We have been eating out quite a lot recently, Not really totally by choice, but just the way it has happened. Hopefully we will not add too many pounds by the time we have finished.( and I haven’t even mentioned Mexican Breakfasts yet !)
We were in Texas, for less than 5 days, but managed to eat out three times, which I suppose was not too excessive! Visiting old friends gave us all the perfect opportunity. In Texas everything is bigger, even a simple Caesar Salad can be made using the heads of 4 Romaine lettuce, and that is just for one person !
Upon our arrival we were served Grillades and Grits! Grillades is a typical New Orleans dish of pork in a sauce, and normally served at breakfast, but good anytime. Grits, is a typical Southern dish made from Hominy corn, it looks like a mushy soft rice pudding, ( if anyone has seen he movie ” My Cousin Vinny ” you will know about grits). Grits would not be my first choice, but mixed with cheese, it becomes a bit like Polenta with cheese. I asked my friend, what happened to left over grits, after all waste not want not. I soon learnt. Grits can be recycled, in the form of French Toast Grits,( it solidifies when cold and can be sliced) not bad actually, especially with crispy American bacon and maple syrup.
Going out for lunch, we went to a Mexican restaurant in the Galeria area of Houston, Caracol, one of Hugo Ortega’s ( he has three or four in the Houston Area). We shared a starter of baked oysters, oysters are plentiful in the gulf and cheap, on the half shell or baked. To bake oysters is really simple, drain them put on a dish and sprinkle in this case with Parmesan cheese, but add spinach and Worcestershire sauce and then you have Oysters Rockefeller. I just love oysters, on the half shell, in a ceviche or baked, any which way will suit me. In the UK where oysters tend to be expensive, I have found that in the Chinese supermarkets, they can be bought frozen, which are perfect when cooking them!
For our main course I chose Oysters again, this time as Oyster Tacos, but with fried oysters, Yummy could have done without the a pyramid of rice though!
The following night we went local to where we were staying. The Liveable Forest, so named because when they started building in the ’70’s, they left most of the trees and therefore the animals, deer, amardillos, snakes and the like ( today they just plough down the trees when building a new area. It was decided to eat in a restaurant called the Veranda, I would say that Kingwood, is not much different to many USA, sub divisions, most people want something fast and not fine dining. The Veranda, hits the spot insomuch as it is not a chain and is small. Fine dining, maybe it is not, but is good especially for a noisy group ( which we were). However on a Saturday evening, before Christmas there were only three other tables occupied.
My friend chose a starter that had me baffled, it was called a Wedge Salad! Yes a Wedge! ( My grandson did suggest that it could give you a wedgie!) I could not imagine what it was, however, all it is, is a chunk of usually iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing, and bacon bits! The girls all chose the Crab Cakes, which were mildly disappointing insomuch as there was too much potato in them. Usually in the States, especially the areas that have good seafood, crab cakes are made with lump crab meat, chopped celery, cilantro, chopped peppers and maybe some Chilies blended together with sour cream.
For my main course I chose Hanger Steak with Chimichurri sauce. Hanger steak is almost never to be found in a supermarket and might have to be asked for in a butchers. It is sometimes called Butchers Steak, as there is only one piece from each cow and is rich in flavour, hence the butcher might just keep it for themselves. In France it is called Onglet, in Spain and Mexico it is arrachera, whilst in Texas and the southern USA it is either flank or more often fajitas. Served rare to medium rare to avoid toughness it is a delicious cut of meat.
To make Chimichurri sauce ( a South American spicy sauce for steak)
small bunch parsley, roughly chopped, ½ tsp oregano preferably fresh but dried will do. 2 garlic cloves, crushed 1 shallot, finely chopped ½ tsp chilli flakes , 3 tbsp olive oil juice ½ lemon, 2 tsp red wine vinegar.
To make the chimichurri, blitz the parsley, oregano, garlic, shallot and chilli flakes in a food processor , hand blender or chop very finely by hand. Add the olive oil, the lemon juice, vinegar and some seasoning, and blitz to combine everything to a chunky sauce consistency.
Heat a griddle or frying pan and cook the steaks for 2-3 mins on each side or until done to your liking. Rest for a few mins, then spoon the sauce onto the sliced steak. Serve with French Fries, creamed potatoes or baked potatoes and salad.