For the Cook
Cook Like a Local: Flavors That Can Change How You Cook and See the World Houston chef Chris Shepherd continues to outdo himself. After opening Underbelly Hospitality in 2012 to wide acclaim, Shepherd won the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest. Since closing Underbelly in 2018 to open three other restaurants, he has put his endless enthusiasm for Houston’s exciting spectrum of ethnic flavors into action. The result is his new cookbook, coauthored by Kaitlyn Goalen (Clarkson Potter, $35). Dividing the book into influencing ingredients — fish sauce, chiles, soy, rice, spices and corn — he provides new approaches to familiar dishes such as his Thai-style oysters Rockefeller (from the Chiles chapter) and fried egg banh mi (from the Fish Sauce chapter). Illustrated by Houston food photographer Julie Soefer, it’s already a hit: Instagram accounts are devoted to preparing the cookbook’s recipes. Shepherd brings his talent to the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival in April, when he’ll collaborate on a dinner with Fort Worth chef Tuan Pham from Four Sisters: A Taste of Vietnam.
Thai-Style Oysters Rockefeller
- 2 pounds kale, ribs and stems removed
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 large shallots, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons green curry paste
- ½ cup cream cheese
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 dozen large oysters, on the half shell
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Bring large pot of salted water to boil and cook kale for
1 minute, until bright green. Drain, rinse in cold water and squeeze out excess fluid; chop roughly.
In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and saute onion, shallots, garlic, jalapeno and ginger, stirring occasionally, until onion softens and releases moisture. Add coconut milk, curry paste and cream cheese; stir until cheese melts into smooth sauce, 4 minutes. Add kale, season to taste with salt and pepper and add lime juice.
Place tablespoon of mixture atop each raw oyster; arrange on baking sheet and bake until topping is bubbly, about 5 minutes or so. Serve hot.
The New Orleans Kitchen Just when we vow to never buy another NOLA-focused cookbook, along comes this tome coauthored by chef Justin Devillier, a James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur, with Jamie Feldmar. Devillier grew up in California but, thankfully, his father had Louisiana roots and kept Paul Prudhomme cookbooks around the house. Devillier took it from there, eventually moving to the Pelican State. We made his pan-roasted chicken thighs with tangerine marmalade and thyme (to use up a plethora of orange marmalade in our pantry — he’s OK with that substitution), and now it’s a dish in heavy rotation in our kitchen. His modern interpretations honor Crescent City classics and elevate them, too. OK, who doesn’t want another recipe for duck and andouille gumbo? $40
Perini Ranch Steakhouse: Stories and Recipes for Real Texas Food The first Perini Ranch Steakhouse cookbook debuted almost 20 years ago, and it’s still a big seller. The new book by Lisa and Tom Perini with Cheryl Alters Jamison (Comanche Moon Publishing, $35) provides an updated picture of a humble country steakhouse that’s grown into a widely respected destination. Thanks to the seven dinners the Perinis have presented at the James Beard House in New York and a James Beard Award in 2014, their resume is filled with press praising Perini staples like the cowboy ribeye, chicken-fried steak, The Judge’s fried chicken, green chile hominy and, of course, Perini zucchini. Those classics are here, along with dishes introduced during the 15-year run of the Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit: fried quail legs, okra with pimento cheese, praline bacon and pear-cranberry crisp. Photography from Wyatt McSpadden includes nearly 120 images of food, as well as ranch scenes, shots of Tom and Lisa, and the beloved family basset hounds. Packaged with the famous Perini mesquite smoked peppered beef tenderloin (2 to 2.5 pounds), this is the ultimate Lone Star holiday gift; $155 plus shipping, periniranch.com.
Nothing Fancy Author, social media darling and newspaper columnist Alison Roman refers to entertaining as “having people over.” This laid-back attitude filters into her cookbook, too. Dishes are not fussy, but they will appeal to the food snobs in your circle. She likes meat, stews and big pots of pasta. She refers to appetizers as snacks. And while some of these dishes might look messy, they taste amazing. When it comes to beverages, she likes to keep things simple: Batch cocktails and spritzes are ideal. The recipes feature widely available ingredients, and many components can be made ahead of time — leaving more time to talk to guests. $32.50
John Tesar knows a thing or two about cooking prime steaks. So when he says the Otto Grill can cook that cut of meat as well as the $10,000 broilers at his Knife steakhouse can, you know this gift should please any steak fanatic. Fueled by a standard tank of propane, the German-engineered grill’s top-mounted burners reach 1,500 degrees in under three minutes. This intense, focused heat creates a golden, caramelized crust. “This thing does magic with a thick, expensive cut of dry-aged beef. I can make a steak just as perfect in the Otto as I can at Knife,” says Tesar, who uses an Otto to broil steaks, burgers and even pizzas at home. $1,195 at B&B Butcher Shop and Knife Plano. For an extra special gift, add a top-quality steak or two, also available at The Butcher Shop at B&B and Knife Plano.
Certain gifts are evergreens on our to-give list. Good cookware is definitely in the rotation. The Staub 4-quart cocotte is a special offering from Food52 and comes in a striking turmeric color. It’s a culinary workhorse: it browns food well, works on any cooking surface and retains heat. $284 (look for Food52 anniversary sale prices) at food52.com. For other colors, check out Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma.
The Nimble Cook Ronna Welsh wants to change the way people cook. If you know someone who is firmly set in their ways, this might not be the book for them. Otherwise, this is like taking a culinary class in your own kitchen. She showed us what to do with the green part of leeks, and we are hooked. Although it’s not a vegetarian cookbook, for the person who grows their own veggies, shops the local markets and dislikes food waste, The Nimble Cook is a bible of information. $30
Made with Love
Check out The Virgin Olive Oiler in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square for the foodie in your life. Try the robust Chilean Koroneiki olive oil with notes of green banana, stone fruit and bitter dandelion greens, starting at $13.95 for 200 milliliters. Balsamic vinegars range from mushroom-sage with Sicilian lemon to a traditional 18-year-old, $32.95 for 750 milliliters. (Shop 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Nov. 30 and enjoy complimentary custom engraving of your bottled purchases by calligrapher Ken Brown; up to seven words, in silver or gold.) Make your gift extra special with a shredder plate handmade by Oregon potter Jill Warila. It makes quick work of a clove of garlic, which can then be topped with olive oil for easy dipping out of the same dish, $19.95; mini amphora, $29.95. Sundance Square, 416 Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-294-0036, thevirginoliveoiler.com.
Gift the chocoholic on your list the good stuff made by Dr. Sue Williams, a physician who also is a top-notch chocolatier. The Grapevine shop
carries the biggest selection of Dr. Sue’s Chocolate, and they’re very generous with samples. We suggest a bag of the Campfire Bark — dark Belgian chocolate studded with housemade toasted marshmallows, organic graham cracker and a bit of smoked sea salt. Prices start at $9 for 4 ounces.
417 S. Main St., Grapevine, 817-416-7667, drsueschocolate.com.
Coffee is the perfect gift any time of year. Local roasters give us more options to experiment with different flavors and support small businesses. Janelle and Jacob Sikora of Two Cats Roasting Co. out of Arlington sell their small-batch coffee at farmers markets (sign up for email or follow them on social media @twocatsroastingco to find their location), and they offer a subscription service. $15 for 12 ounces, whole bean or ground. They do deliver; free to $5 for most of the DFW area.
It’s technically fruitcake, but don’t let that turn you off. Chuckwagon Fruit & Nutcakes are dense and moist little loaves studded with good stuff. For sweetaholics, look for the dark or milk chocolate toffee cakes. $15.50 per loaf. Follow on Facebook @fromtrailtotable to find Sandi Wilson and her goods. They also are sold at The Table, 120 St. Louis Ave., Fort Worth, 682-703-1092, thetablemarket.com.
I have a fond childhood memory of the thoughtful neighbor who gave homemade fudge to everyone on our block each Christmas. She switched up the recipe year to year, sometimes crumbling Heath candy bars over the fudge or scattering toasted pecans on top. But my favorite was always — and remains — the fudge crusted in crushed peppermints. I’ve created a recipe that seems very close to Mrs. Broad’s, customizing it to my passion for darker, less sweet chocolate (the peppermint candy provides plenty of sugar). You can adjust to your taste with the amount and flavor of the chocolate chips — milk, semisweet and bittersweet. Be sure to make extra for gifting; I know Santa does. — June Naylor
Santa’s Favorite Fudge
Makes about 25 squares of fudge
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cups mini marshmallows
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 10 to 12 peppermint candies, crushed, divided use
Line a 9-by-9-inch square pan with strips of parchment (or waxed) paper and coat evenly with cooking spray. Note: This makes short squares of fudge. If you prefer thick pieces, use a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
Combine cream, sugar, salt, marshmallows and butter in a heavy pot. Cook over medium heat until ingredients are nearly melted, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, then increase heat. Boil, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and immediately add chocolate chips, vanilla and half the crushed candies. Pour hot fudge in pan and top with remaining candies. Cool at room temperature, about 3 hours or until firm.
Lift the fudge from pan by gripping the edges of paper, and transfer to cutting board. Cut into squares. When packing in a box or tin, use waxed paper between layers to avoid sticking.
- Instead of vanilla and peppermints, add bourbon along with toasted pecan pieces
- Replace peppermints with finely chopped Heath candy bars
- Omit peppermints and drizzle top of fudge with caramel sauce and sea salt, flaked or coarsely ground