All posts by The Gentleman Caller

Johnson City Tortilla Pie

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Imagine, if you will, that you are 11. That you are seat belted into a giant Buick LeSabre, next to your sisters. Imagine the Judds coming through the car speakers, and singing along in harmony with most of the people in the car. Imagine one of your sisters gets car sick. A lot. Imagine mom giving Dramamine to all of us, because there’s one kid who likes to get sick, but that shit will knock the other two of you out for awhile. Imagine your sleepy little feet landing in a pyrex casserole dish full of a beautifully executed King Ranch Chicken casserole in the floorboard. Welcome to my childhood.

The King Ranch is a big place in Texas. There is a casserole named after it. Enough about that.

MY family ranch, The Stanton Ranch, is in Johnson City, Texas. While nothing to sneeze at, in terms of acreage and acclaim it is no King Ranch. But that didn’t even enter our minds while we traversed its creeks and rivers in our inner tubes, fished, made the most of its ample venison and generally enjoyed being around our relatives.

And we all knew how to eat. Mom, Aunt Marcie and Granny would generally do a casserole or two ahead of time for ease and convenience while we were all up at the ranch, much preferring to spend time in the creek or playing cards than sweating over the stove.

For issues of freezability and portability, the casserole is a solid meal. In this version, I have taken the classic King Ranch Chicken casserole and made it palatable. Reduced are the cans of condensed soup, and more complex flavors take their place.

What you need:

  • 1 lb uncooked white meat chicken, cubed
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano + 1 tsp Mexican oregano (I use Bolner’s Fiesta Spices for this, it’s really the best)
  • 1 tbsp cumin + 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp lard (or olive oil or butter)
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 4 oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp masa harina or flour
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 10.5 ounce can Cream of Mushroom condensed soup
  • 4 tsp chopped pickled jalapeños (optional)
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz shredded monterey jack cheese

In a saucepan, combine 2 cups chicken stock, 1/2 cup white wine, 1 tsp Mexican oregano, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp chili powder and 1 pound of chicken. Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to stew for about a half hour. Remove from heat, allow to cool on its own.

Preheat oven to 375.

Melt 1 tbsp lard in a large saute pan. Add the chopped onion, sweat. Add the garlic and sliced mushrooms. Add 1 tsp Mexican oregano, 2 tsp cumin, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp white pepper.

Scatter 2 tbsp masa over the entire mixture. Stir and allow the raw flavor to be cooked off.

Shred the cooked chicken into the mixture and stir. Add the cooking liquid from the chicken plus an additional 1/4 cup white wine. Stir to bring the masa and liquids together.

Add the condensed soup and Rotel tomatoes. Add the chopped jalapeños (optional).

Spray a rectangular 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Cut 10 of the tortillas in half. Line the bottom of the casserole dish using the straight edges of the halved ones to make the perimeter, then covering the middle with two whole tortillas. Spread 1/3 of the chicken mixture over the tortillas. Repeat this process 3 times, so that there are three layers of tortilla alternating with 3 layers of chicken mixture.

Cover the top with the grated cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.

Full downloadable PDF here: Johnson City Tortilla Pie

This is a dream in the freezer. Cover tightly and shove her in for a rainy day.

Also, I slathered mine with The Gentleman Caller’s All-Purpose Chili Sauce #1 http://thegentlemancaller.net/the-gentleman-callers-all-purpose-chili-sauce-1/ and then topped with a sprig of micro cilantro that I sprouted earlier.

You are going to love this one, kiddos.

Keep coming back; I’ll keep giving you more.

xo-TGC

 

The Gentleman Caller’s Homemade Miracle Gro Liquid Fertilizer

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

It’s planting season. I don’t know about you, but if I am going to go to all the trouble of nurturing my little babies, I want them to grow, grow, grow!

Now there are countless options in the realm of commercial fertilizers, but! why not round up a few household items, AND some things you were going to compost or throw away and concoct your own?

This easy liquid fertilizer will deliver nutrients to your plant progeny and won’t break the bank.

What you need:

  • 1 gallon jug (I repurposed a well-cleaned washer fluid bottle. Free.)
  • 1 tbsp epsom salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ammonia
  • used coffee grounds
  • egg shells
  • water

Using a funnel, pour epsom salt, baking soda, and ammonia into your gallon jug.

Add used coffee grounds. You can continually add used coffee grounds day after day.

Add crunched up egg shells. You may continue to add egg shells as you cook the actual insides.

Put it in a cool dry place. Allow to steep. Give it a shake every day or so.

After about 2 – 3 weeks, it will be ready to start using. If you want to be fancy, you can strain the solids out. It’s not necessary, but it’s up to you.

Add the liquid fertilizer to the dirt around plants, not to the foliage of the plant itself.

Enjoy, and watch the fruit of your labor!

 

The Gentleman’s Sour Cream Sugar Cookie – Pillowy Perfection for Decorating

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Does it seem I make a disproportionate amount of sweets? I think it’s my genetic legacy; my Granny never skips dessert. And when we have family gatherings there’s always a “sampler” – multiple choices. It’s a wonder we’re not all obese.

But holidays and occasions, like Wednesdays or laundry day, warrant special treats, and that’s what I am going to deliver.

I am sure you’re familiar with those plastic containers of sweet, sweet pillowy cookies in the bakery at the market. Well, why not take that idea and improve upon it? I am also going to offer you two icing options: one that will set up and harden, and one that will be smoother and creamier. The choice is yours.

The secret here is the sour cream. It established the light textural component that give this cookie its signature bite.

I had a little kitchen helper during my test run. This is my 2 year old nephew, Tyce. Making cookies with family always makes it more fun.

So let’s get going!

What you need:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup butter flavor Crisco
  • 2 cups white sugar (vanilla sugar would be especially nice*)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 5 1/2 cups flour

Turn your oven on to 375 and allow to preheat. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream butter, Crisco, and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. A teaspoon of almond extract would also be nice here if you like that flavor.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add a cup at a time to the bowl with the mixer on low. Mix ONLY until combined.

Working in batches, roll onto a floured surface, 1/4 to 1/3 inch thickness. Yes, that is on the thick side for a sugar cookie. Just trust me here.

Use your favorite cookie cutter and stamp out shapes. Now, given the consistency of this dough, intricate forms are going to really frustrate you. Stick with basics.

Put the cut dough on the parchment lined sheets, and slide them into the preheated oven.

Watch them like a hawk! You will want to pull them when they are still very pale and NOT browned. I pulled mine at only 6 minutes (using a convection oven) and they were perfect. Really, timing is crucial.

Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

And now the fun begins!

Royal icing dries hard, which is best for intricate decorating. Here’s how you make that:

What you need:

  • 3 cups 10x powdered sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • vanilla or almond extract
  • possibly a few drops of water

In a very clean electric mixer bowl, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they get white-ish. Sift the powdered sugar and add it to the eggs. Add your favorite flavoring component.

Beat until everything is combined. Depending on your needs, determine whether you need a drop or two of water. Remember, you are one frosting these things, so get it to the consistency that you need. Add colors, etc, and use your creativity!

Option #2 is a stiff buttercream that actually tastes better than royal icing, but doesn’t set up super hard.

What you need:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine softened butter and sifted powdered sugar. Allow to combine, add flavorings. Eyeball the milk quantity; start with 2 tablespoons. If you want it a little looser add a third.

Frost to your heart’s content!

I hope this brings your taste buds and tummies holiday happiness.

xo,

The Gentleman Caller

Full downloadable PDF here: Sour Cream Sugar Cookie

*vanilla sugar: fill a jar with regular white sugar. Insert a vanilla bean and allow to sit for a few weeks. The sugar will take on the aroma.

SPICY! The Gentleman Caller’s Texas Style Giardeniera

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

For years I have wondered about giardeniera. Seen it in grocery stores in jars, purveyed in specialty stores in big buckets and such. And here’s the thing: when I finally decided to taste it after years of passing curiosity I LOVED IT.

Its bright, briny bouquet and the textures of the cauliflower and carrot was a treat for my tongue. Mind you, I am a lover of pickled things. I even like pickled eggs.

Froberg’s Farm in Alvin, TX

But back on topic, I was down in Alvin, sauntering through Froberg’s assessing the vegetable selection and it hit me… use Texas-y vegetables like okra and jalapeños, and concoct a giardeniera befitting The Gentleman Caller.

This is a great accompaniment on a relish tray, and works great in a bloody mary.

Get out your jars and let’s get pickled!

What you need:

  • 3 carrots
  • 3 large jalapeños
  • 15 okra
  • 15 green beans
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white vinegar, 5% acidity
  • about 3 cups of water
  • 3 tbsp peppercorns
  • 3 tsp celery seed
  • lemon peel, optional
  • jars, rings and lids to make 3 pints total

Wash your vegetables. Peel carrots, take tops off okra and jalapeños, remove the stem end of the green beans. Slice jalapeños in 1/8 inch slices, cut the carrots on an angle (see video for suggestions with flare).

Sterilize your jars by boiling them for 10 minutes in a stock pot full of water. When you remove them, add the lids and rings so that the rubber on the ring can soften.

In the microwave or a sauce pan, combine liquids, sugar and salt. bring liquid to a boil and allow everything to dissolve. Remove from heat.

Stuff the vegetables equitably into the jars. You need to really pack them full and evenly. There should be 2 cloves of garlic per pint.

Top the vegetables with peppercorns, 1 tbsp per pint, and celery seed, one tsp per pint. Pour liquid allowing 1/2 inch at the top.

Top with hot rings and lids, carefully avoiding touching the interior sides with your dirty little mitts!

Bring water in the stock pot back to a boil and process the jars upright for 20 minutes. The jars should be covered with at least an inch of water.

Remove from boiling water. Allow to sit for 2, 3, 4 weeks before you crack one open. The longer they sit, the tastier they’ll be!

This is The Gentleman Caller signing out!

Downloadable PDF here: The Gentleman Caller’s Texas Style Giardeniera