta cheese too much. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Let rest for at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld. Transfer salad to a serving bowl and garnish with more feta, olive oil and dried oregano. Serves 2.

Aug. 1 Show: Ruth’s Chris, Longboard Wines


Ruth’s Chris, one of this country’s formative prime steakhouses, recently celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding in New Orleans with a special gala dinner. Since we were there, we decided it was high time for a chat with a top regional executive and a chef who long ago worked with Ruth Fertel herself. In our Grape & Grain segment, we taste and talk about the wines of Longboard Vineyards with the man who makes them, who also happens to be an Israeli surfer named Oded. Imagine, finding a guy like that… in California!

If you’re in Austin Saturday August 1, do stop by Metier Cook’s Supply on South Lamar for a chance to purchase signed copies of The Delicious Mischief Cookbook. We will be there signing while serving light bites and beers by Abita.

SAN ANTONIO Wednesdays 8-9 p.m., News Talk 930 KLUP

AUSTIN Saturdays 10-11 a.m., Talk 1370

HOUSTON Saturdays 2-3 p.m., News Talk 1070 KNTH

DALLAS Saturdays 7-8 p.m., 570 KLIF 

A Presentation of Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods 

Our 25th Year of Eating, Drinking and Telling You About It!