Tag Archives: tomato

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.



The Gentleman Eats Chili


The Gentleman Caller at The Lion King Broadway’s Annual Chili Cookoff with fellow judges Rema Webb and Eric Heger

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Hello, friends. Happy Super Bowl Eve. What an exciting time. It’s like the sports world’s version of the Tony Awards. Probably with the same amount of performance enhancing drugs. I’M KIDDING.

Today I had the distinct honor of being asked to adjudicate at The Lion King on Broadway’s Annual Chili Cookoff. This yearly event is a staple of Super Bowl time.

And instead of having to COOK, I got to sit on my ass and have delicious, hot food brought to me.

These were some creative entries. One that I especially salivated over was a sparerib barbecue style chili. Ooh, it was rich. So good.

The most creative entry was my old friend, Jon Jordan’s. Jon and I met on Hairspray and he had his mits on my scalp quite a bit. He is the man who makes sure all the hair and makeup at The Lion King are on point. He entered an adorable Asian-style chili with Chinese five spice, served in a Chinese takeout box with green onion. So creative.

The winner was a spicy turkey (we found out after the fact) entry called Hello, Chili! Hello, indeed! Congrats to my new friend Jelani Remy for his victory.

In honor of today’s festivities, I offer you The Gentleman’s Favorite Spicy Chili.

What you need:

  • 1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
  • half of a white onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-10 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1-8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp Mexene chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • dash of cayenne, or more if you’re adventurous
  • 1 cup of Mexican beer, such as Corona
  • 2 tbsp masa harina (corn flour like you use for tamales)
  • 1 15 oz can red kidney beans (YES, I am a Texan and I say BEANS), drained
  • finely chopped white onion, to top
  • chopped de-seeded jalapenos, to top
  • chopped cilantro, to top

Note: if you happen to have a can of chipotle peppers open, a couple of spoons of sauce from the can is going to only make this more delicious.

Yields 4 realistic servings. 

Put a little olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven. Heat it up a little, and throw in the onions. Allow them to cook for a few minutes; add the beef or turkey. Brown the meat.

Throw in the garlic.

Drain the fat off the meat if there is standing renderings. Add the Rotel and tomato sauce. Stir together and add all the spices. Stir, cover, bring to a low simmer.

Allow to cook for about 25 minutes covered. Add 1/2 cup of beer. Simmer 25 more minutes, then add the remaining beer.

In a small bowl, mix the masa with 1/3 cup water (or more beer if you like). Bring it to a smooth consistency and pour it into the chili pot.

Taste it. Assess the salt and spice level. Add more water, beer, or masa to bring to the consistency YOU like.

Add the kidney beans and allow to cook about 15 minutes. Allow it to rest before you eat it.

When you place the chili in a bowl to eat, top it with finely chopped raw onion (or scallion would be nice , too), finely chopped jalapeño, and cilantro. Yeehaw!

Enjoy this one.


The Gentleman Caller

Judging is very serious (with Rema Webb and Eric Heger)

The Gentleman’s Spagheeeti & Meatballs – so comforting they can even get you through an election

Printable PDF at the bottom of the page!

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Mamma Mia, dear readers! It’s Spagheeeti & Meatball day! Why spagheeeti, you ask? Do you ever watch Giada DeLaurentis on TV? She’s perfectly American until she has to tell you about ingredients or the name of a dish. It tickles me endlessly. There was a newscaster in Houston that did it, too, and I can’t explain it but I find it hilarious. “Elma BaRRRRReRRRRa, Eyewitness News.”

Anyway, spaghetti and meatballs is one of my most favorite comfort foods. I’ve always known how to make the magic happen, but lately I have been “Italian-ized” based on the company I keep and I picked up some really good tricks. Mostly I’ve un-bastardized some of my old notions about this delicious dish.

This takes some time. It’s worth it. Andiamo! Facciamolo!

What you need for sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can tomato puree
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 5 or 6 basil leaves
  • 8-10 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp white pepper

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven. While it is heating up, cut pork shoulder in an approximate half. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on both sides of one of the halves; the other half will be cubed for later and set aside. Put the seasoned pork shoulder in the oil and achieve a sear on both sides.

Smash your garlic cloves with a pastry scraper or a chef’s knife. There’s no need to mince it further unless you are REALLY averse to a piece of garlic in the sauce. This is going to cook forever and most of it will likely break up. Toss in the bay leaf, too. Allow the oil to kind of coat the garlic and bay leaf; keep things moving. Bruise or tear the basil leaves and throw them in. Immediately add the tomato products and stock. If there’s a lot of tomato mess still in the cans, add a little hot water to the can, swirl it a bit, and pour it in. A little water isn’t going to hurt anything. Add salt, sugar, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Keep it at a nice baby simmer for at least 6 hours. 8 is better. 10 is magic. If it starts looking thick, add a little water. You will very likely have to do this a couple of times.


What you need for the meatballs:

  • 1 lb cubed sirloin*
  • 1 lb cubed pork shoulder (the other half of the one you used to make the sauce)*
  • 5 garlic cloves*
  • Leaves of about 5 sprigs fresh oregano*
  • Leaves of about 5 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley*
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder

*If you aren’t grinding your own meat, 1 lb ground round, 1 lb ground pork, 5 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup minced fresh oregano, 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Fire up your meat grinder! Alternate beef, pork, garlic, oregano and parsley. The grinder will bring the ingredients together. (video)

Once the meat is ground, gently add breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder. Don’t over mix. Gently fold in ricotta. Don’t over mix.


Using a spoon or ice cream scoop (for perfect portions), form meatballs, careful not to squish them too much. You want the lightness to remain intact. Line them up on a piece of pan release sprayed foil on a sheet pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Check them. They might need  5 more minutes depending on size – BUT DO NOT OVERCOOK THEM.


In the final hour of the sauce simmering, add the meatballs to the pot. Try to avoid stirring too much and disturbing them. Allow the sauce to rest for about a half hour before you serve it, and be sure you taste it for salt. Differing brands of stock have different levels of sodium. You’ll probably be in good shape, but taste it.

While the sauce rests, cook your pasta. I chose a thin linguine. Don’t overcook it. When you turn it into the colander to drain, dress the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil. I like to micro plane a piece of garlic and toss fresh chopped basil, oregano and parsley in the pasta. It really gives it a pop. I know this is untraditional, but it’s delicious.

Plate as you like. If you like to toss your pasta with sauce, do it. I like to put the pasta in a bowl and then put the sauce and balls on top with more herbs and fresh grated parmeggiano.  Do it the way you like. You’re the one who has to eat it!

I hope you enjoy this dish because it reminds me of my sweet Mawmaw. One of those sentimental dishes that conjure beautiful memories of loved ones. Make this for your loved ones and they’ll always think of you when they eat it in the future.

And I am signing off!

Cioa for now – The Gentleman Caller