From Frito pie to Armadillo Eggs, it doesn’t get more down home than this
SHRIMP AND STATE GRITS
Tookie’s Seafood, 1106 Bayport Blvd., Seabrook
In the shape of Texas, surrounded by shrimp and tasso ham, sautéed in étouffée sauce — who wouldn’t want to kiss these grits? That’s the version of the popular Southern dish Tookie’s Seafood serves at its Seabrook restaurant. Its signature spin on the recipe — Shrimp and State Grits — has become a favorite with diners.
“It’s truly representative of Texas,” said Reagan Terrell, executive sous chef. “The shrimp come right out of the Gulf, but by combining them with the Southern accent of grits, makes it a blend of cultures.”
– Sue Mayfield Geiger
6 cups milk
4 cups heavy cream
8 ounces butter, melted
2 tablespoons chicken base
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
1 cup instant grits
1¼ cup instant polenta (mix together grits and polenta)
Simmer milk and cream, stirring constantly for 10 minutes. Add melted butter, chicken base, white pepper and garlic and simmer for 3 minutes. Pour at once into grits/polenta mixture and whip well.
Reduce to low simmer, cover tightly and simmer 8 to 10 minutes until thick consistency. Spread mixture onto a baking dish 1½-inches thick; cool down in refrigerator. When it’s cool, cut into your favorite shape with a cookie cutter. Heat when ready to serve.
1 ounce olive oil
8 ounces margarine
2 cups diced onions
½ cup bell pepper
½ cup celery
¼ cup minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dry Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon hot sauce (Frank’s)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons Cajun Chef liquid
½ gallon shrimp stock
½ gallon salted butter
1 cup blond roux (½ cup melted butter and ½ cup flour mixed well into a paste)
Sweat onion in oil for 10 minutes; add margarine and cook 10 more minutes. Add celery and bell pepper, sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf, black pepper, blackened seasoning, hot sauce, Worcestershire, dry thyme, paprika, Cajun Chef and simmer over low heat 1 minute. Add stock; bring to boil. Simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes.
Remove bay leaves, add melted butter, mix well. Add roux and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and keep warm.
Raw Gulf shrimp peeled and deveined; 6 per serving
Tasso ham, small dices;
1 tablespoon per serving
For 1 serving: In a nonstick pan, heat 1 tablespoon melted butter over medium heat. Cook 6 shrimp on one side for 2 minutes, then add the Tasso ham. Turn shrimp over and cook 2 minutes, then add 4 ounces of warm étouffée sauce and simmer 2 minutes.
For the Texas grit cake, heat 1 tablespoon melted butter over medium heat in a nonstick pan and cook 2 minutes on each side.
Place cooked Texas grits in center of large plate. Place cooked shrimp around and pour the pan sauce on top of shrimp. Garnish with sliced green onions.
ShyKatZ Deli & Bakery, 1528 Ave. L, Galveston
Frito pie isn’t really a pie. Everyone in Texas knows that. It’s a cheesy chili served over corn chips and topped with onions, jalapeños, tomatoes and — maybe — sour cream.
The Frito Pie bowl ShyKatZ Deli & Bakery in Galveston serves is from a recipe owner Kat Kearns came up with in 2015 for a chili cook-off in Texas City. She combined the corn chips with her special home-cooked Red Chili, trimming the meal with a variety of toppings.
“It is made with a lot of love — it’s not your average bowl of chili,” said Shannon Huston, ShyKatZ manager for the past eight years. “It is a hearty meal and served with our special Fire Crackers.”
Some diners add avocado and salad greens to the plate “to cut the heat a little.”
“It does have a bit of a kick to it,” Huston said.
Originally, Frito pies were an inexpensive and efficient way to serve chili, especially at picnics, fairs, rodeos and outdoor events. Those serving it would open small bags of corn chips and ladle the chili, shredded cheese, diced onions and sour cream over the chips and serve it with a disposable spoon.
Frito pie also can be served as a casserole, but Texans know that to keep the chips from becoming soggy, the meal is best eaten as soon as the meat has been ladled over the chips.
– Barbara Canetti
5 pounds ground beef
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 finely chopped red onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons of cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 bundle cilantro, chopped
1 can adobo chili peppers
1 bottle of beer
Cover ground beef with water and bring to boil. Continue to boil until meat is browned and tender. Drain fat but reserve 2 cups of beef broth.
Add meat and all other ingredients back to the pot, including beef broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer at medium heat for 1 hour.
For Frito Pie: Arrange Fritos in an oven-safe container. Cover with a generous amount of chili and cheese. Add chopped onions or jalapeños to give an extra kick. Heat in the oven at 350 F until cheese is melted.
Queen’s Bar-B-Que, 3428 Ave. S, Galveston
Cooking superior brisket is all about the wood and cut of meat, say Don Kerzee Sr. and his son, Donnie. They’re the pitmasters at Queen’s Bar-B-Que, which has been serving the Lone Star staple since 1966.
“It starts with the wood,” Kerzee Sr. said. “We use oak and pecan — on a 2-to-1 ratio. The pecan is for the sweetness.”
The pitmasters carefully trim slabs of brisket and put them into the pit daily to cook overnight — from 12 to 15 hours, depending on the size. They remove all the hard, interior fat and season the red meat with salt and pepper. Kerzee leaves the top fat on while cooking the brisket, he said.
“The rest is low and slow: low temperatures — 180 F to 200 F — and slow cooking,” he said. “That’s the key.”
Kerzee puts the briskets in the smoker at night, and when he returns in the morning, the meat is perfectly cooked. An automatic timer turns off the smoker and each day fresh barbecue is ready. After all the cooking and fat cutting, a 15-pound side of brisket is about half its original size. But what’s left is delectable. The meat is moist and flavorful.
Queen’s serves platters of brisket with homemade potato salad, beans and coleslaw, using recipes adapted by Sandy Kerzee, the daughter of the original owner, Clifford Putnal, who authored the methods of preparing the food. Back when the family opened the restaurant, the building had been a corner grocery store called Queen’s. When Putnal took over the business, the neighbors asked him to keep the name.
The barbecue sauce at Queen’s is a secret recipe created by Putnal more than 50 years ago. And the family intends for it to stay a secret. Queen’s applies the sauce when the meet is finished, never in the pit.
“The wood is really the seasoning, but our sauce works well with the wood flavoring,” Kerzee said. “We just are keeping it simple.”
– Barbara Canetti
7-15 pounds of brisket, fat trimmed
Salt and pepper
Cook in smoker pit overnight.
DAD’S PIMENTO CHEESE
Fish Company Taco, 1914 23rd St., Galveston
Daya Myers-Hurt grew up in Amarillo, where Price’s Pimento Cheese was a fixture in the family’s refrigerator.
“My dad loved that stuff and ate it with everything,” said Myers-Hurt, executive chef/owner of the freshly opened Fish Company Taco in Galveston, and also known on the island for her previous restaurant endeavor, The Lunch Box. “I, on the other hand, never developed a taste for it.”
After her father died, Myers-Hurt began messing around with recipes to honor him, she said.
This was the winner. The key is doing the extra work — grating the cheese, hand-whipping the mayonnaise and using fresh, seasonal peppers, fresh dill and green onions, she said.
A batch goes well with deviled eggs, biscuits, grits and, most recently, Fish Company Taco hush puppies.
– Phil Newton
2 cups grated mild cheddar
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup finely grated (use a microplane grater) sharp cheddar
2 cloves microplaned garlic added to 1 cup mayonnaise (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons chopped dill (stems included)
2 tablespoons sliced green onion or chives
1⁄2 roasted, chopped seasonal pepper from your garden or a farmers market
Salt and Korean Chili flakes to taste
Fold all ingredients together.
4 yard egg yolks (room temperature)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Pinch of salt
Whisk all the ingredients together vigorously.
While still whisking, stream in 2 cups of blended oil, taking care that all the oil is incorporated before adding more.
T-Bone Tom’s, 707 state Highway 146, Kemah
The nine-banded armadillo is the small state mammal of Texas, so it just made sense that Kemah restaurant T-Bone Tom’s calls a jalapeño stuffed with chopped barbecue brisket, deep fried and served with a side of ranch dressing, an Armadillo Egg. National TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” has featured the delicacies and the restaurant is busy filling about 80 to 100 orders a day. They’re big, but so is everything in Texas.
– Sue Mayfield Geiger
1 pound cooked brisket, cooled
½ cup prepared barbecue sauce
12 pickled jalapeños
2 cups flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups panko crumbs
8 cups canola oil for frying
Trim fat from brisket. Chop fine or grind through large hole in meat grinder. Heat barbecue sauce in large pot, add ground brisket and let simmer until hot. Place mixture in a perforated drip pan and allow excess juices to drain. Place in plastic tray and cool down.
Stuff each with 1¼ ounces of brisket mixture; refrigerate for 1 hour. Place flour, buttermilk and panko in separate bowls. Dip each jalapeño in flour first, buttermilk second and then in panko. Fry in canola oil heated to 325 F for 4 minutes. Serve with your favorite ranch dressing.
Marais, 2015 FM 517 E., Dickinson
When Marais owner Keith Lilley and Chef Frank Pannitti were brainstorming a Southern, but unpredictable, dish to put on their menu, they put their heads together and invented Okra Rellenos.
“Okra is a Southern vegetable, but the way this turned out made it so much more since we’ve got a mix of Cajun, Tex-Mex and Asian flavors going on,” Pannitti said. “It’s a big hit here at Marais, and you can’t find it anywhere else.”
– Sue Mayfield Geiger
1 pound okra (4-inch pods)
4 ounces pepper jack cheese
1 cup self-rising flour
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup dark beer
Cottonseed oil or vegetable oil of your choice
Thai dipping sauce (recipe follows)
Cut cheese into strips 3¼ inches long and ¼-inch wide. Cut okra length wise, but not through. Push aside the seeds and stuff with cheese.
Mix flour, egg, buttermilk and beer to make a batter. Dip okra in batter, covering completely.
Fry at 350 F until golden brown.
THAI DIPPING SAUCE
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons mirin sauce
¼ teaspoon grated ginger
Mix all ingredients together.
BISCUITS AND GRAVY
Maceo Spice & Import Co., 2706 Market St., Galveston
While Texans claim it, the gravy used on biscuits and gravy is based on centuries-old cooking methods first perfected in France.
“My inspiration to bring biscuits and gravy to our Sunday brunch menu came from Le Pavillon in New Orleans,” said Concetta Maceo, whose family owns Maceo Spice & Import Co. in Galveston’s downtown. Maceo has been making her own version for about a year. Maceo makes her gravy from scratch bright and early Sunday morning — she serves biscuits and gravy at the restaurant only for Sunday brunch.
“Our Texas Gourmet Seasoning gives my gravy that Texas flair,” she said.
– Sue Mayfield Geiger
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold lard (or unsalted butter)
½ cup whole milk
Unsalted butter, softened, for the pan and biscuit tops
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl with a fork. Cut the chilled lard into small cubes and add to the dry ingredients. Use a couple of forks to cut the lard into the flour, pressing and twisting until the lard is in pea-size pieces.
Make a well in the flour-fat mixture and slowly pour in milk. Mix with a fork until just combined, then knead gently with hands until the dough comes together into a sticky ball.
Roll out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and pliable. Make sure not to overwork it. Roll out into a ½-inch-thick round, remembering to flour the rolling pin so it doesn’t stick.
Cut out 2- to 3-inch biscuits using a clean, empty can, the mouth of a glass or a biscuit cutter.
Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
MACEO SAUSAGE GRAVY
1 pound regular breakfast sausage
1 pound Italian sausage
6-8 cups milk
6 ounces of flour
1 tablespoon Maceo Texas Gourmet Seasoning
In an iron skillet, mix sausages together and turn heat on medium-high. Use a whisk to break up the sausage into small pieces. Cook until browned and has a little crisp to it. Sprinkle in the flour so that it coats the sausage nicely and soaks up the oil from the sausage.
Add milk slowly, stirring frequently so it won’t stick. As the milk thickens, add Maceo Texas Gourmet Seasoning, and let cook for about 3 to 5 more minutes (long enough to marry the flavors). Be sure not to scorch the gravy. Serve over fluffy biscuits.
Concetta Maceo’s tip: Drizzle some local honey on top of a biscuit before smothering it with gravy to add some sweetness to this savory dish. You can cut this recipe in half and save the remaining meat for a spaghetti dinner.
SOUTHERN BOI CHICKEN FRIED CHICKEN
Southern BOI Café, 109 Meadow Parkway, League City
Are there any foods Texans don’t like chicken-fried? We can’t think of one.
Southern BOI Café Chef and Owner Chris Ansted offers a chicken fried chicken meal that’s true stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. It’s Ansted’s most popular dish, easily outselling other menu items. He serves the chicken with mashed potatoes and fried green beans on the side and smothers it in a fresh jalapeño gravy for that perfect balance of Southern flavors.
But the chicken fried chicken is the star, featuring moist chicken breast with a crunchy coating that’s elevated by seasoning both the flour and the milk. Ansted’s pro tip is to bread the chicken at least four hours before frying for a more delicious result.
“The longer you leave it, the better,” he said.
The flour features a mix of garlic powder, salt and pepper for flavor, and cayenne pepper and paprika for spice, while the milk is spiked with Louisiana Hot Sauce. Don’t worry, it’s not too hot. Southern BOI Café uses the same mix for the chicken tenders kids enjoy.
“You gotta start ‘em young!” Ansted said.
– Shannon Caldwell
4 boneless chicken breasts (6-8 ounces)
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sea salt
½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
Seasoned milk (Mix 3 cups milk with 1⁄8 cup Louisiana Hot Sauce)
Bread chicken by dredging it in flour, dipping it in milk then flour again. This can be done up to 4 hours in advance.
Fill cast-iron pan half way with vegetable oil and bring temperature to 350 F. Fry each side for 4-5 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 F.
Serve with your favorite sides.
GULF COAST SPECIAL
BLVD. Seafood, 2804 Ave. R1⁄2, Galveston
What could be more Texas than something plucked from the Gulf of Mexico?
At BLVD. Seafood, Executive Chef Chris Lopez experiments weekly with fillets of redfish.
“This fish is a blank canvas,” Lopez said. “You can do so much with it, and anything you do is delicious.”
Most diners in Texas restaurants order snapper, trout or grouper. But redfish or drum, which is available all year, is a light, white fish that can be prepared in a variety of ways: seared, broiled, grilled, baked or poached, Lopez said. It’s a flaky, non-oily fish. The most distinguishing mark on the redfish is one large black spot on the upper part of the tail base.
For the special plate, Lopez seasons the fish with a dried mixture of a dozen spices, which he calls the Lopez Blend. He then sears two pieces of fish at a high temperature so they retain their juices. Lopez serves them over a bed of basil pesto mashed potatoes, two plump sea scallops, a Parmesan crisp cracker and a few ripe grade tomatoes and broccolini. He sprinkles a light and tangy balsamic vinaigrette over the platter of food.
He sears the fish skin-side down to ensure it doesn’t become rubbery and locks in the flavor.
“This isn’t on our menu, but I prepare it weekly for our regular customers as a special treat,” he said.
– Barbara Canetti
2 thin fillets of redfish
Italian bread crumbs
Dried spice blend: onions, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic, mustard, oregano, basil, thyme, cumin, salt and pepper
Cover fish in breadcrumbs and sprinkle with spice blend. Sear or brown quickly on high heat.
Serve over plate of potatoes and vegetables.
Mel’s Blueplate Diner, 910 38th St. Galveston
A hearty meatloaf is comfort food for Becky Chavarria, owner of Mel’s Blueplate Diner in Galveston. Her recipe and memories of the dish date back to her youth, when her family enjoyed big family meals at their island home.
She cooks 25 pounds of ground beef for the restaurant’s blue-plate special — meatloaf with fresh mashed potatoes and green beans.
“Meatloaf is one of those entrees that’s hard to make in a small size,” Chavarria said. “Its ease of preparation and economical value made it a staple in larger Texas households. It combines beef, seasonings and tangy tomato goodness to create a great crowd pleaser. It’s definitely a meal reminiscent of simpler times.”
Mel’s meatloaf is on the menu daily, but on Mondays, it’s the special.
“This is not a typical meatloaf,” she said. “Instead of bread crumbs, I substitute chicken stuffing with milk to create a panade to make the meat loaf’s texture moist. I purée bell peppers, soy sauce, garlic and onion, along with ketchup, steak sauce and Worcestershire sauce and then I add my secret.”
The secret she refers to is her “Wow” ingredient, which she wouldn’t divulge, but hinted that it was a mixture of spices.
“I use my ‘Wow’ spices on everything here,” she said.
She bakes the meatloaves for 45 minutes and then prepares a sweet sauce for the topping: brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce and ketchup.
– Barbara Canetti
2 pounds ground beef
1 box chicken stuffing mix
3⁄4 cup milk
1 bell pepper
1⁄2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons steak sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons of your favorite season blend
1⁄2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon steak sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
In a large bowl, combine milk and stuffing mix to create a panade (wet bread). Set aside. Peel onion, clean and core bell pepper. In a food processor, purée onion and bell pepper with ketchup, seasonings and wet ingredients. Stir ketchup mixture into panade, mixing well. Add mixture to meat. Use hands and mix well. Form into loaf. Bake at 400 F for 1 hour or until center reaches 165 F on meat thermometer. Drain any juices.
While meatloaf is baking, make topping. Stir all topping ingredients together and let sit, stirring occasionally while loaf bakes.
Smother baked meatloaf with topping mix and return to 250 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Topping will thicken as meatloaf rests. For best slices, let meatloaf cool a bit before cutting.
DICKINSON BAR-B-QUE’S FAMOUS TEXAS PECAN PIE
Dickinson Bar-B-Que & Steakhouse, 2111 FM 517 E., Dickinson
There’s hardly anything more officially Texas than a pecan. The pecan tree was designated the official state tree of Texas in 1919. The pecan pie is the official state pie of Texas. Records indicate the nut was exported from the state before 1860. Exports from Galveston alone amounted to 1,525 bushels in 1850 and 13,224 in 1854, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
Although there are hundreds of versions of this sweet Texas treasure, Dickinson Bar-B-Que makes it the old-school way.
“The crust is handmade, the pecans are toasted and chopped by hand, so you get more pecans into the pie filling,” owner Keith Lilley said.
– Sue Mayfield Geiger
2 level cups flour
¾ level cup Crisco shortening
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white vinegar
4 tablespoons cool, tepid, water
Cut Crisco into flour to ¼-inch pieces. Add egg, salt, vinegar and water. Cut all ingredients until a smooth consistency. Dough should be pliable, not sticky or dry. Transfer dough into deep-dish sprayed pie pan. Press in dough to a uniform thickness, flute and trim. Set aside for filling.
12⁄3 cups Karo blue label dark syrup
12⁄3 cups sugar
5 tablespoons of margarine
½ teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons of flour
12⁄3 cups chopped toasted pecans
Tip: Toast pecans first for 5 minutes at 350 F, then cool.
Cut sugar into margarine to form ¼-inch pieces. Fold sugar mixture into syrup and the rest of ingredients except pecans, and blend on medium speed in mixer until uniformly distributed. Next, fold in chopped pecans.
Pour mixture into pie pan and bake at 350 F for 60 to 70 minutes. Cool for 2 hours before serving.
MAMA FRANCES’ BANANA PUDDING
Mama Frances Soul Kitchen, 199 Vauthier Road, La Marque
Shirley Crowder, who, along with her husband, Chris, owns Mama Frances Soul Kitchen in La Marque, has been making banana pudding from scratch for more than 20 years. Before opening the restaurant, she would make the popular Southern dessert for fundraising events. At one such event, someone made a $100 donation for just one scoop of her banana pudding, she said.
Patience is a virtue when making the dessert, she said.
“There’s no speeding through,” she said. “You don’t want to scorch the bottom.”
Crowder also recommends using a whisk instead of a spoon to stir the sauce as it cooks. And be gentle, she said.
“Don’t beat it up,” she said.
Although she has customers who come in for the banana pudding when it’s still warm, Crowder prefers hers cold with real whipped cream on top, she said.
– Jennifer Reynolds
1 stick of butter
6 eggs separated (You can save the egg whites for another recipe or meringue.)
2 cups evaporated milk
½ teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 teaspoon flour, for thickening
8-10 bananas, sliced
3 small boxes of Nilla Wafers, or 1 big double box
Place the first 5 ingredients in a heavy pot before heating it on the stove. Heat on medium, stirring constantly with a whisk until it starts to bubble.
Spread a layer of pudding, or “sauce,” on the bottom of a pan or trifle bowl, add a layer of cookies, then a layer of banana slices and top with a layer of pudding/sauce. Repeat the layers of cookies, bananas and pudding/sauce.
Can be served warm, but best when chilled overnight. Cover top with real whipped cream.