Winter Wonderland

“Wait, where are you?”, the person on the other end of the line asks in complete disbelief.

Many conversations have gone along these lines this month. Yes, it may seem crazy to some, but I decided to come to New England for January. The winter wonderland is absolutely exquisite. Most snowbirds are heading to the sunny South and I decided to go North. What? Well, I have the flexibility and desire. And, of course, you know, sometimes you just have to mix it up.


I’m guilty of flying on auto-pilot in the kitchen sometimes. I don’t stretch with techniques or out of my normal palate of flavors. Sometimes, just like you, I just want to get dinner on the table. And, after a long day of exacting, precise recipe testing, the last thing I want to do is follow a ding-dang recipe. So, you know, sometimes you just have to mix it up.


I’ve had a stack of books to check out from Ten Speed Press, my publishing house.  I’m proud to be one of their authors. Robb Walsh is a fellow Ten Speed Press author and I am a sincere admirer of his work. Robb is an award winning author and journalist. He’s the real deal and his take on Texas is just the right thing to mix up your cold January.


Robb’s latest book is  Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook. He covers the classic Texas favorites like chicken-fried steak, cheese enchiladas, barbecued brisket, and King Ranch casserole.  He also delves into other Texan fusion cuisines, and there are more than a non-native might expect. There’s more to Texas than Tex-Mex, my friend. He shakes things up with Texas-versions of soul food, German-influenced recipes, and Vietnamese crossovers. With more than 200 recipes and captivating photography, Texas Eats brings Texas food and culinary history vibrantly to life.  It’s a beautiful, wonderful book.


Food Blog South

Education is a great way to shake things up.  Later this month I will be learning and sharing at Food Blog South in Birmingham. It’s a fantastic conference that has grown into a super event in just a few short years. On 25 January, the day before the conference actually starts, Lisa Ekus and I are teaching Honing Your Edge: Media Skills and Branding for Bloggers and Culinary Professionals.  The seminar will be held at Rosewood Ballroom, the site of the conference. The seminar is in a classroom setting and is limited to 50 people. There are still spaces available.  This is a great opportunity to learn and grow. Let me know if you need more information.

Lastly, on 28 January members of the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier are hosting a Simple Abundance cooking class at The Cook’s Warehouse to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. It’s going to be a great night and seats are limited. Sign up today!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!


Robb’s Beef Brisket Tacos with Chipotle Dressing

Serves 10

4 pounds trimmed beef brisket
1 large white onion, chopped
4 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon salt
10 peppercorns
2 serrano chiles, coarsely chopped
8 cups water
4 cups beef broth

Chipotle Dressing
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
Lettuce leaves, for serving
Chopped tomatoes, radish slices, cucumber slices, and chopped red onions, for garnish
20 Crispy Taco Shells

In a Dutch oven, combine the beef, onion, bay leaves, 
garlic, salt, peppercorns, and serranos. Pour in the water and broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 3 hours, until the meat is falling-apart tender. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the brisket will register 190°F. Alternatively, bring to a boil as directed, then cover and cook in a preheated 350°F over for 3 hours. Or, combine all of the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on the low setting for 6 to 8 hours.

Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and let cool. Meanwhile, strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside. When the brisket is cool, trim and scrape away any fat and gristle. With your fingers or 2 forks, tease the meat into shreds. Cut the shreds into 1-inch-long threads and place in a bowl. Moisten the meat with ½ cup of the broth. Save the remaining broth for another purpose.

To make the dressing, in a blender, combine the oil, lime juice, vinegar, and garlic and sprinkle in a little salt and pepper. Drain the chipotles, pouring all of the adobo sauce into the blender. Then add the chipotles to taste: there are about 10 chipotles in a can. For a little heat, add just 1 chipotle; for a medium-hot dressing, add 2 or 3 chipotles; and for a spicy dressing, add 4 or more chipotles. Turn on the blender and process until you have a smooth dressing. Add the dressing to the shredded beef. The mixture should be moist but not soupy. Chop the rest of the chipotles and put them on the table as a condiment.

Salpicón is a mixture of chopped fish, meat, or vegetables in a sauce, used as fillings for tacos, croquettes, and pastries. It is customarily chilled, then served at room temperature. To chill, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to several days. When you remove it from the refrigerator, the top will be dry and the dressing will have collected on the bottom of the bowl. Just before serving, dump the mixture into another bowl and retoss it.To serve, arrange a bed of lettuce leaves on a deep platter, and spoon the salpicón onto the lettuce. Garnish with the tomatoes, radish slices, and cucumber slices and top with a sprinkling of onion. Serve with the taco shells.

“Reprinted with permission from Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook, with More than 200 Recipes by Robb Walsh, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.”

Beef Photo credit: Laurie Smith © 2012

Winter Wonderland photos by Virginia Willis

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.