Archive for the ‘Author Bio’ Category

    It is hot in my kitchen. It is hot in Cancún, México. And it is hot in politics, as the newly selected President of México wins a six year term. Hope there is some great changes in this decade! Let the fiestas begin. If you have any questions while reading this:                                                            

Follow on http://twitter.com/alexxstclair                                                        

Friend me http://facebook.com/alex.stclair.908 

Gracias!

So I have decided that my ZEN is to write a mosaic of memoirs and recipes from my Mother’s kitchen, La Cocina de Mi Madre. This E CookBook has a variety of affordable and super simple recipes. Most folks think you need an elaborate pantry of ingredients to cook up GREAT TEX·MEX and MÉXICAN FOOD! But with the advent of Whole Foods and the competition trying to catch up, the ingredients are not only easier to get, they are cheaper too! E-Publishing due out in August as we work on pictures and travel illustrations!

Here are some delish samples of what’s in the pipeline:

      La Cocina de Mi Madre

          By Alex St. Clair

When I grew up in San Antonio, Texas during the fifties and sixties, Méxican and Tex-Mex cuisine consisted of homemade fusion flavors. We were considered lower-middle class but our meals were first class. Simple but to die for. My point here at the beginning is that you don’t need to spend big bucks to get a big bang from these affordable recipes. And they didn’t take hours of preparation but rather depended on special secrets like fusing our herbs and spices with cooking oil and using freshly imported ingredients. So these are money savers and time savers (for the most part, lol).

Luckily my single-working mother waited tables for my Uncle George/Tío Cuco at his 24 hour restaurant at the San Antonio Farmer’s Market, Eddie’s Truckers’ Café, where the freshest ingredients were two minutes away. Every night trucks from México delivered the best Serrano chile peppers, herbs and spices, the ripest Roma tomatoes and the freshest garlic and onions. All of these are the basis for the Méxican and Tex-Mex kitchens.

Ours was a meld of Mexicans and Texans marrying and having families thus evolving La Cocina de Mi Madre. My Mexican step-father was a Matador Bullfighter who emigrated from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon and became a milkman, yes that’s right, a milkman at Metzger’s Dairy in San Antonio. You could say it was a marriage made in food heaven for me.

His penchant for Serrano peppers taught us to try them raw to grilled to sautéed. Plus we got the freshest dairy products everyday (even ice cream to put out the fire)!

Hot off the grill corn and flour tortillas married to ‘Spanish’ rice which was added to hearty soups or paired to homemade pinto beans which later became refried beans.  Chickens, eggs and beef from my Tío’s farm in Somerset, Texas, south of San Antonio, complimented the staples to create an exciting epicurean event, though we didn’t know what epicurean meant back then. The kitchens’ warmth, aromas and tastes along with the bright food colors on the counters and the sizzling sounds in the skillets dazzled all of our five senses.

As a novelist, I dreamt of penning the best recipes that I learned to hone starting at the early age of thirteen, in both my mother’s kitchen, my Tío Cuco’s restaurant and later in life from my dear Méxican friends. While my easy going mother stayed busy working at the restaurant late nights; she took the time to teach me the passion and love of cooking for my anxious brother and sister at home while my overbearing father figure, Tío Cuco, endeared me to the timing of cooking for hungry, impatient truck drivers from the Farmers Market.

Fast forward to the present and the recipes I’ve collected to create a healthier level of simple pleasures, easy to prepare and yet that are complex to the palette. Keeping the tastes clean and crisp while the flavors fresh are the goals.

Great chefs like Rick Bayless have taken La Cocina to another level. Though I don’t even begin to compare myself to my idol, Rick’s travels and shows inspired me to combine these fantastic recipes to my travels, studies and trip tips to South Texas and the Mexican cities of Monterrey, Lake Chapala, Guadalajara, Puebla, Cuernavaca and the Mayan Yucatan and Guatemalan Highlands.

I spice up my Corazón E-Cookbook with my adult travel stories while peppering with childhood memories and finally adding just the right amount of salt to the recipes near and dear to my heart collected over the past 50 years.

Please enjoy preparing these simple meals while pampering your loved ones with love and passion and reading about my adventures that I experienced throughout Texas and México.

Try one of our most popular recipes for a breakfast salsa or Huevos A La Mexicana that are sure fire winners and one where you control the heat! Plus a bonus Tortilla Chip recipe!

Alamo Salsa Ranchera

When the Texans and the New Mexicans defended the Alamo provisions ran low but with a few resourceful women they managed to get by on some basic foods like eggs and hot salsa. Here’s a taste of the Old Alamo in my hometown San Antonio.

For enough salsa for a hearty breakfast that will feed two people you’ll need:

Four ripe plum size Roma Tomatoes

Four to Six (if you like it hot!) large Serrano Peppers (about an inch & a half)

One quarter cup of sliced white or yellow onion

Two to four cloves of garlic about the size of your pinkie finger tip

Three tablespoons of cold-pressed 365 Whole Foods Safflower oil

Quarter teaspoon of sea salt or salt to taste

Small pinch of fresh black pepper

Small sauce pan

Half cup of cold water to add at the end and Voila!

 

 

Directions:

Set the stove setting to low to medium and add the oil. Watch to keep from smoking. But you want it hot enough to get a sizzle going.

Dice the Roma tomatoes and set to the side.

Chop the Serrano peppers thinly. You may want to wear gloves or use a plastic bag to hold onto to them but if you’re nimble with the knife simply slice and wash your hands quickly with water.

Mince the garlic and set aside. You want it to get some air to bring out the flavor.

Slice the onion as if you were making onion rings, not too thick and not too thin. Or you can mince it. The onion ring look gives a nice look when you’re serving though.

Watch your sauce pan and drop the chiles, garlic and onion and sauté gently. When they get a light golden tinge sprinkle in your salt and ground black pepper. Important: You want to fuse the flavors here. It takes about 30 seconds. Keep heat low and now drop your tomatoes into the pan and make a roux or paste consistency. Don’t scorch or burn.

Here comes the magic, drop a few drops of water and if it sizzles then you can add the water and get a nice flash of steam going. The aroma should indicate that you’re close. Stir the water well and simmer. If you like thick sauces, you can reduce. If you want a thin sauce, which is how we cooked it in La Cocina de Mi Madre, then add another tablespoon or two. Taste and see if it’s salty enough.

This is now your ‘salsa ranchera’ that can be poured over eggs over easy or sunny side up and you now have the famous ‘Huevos Rancheros’ or scramble up enough eggs for two and pour over as well. A perfect pairing is with refried beans (see that recipe).

Serve with corn or flour tortillas and breakfast beverage of choice. We drank oodles of coffee and hot chocolate during winter and fresh cold orange juice during the sweltering hot Texas summers. Back then in the ‘60’s everyone used space heaters or water coolers respectively.

Oh yes, before I forget…Any salsa left over will keep at room temperature for a day. Otherwise put in a jar and store for another day or how we liked on those cold winter nights, we reheated the salsa and dipped homemade tortilla chips into it for a TV snack. Like I said, it was the ‘60’s so we watched Tarzan, The Three Stooges and I Love Lucy. Then homework…lol.

Huevos Á La Méxicana

No matter where I traveled In México, and I have traveled extensively by the way, I found one meal to be found prepared no matter where I landed by plane, train, bus, car or foot. I say foot because I once broke down in my VW Bug rental smack dab in the middle of the Mayan rainforest jungle on the Méxican Guatemalan border circa 1982. And I got lost taking the wrong road to Yaxchilan, a famous Mayan site. I was never more frightened in my life. This dish my friends is called Huevos Á La Méxicana. I will finish this little ditty of a cliffhanger story in just a minute. But every rancho, pueblo and town has their own version of Eggs Méxican Style. This simple dish, bar none, can be paired up with corn or flour tortillas and pinto or black beans. I would say the latter combo of flour tortillas and black beans, refried, are my fave served with a great pot of fresh Méxican coffee and a hint of cinnamon and brown sugar. Sorry, honey will not work even though I swear by it therapeutic properties, especially Yucatan honey!  

Now let us get down to business. I love brown eggs. I don’t know why but the mere color and look make me think of the farm my Uncle, Tio Coco, had outside of San Antonio in Somerset. Whole Foods and most grocers carry them but yes, I know, white are everywhere so just make sure they are FRESH!

You will need for two people:

Four large to Jumbo Brown eggs

Four Serrano Peppers

Two Roma or small Tomatoes

Two tablespoons of chopped White Onion

One Clove of peeled Garlic

Pinch of Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Two tablespoons of cold-pressed 365 Whole Foods Corn Oil (or Safflower) I like corn oil for this recipe, the taste reminds me of Mexico more!

Directions:

Use your frying pan that you always use to scramble your eggs in, you know, your favorite pan.

Put pan on very low heat and add the oil. Watch and bring to low medium after you have done the following…

Rinse the Serranos, tomatoes, onion and garlic.

Chop the peppers quarter inch slices, without the stem of course silly. Dice the tomatoes. Chop the onion. Mince the garlic. Let them sit a minute while you scramble the four eggs in a mixing bowl with a pinch of sea salt and the freshly ground pepper. Add a teaspoon of water if you like them a little runny. The tomatoes will also make them runny. If you like them drier then I suggest only one and a half tomato and no water.

Once you have brought the heat up to low medium drop your peppers, onion and garlic and gently sauté, watch the heat so as not to scorch. Get a nice translucence to the onions and that is when you know to add your tomatoes. Stir well and get them to brown slightly but firm. Don’t mash them up or you will wind up with a ranchero sauce. Good but not the texture you want.

Now fold in the scrambled eggs and fuse all the flavors together. They will cook in the same time as normal scrambled eggs plus or minus a minute. Just watch as you keep folding over every ten to fifteen seconds.   Voila! You are done. Now wasn’t that quick and easy.  Some folks like more salt and some less pepper. You may add these afterwards if you are shy to spices like in some parts of the US or Europe.

You can pair with refried pinto or black beans. Most people don’t keep these on standby like we did growing up, unless…you are a latino familia…lol. We love our fresh beans…So I recommend a can of Progresso Beans which you will need to prepare beforehand otherwise the eggs will get cold. Also, be ready to heat your tortillas on a grill or right on the stove burners carefully and quickly serve with the Huevos Á La Méxicana! If you like, whole wheat toast works and even French croissants. And if you are an English muffin fan then yes it is ok to cheat a little bit. Remember we like to make our fusion making fun!

Oh wow, I almost forgot my lost in the jungle story. First, don’t wear cowboy boots in the jungles of Chiapas or any jungle for that matter. Luckily, there was a makeshift road that I thought my map said to take. The proverbial fork in the road. I was trying to get to a lost Mayan ruin called Yaxchilan but instead I got to NOWHERE!

By the time night came, I was totally exhausted walking a few kilometers in my custom made cowboy boots in a hundred degree, hundred % humidity no man’s land. I stopped at a lean to makeshift hut I spotted. It was abandoned. I slept in it as the rain came down around me. I cupped my hands for a few godsend swallows and went to dreamland.

When I woke in the blazing morning heat, I continued on for several kilometers and came to a dead end. Actually it was a corn field (my luck and love of corn) and came upon two Mayan Indians. The first thing I asked for was water. They handed me a gourd and I took a giant gulp of MOONSHINE! From corn mash! It was out of a movie as the two laughed and I howled with laughter too. They told me just to go back the way I had come and to stop at the pig farmer’s house, Don Rosario’s, for food and water. I remember seeing the pig farmer’s house but no pig farmer.

In my frustration and anger at the whole situation, I took off my cowboy boots and hurled them at the road. I finally made it to Don Rosario’s and rested while his lovely, but portly, wife made me HUEVOS Á LA MÉXICANA with freshly made black beans! Oh my God, the food never, ever tasted so good. Better than the Four Seasons Hotel Restaurant in Austin or any fancy, schmancy eateries in San Francisco, México City, Dallas or Houston!

When I finished eating I rested in a hammock and soon saw three men on horseback arrive. They looked at me and my dirty, cut feet and laughed. They then pulled out my pair of custom made cowboy boots and asked “Are these yours?”

I learned three great lessons that trip. First, people everywhere like to drink alcohol, even if it’s in the middle of the jungle and even if it’s moonshine, corn liquor to be exact. Second, people are honest most of the time. Those men didn’t need to give me back my boots. And third, even the simplest of Mexican food can be amazingly tasty especially when it´s farm fresh and you are starving. Ok, and I will add a fourth…wait for the pig farmer to arrive and ask for directions, it will save you a lot of anguish and hurt feet.  

This is one of my favorite stories to recant. I am just glad I can now write and laugh about it. I have never been so lost in my life!

Eventually, I got a farmer to pull out the VW Bug with a tractor and I made it to Yaxchilan. I later use the ruins as a setting in my novel American Beauty: House Of Cartels for the Valley of Lost Souls coming out this fall on Amazon and other sites. Boy how I love MÉXICO!

Stay tuned for another fantastic story of when the Chichonal Volcano of Chiapas exploded during this trip and I was caught in a rain of volcanic ash.

 

Alicia’s Red, White and Blue Tortilla Chips

Every 4th of July our family reunions were a mix of Irish-Americans, Mexican-Americans and Texans (a whole new breed of new Americans or so we thought). My little sister, who was nine at the time, Alicia, and I, fifteen, came up with a novel idea to bring all three together with our take on fried corn chips. These took very little time but were big hits with our dips and salsas.

We found blue corn tortillas, red chile corn tortillas and the traditional white corn tortillas already made in packages of a dozen at H.E.B. stores in San Antonio. Instead of cutting them all into triangles we took the white and red tortillas and cut them into long one and a half inch wide strips and let them dry out for four hours. Those would represent the stripes on the American flag. We tried making stars out of the blue corn tortillas but that didn’t work out too well so we opted to do the traditional triangular cuts of eighths and let those dry for four hours as well. You get the picture, don’t you?

We used our deep fryer and started with cold-pressed canola oil, pouring about two and half inches worth into it and heated it to about 275 degrees so we wouldn’t scorch the chips.

We flashed fried them for a few minutes until we had a nice bright color. The long strips of red and white were about four to five inches long and about an inch wide after flash frying. We dried them onto paper towels and then arranged them standing in blue wide mouth coffee cups. The blue chips we simply flashed fried then dried and put on the saucer that held the coffee cups. Last year, needless to say, our family thought they were cute until we brought out our new hits: the bacon black bean and roasted garlic dip, chipotle pinto bean dip and smoked cheddar and Jalapeno Monterrey Jack Cheese dip and left them speechless, especially when they double-dipped to combine the flavors. To this day, I always cut all my tortilla chips lengthwise and can stand them proudly like little soldiers on any occasion. They’re easier to hold, dip with and don’t break into bits and pieces. I made sure to salt them as they dried to have a bit of nice flavor until I discovered, like on popcorn, that garlic, onion and barbeque flavored salts took them to a whole other level.

I remember when we were in LA one Xmas and ventured into Susan Feniger’s Ciudad, now Street,  that served upscale Mexican food and were speechless when they brought the same corn chips but the blue ones were lengthwise and we decided not to chide them. I dedicate these to her. For my little hermana, Alicia.

Want more and have a special request? Email me direct and I will send you more sneak peaks at some of our faved familia recipes from La Cocina De Mi Madre: My Mother´s Kitchen!