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Blue Plate and Blu on Weekend’s Radio Shows

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NOW HEARD IN THREE GREAT TEXAS CITIES! 

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

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

Chef Kent Rathbun has done a lot of great things, most of them (including Abacus in Dallas and Jasper’s in several cities) since arriving in Texas. Yet lovers of comforting homestyle cooking may end up loving his Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen the most, as we learn while tasting and chatting with the chef de cuisine and the general manager. In our Grape & Grain segment, we talk with wine buyer Collin Williams of Spec’s about what it means for a wine to be green, sustainable, biodynamic and a whole bunch of other words we’ve read on bottles lately. 

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

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

This week we head to Sugar Land to profile a very interesting new restaurant called Blu. Still, even if the restaurant is new, we meet up with an old friend in the kitchen – Thai-born, New York-savvy executive chef Junnajet Hurapan, who was our guest on the show back when he was opening Gigi’s Asian Bistro and Dumpling Bar at the Galleria. In our Grape & Grain segment, we talk with wine buyer Collin Williams of Spec’s about what it means for a wine to be green, sustainable, biodynamic and a whole bunch of other words we’ve read on bottles lately. 

DALLAS Saturdays 7-8 p.m., 570 KLIF

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

Chef Kent Rathbun has done a lot of great things, most of them (including Abacus in Dallas and Jasper’s in several cities) since arriving in Texas. Yet lovers of comforting homestyle cooking may end up loving his Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen the most, as we learn while tasting and chatting with the chef de cuisine and the general manager. In our Grape & Grain segment, we talk with wine buyer Collin Williams of Spec’s about what it means for a wine to be green, sustainable, biodynamic and a whole bunch of other words we’ve read on bottles lately. 

Our 22nd Year of Eating, Drinking and Telling You About It! 

 

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe

JALAPENO-RED PEPPER HUMMUS 

Somehow, all roads must lead to Texas. Otherwise, how can we explain the popularity of this eastern Mediterranean favorite often first encountered in Lebanese or Greek restaurants? Though the basic flavor of ground chick peas, sesame tahini, garlic and lemon is amazing enough, Texas cooks just had to start tinkering to achieve a bit more  great taste. And a little kick of heat, naturally. 

3 cloves of garlic

1 (15 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

1/3 cup tahini

1/4 cup lemon juice

½ jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, as desired

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup roasted red peppers 

Start by draining and rinsing the chickpeas. Place the garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse a few times. This way, you don’t have to chop the garlic by hand. Next add the chickpeas to the food processor, then the tahini. Add the lemon juice, jalapeno and the olive oil. Process the mixture until it’s thick and chunky. Now add the roasted red peppers, and process again until the hummus becomes smooth and creamy. Serve the roasted red pepper hummus with warm pita triangles or pita chips. Serves 8-10.

Artisans and Texas Paella on Weekend’s DM

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NOW HEARD IN THREE GREAT TEXAS CITIES! 

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

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

There are artists, we’re told, and then there are artisans. A new restaurant in Houston, created by not one but two exemplary French chefs, demonstrates just how much of the former there is in the latter. We chat with chefs David Denis and Jacques Fox about the foods and wines that make their Artisans tick. Appropriately, in our Grape & Grain segment, we taste and talk about  the wonderful wines of the Famille Perrin from the Rhone Valley in France. 

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

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

There are artists, we’re told, and then there are artisans. A new restaurant in Houston, created by not one but two exemplary French chefs, demonstrates just how much of the former there is in the latter. We chat with chefs David Denis and Jacques Fox about the foods and wines that make their Artisans tick. Appropriately, in our Grape & Grain segment, we taste and talk about  the wonderful wines of the Famille Perrin from the Rhone Valley in France. 

DALLAS Saturdays 7-8 p.m., 570 KLIF

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

Burgers are big business these days, especially in the market segment known as the Better Burger. Recently we experienced one of these better burgers, in the funky setting that goes by the name Twisted Root. And we’re certain what we think about this all-American classic will never be quite the same. In our Grape & Grain segment, we taste and talk about  the wonderful wines of the Famille Perrin from the Rhone Valley in France. 

Our 22nd Year of Eating, Drinking and Telling You About It! 

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe

COASTAL BEND PAELLA

This dish is half great taste and half nostalgia, since it references the Gulf Coast of Texas that curves south with ever more Tex-Mex flavor to the old shrimping port of Brownsville on the border. My plan here is to take Spain’s classic rice dish on a similar journey, with a nod to the Cajuns and Creoles of southwest Louisiana while we’re in the neighborhood. 

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 chicken breast halves, cut bite-sized

1 pound smoked sausage

1 onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 carrot chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled

1 tomato chopped

½ cup frozen green peas

3/4 cup chunky salsa

2 (10-ounce) packages yellow rice mix

7 cups water 

Heat the olive oil in a large saute (or paella) pan and brown the sausage and chicken. Add the onion, red pepper and carrot and cook until lightly caramelized. Add the minced garlic and stir quickly until golden. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, onion and garlic powders. Add the shrimp and stir just until pink, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato, green peas and salsa, stirring to incorporate. Pour in the rice and saffron seasoning, followed by the water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Serves 12-14.

Weekend Radio – with John’s Jazzfest Crawfish Rotini

NOW HEARD IN THREE GREAT TEXAS CITIES! 

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

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

This week we look at an unexpected Texas phenomenon: the success of chef Tyson Cole and his Uchi and Uchiko Japanese restaurants, first in Austin and now in Houston. Tyson joins us to talk about his personal challenges getting inside this exotic, mostly seafood cuisine – and then convincing a carnivorous state to embrace it. In our Grape & Grain segment, we chat with Spec’s wine buyer Collin Williams about the perfect wines for this crawfish season. (see our recipe below.) 

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

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

This week we look at an unexpected Texas phenomenon: the success of chef Tyson Cole and his Uchi and Uchiko Japanese restaurants, first in Austin and now in Houston. Tyson joins us to talk about his personal challenges getting inside this exotic, mostly seafood cuisine – and then convincing a carnivorous state to embrace it. In our Grape & Grain segment, we chat with Spec’s wine buyer Collin Williams about the perfect wines for this crawfish season. (see our recipe below.) 

DALLAS Saturdays 7-8 p.m., 570 KLIF

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

This week we’re “movin’ on up”…  no, not to the East Side next door to The Jeffersons but to the top of the Reunion Tower in Dallas, where Wolfgang Puck has a taste of Asia awaiting us. We chat with the executive chef and general manager of a restaurant whose name says how many feet it is off the ground: Five-Sixty. In our Grape & Grain segment, we chat with Spec’s wine buyer Collin Williams about the perfect wines for this crawfish season. (see our recipe below.) 

Our 22nd Year of Eating, Drinking and Telling You About It! 

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe

JAZZFEST CRAWFISH ROTINI  

Whether it’s for the original introduced at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or just for any version using the bounty of crawfish season, Texans crave this pasta from the far side of the Sabine River. Here’s my version that doesn’t use any trademarked name, so you can enjoy it without inviting your lawyer. Unless you want to, of course.  

1 pound of dry rotini pasta

1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

5 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 can Italian-style chopped tomatoes

Creole seasoning

Crushed red pepper

1 stick butter

1 pound of fresh, cooked or frozen Louisiana crawfish tails, undrained

Dry white wine

2 green onions, sliced

2 cups of half and half

Chopped parsley

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Rinse and drain well. Prepare a base by sautéing the onion, green pepper, celery, carrot and garlic in the olive oil until golden and caramelized. Add the chopped tomatoes, season to taste with Creole seasoning and crushed red pepper, and cook briefly. Puree this mixture in a blender or food processor. In a large pan, melt the butter and sauté the crawfish tails, incorporating any “fat” from the package for flavor.  Deglaze the pan with white wine. When nearly all the wine has evaporated, stir in the green onions followed by the half and half, bringing to a boil. Add the puree. Quickly toss the cooked pasta in the sauce. Garnish with parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty French bread. Serves 6-8. 

Note: Since we interview Collin Williams in this show about wines to pour with crawfish, we sent him the recipe for this dish. Here’s what Collin suggests. 

“Dishes that are higher in spice and cream bases require a wine that have brilliant acidity and a subtle touch of sweetness. For this I would normally turn towards a Riesling or Gewurztraminer. And, with this one I decided to go with the ol’ saying ‘What’s old is new again!’ I have always loved Rieslings from Australia because they seem to always showcase all of the flavors I love in Riesling (green apple, pear) while maintaining brilliant acidity and just a hint of sweetness. I tried this one recently and loved it: 

“Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa Riesling 2010 $12.99 cash100% Riesling from Barossa Valley and Eden Valley on 80-year-old vines. This wine showcases a wonderful assortment green fruit and lemon/lime flavors on the nose with a wonderful array of floral notes. Off dry and medium body on the palate, this wine is a perfect pairing for spicy and creamy foods as the balance of acidity and slight sweetness will harmonize on the palate. Long finish that is complex and mouthwatering and flavorful.”

 

Weekend’s DM Salutes Texas Crawfish Season

NOW HEARD IN THREE GREAT TEXAS CITIES! 

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

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

You may have noticed a lot more bacon in Austin chefs’ kitchens and on restaurant menus lately, and that’s because we’re living in a Golden Age of Bacon. There’s a whole restaurant in town called simply Bacon, and we stop in to sample the myriad ways “the candy of meats” finds itself showcased.  In our Grape & Grain segment, we spend some time with the fascinating Joel Peterson, one of the winemakers who made us love zinfandel. 

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

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

It’s crawfish season again, and all over the Houston area Cajuns and would-be Cajuns are bringing their pots of spiced-up water to a boil. It’s also the season of the Texas Crawfish and Music Festival in Old Town Spring, so we head there to chat behind-the-scenes with the guys who are making all that good food happen. In our Grape & Grain segment, we spend some time with the fascinating Joel Peterson, one of the winemakers who made us love zinfandel. 

DALLAS Saturdays 7-8 p.m., 570 KLIF

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

This week we head west from Dallas a couple hours to the little town of Graham. More importantly, we’re lucky enough to check into a resort and spa called Wildcatter and enjoy a lively (eating and drinking) chat with the guy who makes its namesake steakhouse worth a special trip. In our Grape & Grain segment, we spend some time with the fascinating Joel Peterson, one of the winemakers who made us love zinfandel. 

Our 22nd Year of Eating, Drinking and Telling You About It! 

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe

GRILLED BACON-WRAPPED ASPARAGUS 

1 1/2 pounds asparagus spears, trimmed 4 to 5 inches long tips

Extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

4 slices center cut bacon or pancetta

Chopped chives or scallions 

Lightly coat asparagus spears in extra-virgin olive oil. Season the asparagus with black pepper. Take a quick count of the spear tips, then divide the total number by four. Gather that number of spears and use a slice of bacon to wrap the bundle and secure the spears together. Repeat with remaining ingredients. To grill, place bundles on hot grill and cover. Cook 10 to 12 minutes until bacon is crisp and asparagus bundles are tender. Serves 4.

Malaga Tapas, Estancia Wines on Weekend’s Show

NOW HEARD IN THREE GREAT TEXAS CITIES! 

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

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

We’re in Austin this week, talking about the impact of Spanish tapas on the way Americans eat and drink with executive chef Alejandro Duran of downtown’s popular Malaga and cooking school chef-instructor Nancy Marr, who just got back from tasting her way around Spain. In our Grape & Grain segment, we consider the wines of Estancia with the guy who makes them, Scott Kelley. 

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

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

We’re in Austin this week, talking about the impact of Spanish tapas on the way Americans eat and drink with executive chef Alejandro Duran of downtown’s popular Malaga and cooking school chef-instructor Nancy Marr, who just got back from tasting her way around Spain. In our Grape & Grain segment, we consider the wines of Estancia with the guy who makes them, Scott Kelley. 

DALLAS Saturdays 7-8 p.m., 570 KLIF

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

We’re in Austin this week, talking about the impact of Spanish tapas on the way Americans eat and drink with executive chef Alejandro Duran of downtown’s popular Malaga and cooking school chef-instructor Nancy Marr, who just got back from tasting her way around Spain. In our Grape & Grain segment, we consider the wines of Estancia with the guy who makes them, Scott Kelley. 

Our 22nd Year of Eating, Drinking and Telling You About It! 

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe

PAN-ASIAN BBQ OYSTERS

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 garlic cloves

2 shallots

2 teaspoons minced red onion

2 teaspoons minced cilantro

½ teaspoon toasted Szechaun peppercorns (or crushed red pepper)

2 teaspoons minced mild chile pepper

2 ½ tablespoons white vinegar

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup sesame oil

4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper

Juice of 1 ½ lemons

½ cup teriyaki sauce

1/3 cup soy sauce

3 dashes hot pepper sauce

½ pound pancetta (or bacon)

2 dozen oysters on the half shell 

Blend all ingredients except pancetta and oysters in a food processor. Roast the pancetta in the oven until lightly browned. Pat dry and crumble or finely chop. Prepare fire in a grill. Place the oysters on the half shell directly above the coals and top with the sauce. Sprinkle with pancetta. Grill until oysters are bubbly, 5-7 minutes. Serves 8.

 

Terrific Tapas at Austin’s Malaga

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I tasted my life’s first tapas in Spain four decades ago – I loved them then, and I love them now. In the interim, tapas have been the “next big thing” in food several times, without ever actually becoming the next big thing. Yet the basic concept – tasting small plates of many foods instead of one big plate of one thing – has worked its way into our ideas about eating. Yes, even here in Texas. Especially at the 13-year-old Austin tapas destination called Malaga.

With Central Market chef-instructor Nancy Marr at my side – she who makes even me look like I know what I’m doing when I teach cooking classes there – we settled in for a long night of radio, eating, drinking and visits from Malaga executive chef Alejandro Duran. Born in Spain to a Spanish mother but dragged through many regions of Mexico as a kid by his Mexican-agriculture official father, Duran seems the best of both Old World and New. And the tapas he served Nancy and me did too.

This metal tower, usually reserved in fancy seafood houses for those $75 shellfish samplers, here delivers my oldest and most favorite traditional tapa along with, as though to underline my point, something the chef probably thought up day before yesterday. Without a Mexican tortilla in sight, the tortilla Catalan (his version of tortilla espanola) is an omelet by way of a frittata. An egg thing, in other words. The bottom dish offers fire-roasted Spanish piquillo peppers stuffed with fresh goat cheese and capers.

Thankfully tending toward the mild side, goat cheese is a favorite for just about any use at Malaga, including contained in these fried cakes served atop some wonderful sweet red onion marmalade and then drizzled with honey. Atop that is something of a surprise, a few crumbles of dried lavender – like the cheese itself, nothing too overpowering. Duran has a real flair for combinations done with equal parts surprise and restraint.

You know your half-remembered high school Spanish is in over its head when the menu promises calcots y setas a la parilla, beyond guessing that something is going on the grill. The dish is actually a symphony of different tastes and especially textures: grilled asparagus, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, fire-roasted piquillos and spring onions, all done up with toasted Marcona almonds, Cabrales bleu cheese and a bit of Romesco vinaigrette for dipping.

I am definitely one of those guys, as I explained to Nancy with some trepidation, who never met a meatball he didn’t like. So of course I dove head-first into Duran’s albondigas en salsa brava. According to the chef, for every one customer who finds these rounds of beef and pork not fried or “Sicilian” enough, hundreds of others keep coming back for more. The tomato sauce is kicked up with cumin and coriander, definitely putting the brava in this salsa.

In a tapas bar like Malaga, it isn’t about the traditional progression from little appetizers to big entrees, since all the plates are small and intended to gang up on you. Still, I did find one of the things I most wanted to gang up on me: the so-called empanadas Salamanca, named after the fascinating ancient university town. Light years removed from familiar Mexican empanadas, these are light turnovers stuffed with spinach, Mahon cheese and mushrooms. There’s roasted garlic-herb aioli drizzled over the top, plus spicy roasted tomato sauce on the side. In an instant, I who was in Spain forty years ago and Nancy who was there a few months ago both found ourselves in the passionate heart of Spain once again.

Chef Aquiles and James Tidwell on DM

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NOW HEARD IN THREE GREAT TEXAS CITIES! 

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

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

This week we check out one of the most interesting and impressive debuts we’ve encountered in a while: the tropical Mexican seafood place called La Fisheria in Houston. We sit down for a tasting and chat with handlebar-mustached chef-partner Aquiles Chavez, who’s something of a food-themed TV star south of the border. And in our Grape & Grain segment, we sample some exciting wines with master sommelier James Tidwell of the Four Seasons Resort at Las Colinas. 

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

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

This week we check out one of the most interesting and impressive debuts we’ve encountered in a while: the tropical Mexican seafood place called La Fisheria in Houston. We sit down for a tasting and chat with handlebar-mustached chef-partner Aquiles Chavez, who’s something of a food-themed TV star south of the border. And in our Grape & Grain segment, we sample some exciting wines with master sommelier James Tidwell of the Four Seasons Resort at Las Colinas. 

DALLAS Saturdays 7-8 p.m., 570 KLIF

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

This week we check out one of the most interesting and impressive debuts we’ve encountered in a while: the tropical Mexican seafood place called La Fisheria in Houston. We sit down for a tasting and chat with handlebar-mustached chef-partner Aquiles Chavez, who’s something of a food-themed TV star south of the border. And in our Grape & Grain segment, we sample some exciting wines with master sommelier James Tidwell of the Four Seasons Resort at Las Colinas. 

Our 22nd Year of Eating, Drinking and Telling You About It! 

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe

BEJAS GRILL SHRIMP ENCHILADAS 

We’ve always loved this outpost of creative Southwestern flavors at the heart of Fredericksburg. These shrimp enchiladas in a creamy cheese sauce have become a Bejas Grill signature. 

White Sauce:

6 cups heavy cream

4 tablespoons burgundy wine

4 tablespoons corn starch

4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

8 corn tortillas, dipped in oil

2 cups shrimp

1 cup mango

1 cup red bell pepper

Old Bay seasoning

Fresh dill to taste

2 cups Mexican rice

2 cups black beans

2-3 lime wedges

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot, heat the heavy cream until it boils. Add the cheese and stir

until blended, then add the wine and corn starch. To make the quick mango salsa, dice equal parts of

mango and red bell pepper. Squeeze the lime juice over the top. Peel the shrimp and butterfly. Marinate

for about 30 minutes using old bay seasoning and dill. After the shrimp have marinated, lightly grill

approximately 2 minutes, turning once or twice. Rough-chop the shrimp.

Moisten the tortillas with a little oil and preheat for 30 seconds on the grill, for greater flexibility in

rolling. Lay out tortillas, add shrimp and roll gently. Place in a ceramic baking dish, folded side down.

Upon completion of all enchiladas, pour cream sauce on top and bake for approximately 10 minutes,

until hot and bubbly. Plate enchiladas with rice and beans, and add a couple of spoons of mango salsa

on top of each enchilada. Serves 4.