January 12, 2008


Living in Southern California for so long, I grew accustomed to a long(ish) commute. And like other commuters, I was wont to grab a "bite" on the way to work, usually eating it in the truck. After about two weeks, the breakfast sandwiches from McWendy's King all start to taste the same. After two and a half weeks, they start to taste bad. I started to notice that a lot of the taco shops I passed were open early, so I started trying them out, and discovered the chorizo and egg burrito. I'm going to let you all in on this one, because you can actually find mexican chorizo (and spanish chorizo) around these parts. But you'll have to wait until I get a daughter to take some pics.
Like all good things, sometimes you just want something different, and every shop that offered chorizo and eggs also offered machaca and eggs. This was a real find. Machaca and eggs is not just delicious, it's absolutely fantastic. And machaca is incredibly versatile. I discovered it as a breakfast accompaniment to eggs, but you can actually use it in a variety of mexican dishes that call for beef. As I mentioned, I don't have any trouble finding chorizo around these parts anymore, but machaca is another matter. I can't find it anywhere. And as I do when I can't find something I want, I start to see if I can find a recipe for it.
This particular day, Providence was kind to me, and landed my browser on a site called Texas Cooking Online. There is an article there called "How to Make Beef Machaca" by chef David Bulla. Chef Bulla says in his article: "In my opinion, machaca is so superior in flavor and texture to ground beef taco meat that it makes me wonder why anyone would use ground beef for tacos." -- after making and tasting his recipe, I wholeheartedly concur. I'm embarrassed to say that I never considered using it in anything but eggs before reading this, but I've since remedied that. Machaca is now my go-to meat for most of the mexican dishes I make. Enchiladas, Tamales, Tacos, Burritos, and sometimes I just take a fork and eat it from a bowl. Every time I've taken machaca to work for breakfast or lunch, it draws curious colleagues from as far as 3 cubes away. I've lost count of how many times I've emailed the link to the recipe to folks. If you're a big fan of southwestern cuisine, this is one ingredient you'll want to keep on hand.
I spoke with the delightful gal who runs the site Texas Cooking Online, and asked if I could post the recipe, giving them credit for it and providing a link back to their site, and she was most gracious to give me permission to do that. So here is David Bulla's recipe for Beef Machaca. I would encourage you to check out his article, because he also gives you some recipes for how you might use it in enchiladas and quesadillas, as well as a great recipe for enchilada sauce. I'm giving you his recipe, the only alterations I made when I prepared this were insignificant. I used 2 serrano chiles in lieu of 1 jalapeno. (It's what I had on hand). And instead of 1/2 a bell pepper, I used 2-3 roasted, skinned Anaheim chiles. (Again, it's what I had on hand, plus I love anaheim chiles.) So, sans further adieu, here it is, -- enjoy.

This is a basic machaca recipe. You can add to it or take away from it. Spice it up a little by adding chili powder or chili paste. Finish with some diced potatoes for Machaca con papas. You could also make a version of this recipe with leftover roasts or fajitas. Skip the marinade step and the searing step. Simply simmer the meat with the other ingredients until it is falling apart then shred it.


  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of two limes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2-3 lb Chuck Roast or Skirt Steak, trimmed and cut into lb portions.
  • 1 Large Texas Sweet Onion (yellow onion) diced
  • ½ green bell pepper diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 Fresh Jalapeno Pepper, minced
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes or tomatoes with green chilies
  • ¼ cup beef broth
  • 1 Tb dried oregano
  • 1 Tb ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce such as Tabasco
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for searing the beef

For the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a bowl then whisk them to form an emulsion. Add the beef making sure every piece is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate.

Marinate the beef overnight in a bowl in the refrigerator. Before preparing, drain thoroughly and allow meat to come up to room temperature for about 30 minutes.

In a large soup pot, heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Sear the beef a few pieces at a time to develop a rich brown color on all sides as well as on the bottom of the pan. Do this in several batches if the pot is too crowded.

When all the beef is browned nicely and removed from the pan, add the onions, peppers, and garlic to the hot pan. Saut for a few minutes then add the remaining ingredients to the pan along with the beef. Bring to a boil, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer slowly for about 2 hours. The meat should be very tender and should easily fall apart when pricked with a fork.

Remove from heat, remove meat to a cutting board and shred with a pair of forks. Return to the pot and bring to a simmer, uncovered. Reduce the liquid until very thick, almost dry. At this point, adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and whatever additional heat you want to add if any.

Serve with tortillas, cheese, salsa, lettuce and guacamole for a great beef taco. Portion and freeze the remaining machaca in zip lock bags for later use.

January 08, 2008

Fried Oysters

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
-- The apostle Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians, 13:11.

Of course, Paul was talking about far more weighty matters. (Although, around the Chesapeake, folks tend to defend their feelings about oysters with near Gospel-like fervor.) Specifically, Paul was reminding the believers in Corinth that we currently have a partial view of everything, but a day is coming when we'll see things in a more complete way, thereby having a much clearer picture of things.

This passage from the New Testament reminds me that I ought to expect children to be children. And had I been a more attentive child myself, when the time came, I would have been much more cautious about how I introduced my own children to the crown jewel of Chesapeake seafood, -- the oyster. Nonetheless, one day years ago, in my small kitchen in an apartment outside of San Diego, I managed to score a half-dozen raw oysters, which I stood over the sink and shucked, slurping each off it's own built-in serving spoon. My youngest daughter begged me to try one, so I let her. (mistake) She promptly spit it into the garbage, which irritated me, because they were quite hard to come by.
My own father never let me have oysters at that age, and certainly not raw on the half-shell. When he finally decided I was old enough to try them, (about 13 - 14) he introduced me to the fried oyster sandwich. Two large, fried oysters, on two slices of pasty white bread with catsup. I was instantly in love with this fantastic food. Crunchy, delicate briny flavor, the sweetness of the catsup, all playing together in a maritime symphony. It was absolutely heavenly. I started ordering fried oysters whenever they were available. From there I graduated to oyster stew, oyster casseroles, and eventually, -- raw oysters on the half shell.
So, -- feeling somewhat repentant at the way I introduced my daughter to this incredibly delightful food, and concerned that I had turned her forever against our regionally revered bi-valve, I sought to redeem myself this weekend. I picked up a pint of shucked oysters from my local fish market, and fried the lot of them. Oysters are sold (around here) in two sizes; Selects (large) and Standards (smaller). For frying, I always use the selects. They're a dollar more a pint. I told my daughter how I had an oyster sandwich, and she decided to make her own. Very similar, only instead of white bread, she used a hot dog roll, and she added mayonnaise in addition to catsup. (she is, after all, from California, where the state condiment is Mayo.) And she actually liked it! So I'm hopeful that she'll progress to the point that she'll actually enjoy, even crave this wonderful creature as she continues to grow, and eventually put away childish things. (but not all childish things)
So, here is the recipe, very simple -- that set me on the road to redemption.

Fried Oysters

1 Pt. Select oysters, drained
1 sleeve saltine crackers
1/4 cup corn meal
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. water

Mix the eggs & water in a bowl, and set aside.
Crush the crackers, and mix the cracker crumbs with the corn meal in a food processor until you have fine cracker crumbs.
One by one, dip an oyster into the egg wash, then cover with the cracker / corn meal mixture, then put into hot oil.
Fry until golden brown, then drain them on some paper towels.

It depends on the size of your pan, but I was frying 4 at a time. Probably could have done 6, but you don't want to crowd the pan. Give yourself some room. Hope you enjoy them.

January 01, 2008

Black-eyed peas

Greetings all. Here it is Jan. 01, I'm not calling this a "resolution", per se, but I've been meaning to bet more active on this blog. So, camera or no camera, I can still write, which was my primary purpose to begin with.
In our family, it's been a tradition for years to begin each new year with black-eyed peas. I've heard that eating black eyed peas on New Year's day brings good luck. I have to confess, I love 'em. I look forward to it every new years. I used to take a bowl to our pastor, but since we've moved, I pretty much enjoy them on my own. Every year, it varies slightly, depending on what I have on hand, but the basics stay pretty much the same. Here's how I made them this year, (which happened to be the best batch to date.)

1 lb. dried black eyed peas
1 ham bone (or 2 hocks)
2 roasted poblano chiles, seeded & diced.
1 onion, diced.
1 can tomato sauce
worcestershire sauce (couple-three turns of the pot)
couple shakes of pepper sauce
salt & pepper to taste

First, you want to soak the black eyed peas overnight. Sort the peas and pick out anything that doesn't look good. Then cover them with about 3-4 times more water than peas. In the morning, drain and rinse them. Now, the ham. If you're using hocks, put them in the empty pot. I use a 4 qt. enameled cast iron pot. If you're using a ham bone, you might have to see if there's room for both the bone and the peas! If you don't have room, cut off as much ham as you can, chop it into bite-sized chunks, and put that in the pot. Wrap the bone and save it in the freezer for split pea soup. If you do have enough room for all of it, so much the better.
Now the peas have drained, put them in on top of the ham. Add onions, chiles, tomato sauce, worcestershire, pepper sauce, and salt & pepper. Stir all that up, and turn up the heat to bring everything to a boil. Let it boil, for about 5-10 minutes, then turn it down to a simmer, and cover.
After about 2 hours, if you used either hocks, or the ham bone, take them out and put on a cutting board. When they're cool enough to handle, cut off any meat, and return it to the pot.
Continue to simmer until the peas are tender. The way I make mine, they're just a step above mushy. Yesterday, I had them on the stove for several hours, probably 4-5 hours, so don't get impatient. They just take time, like most good things.
I don't know if they've ever brought me luck, but they always taste good, and for me, that's better than luck.

Happy New Year, all.