Y’all, brisket is getting cheaper

Sink your teeth into this, frugal foodies: After a climbing since 2013, the wholesale price of brisket is falling, according to Texas Monthly’s TMBBQ.

Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn, via the magazine’s smoked-meat-centric platform, writes that it will take a little while for retail prices to reflect the decrease in wholesale costs. On the other hand, according to the blog post, the price of beef overall is still around its peak.

(Photo by Laura Skelding/American-Statesman)
(Photo by Laura Skelding/American-Statesman)

Why? TMBBQ quotes Gary Morrison, a beef market reporter:

 “We have not seen the burst in interest for barbecue heading into the demand period that we saw last year.”

In other words, big chains aren’t buying up as much brisket as they have been, and Vaughn predicts that will be good bottom-line news for independent barbecue joints. Read more at TMBBQ.

 

Saturday’s citywide Lemonade Day inspires kids to become entrepreneurs

Six-year-old Jacob Reimer was one of the winners of an Austin Lemonade Day contest with his drink, Jacob’s Jedi Juice. Photo by Chelsea Wilmot.
Seven-year-old Jacob Riemer was one of the winners of an Austin Lemonade Day contest with his drink, Jacob’s Jedi Juice. Photo by Chelsea Wilmot.

Keep your eyes peeled for lemonade stands this weekend.

The annual citywide Lemonade Day returns on Saturday and will help thousands of kids in Austin learn how to become entrepreneurs. Your budding business owners can register for free at austin.lemonadeday.org, which is also where you can go to learn how to become a supporter or mentor.

Organizers host a competition every year for participants to submit their best recipes, and one of this year’s winners was 7-year-old Jacob Riemer, who created Jacob’s Jedi Juice using a few ingredients not found in everyday lemonade.

Jacob’s Jedi Juice

7 lemons
1 orange
1/2 cup raw organic sugar
3 1/2 cups white tea (made from 2 tea bags), cooled
6 cups cool water
2 Tbsp. orange blossom water
5 sprigs mint

Cut lemons and orange in quarters. Pour sugar over lemons and orange and crush all the juice out. Cover and put in fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Add tea and water to lemon sugar mixture, thoroughly combine and then strain. Add orange blossom water and mint sprigs. Chill and serve.

— Jacob Riemer

Kid-friendly guide to keeping chickens is good for adults, too

The backyard chicken boom seems to have plateaued, but there are still plenty of people who are curious about raising their own fowl.

A few years ago, we had chickens for long enough to realize that they are as much work as they are fun, especially during the really hot summer months, but as a hands-on experience for my children, it was invaluable. They learned how to water and feed the birds, how to pick them up, where they liked to hide their eggs and how to tell that the hen you bought from the farm store is really a rooster.

A1MqXRtqsAL._SL1500_If your family is thinking about getting chickens, you might check out a new book called “A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens: Best Breeds, Creating a Home, Care and Handling, Outdoor Fun, Crafts and Treats” (Storey Publishing, $16.95), one of the most well-rounded and eye-catching guides to raising chickens I’ve seen.

Author Melissa Caughey covers every step of the process, from hatching chicks to saying goodbye to birds that might become pets. She interviews youngsters about why they love raising chickens, ranks the most kid-friendly breeds and offers biology lessons about how chickens lay eggs, why they need different kinds of nutrients and how to treat the common ailments they might suffer.

Every page is written with kids in mind, but it’s not too juvenile for adults to enjoy: lots of photos, illustrations, DIY project ideas and a fun, encouraging tone that young readers will enjoy reading themselves. The last few chapters are all about chicken-inspired craft projects and recipes you can make with the eggs that your new friends will lay.

Central Market’s Passport Greece starts Wednesday

event-poster-4020760You might be in the thick of summer vacation planning, but it’s already time for an international adventure at Central Market. Starting this week, the gourmet grocer is bringing back its popular Passport series, which this year will unlock the culinary wonders of Greece.

You’ll find more olive oils, feta and olives than usual, and look out for prepared foods such as moussaka, baklava, bougatsa and kourabiethes. A number of Greek chefs and winemakers will be teaching classes and leading tastings in both Austin stores, and throughout the two-week event, customers can buy specialty products and prepared foods.

You can still buy tickets to cooking classes about Greek grilling and mezzes (small plates), traditional lamb dishes and the many ways to use phyllo dough, and two of the notable guest chefs — Maria Elia, author of the stunning 2013 book “Smashing Plates,” and “Flavors of Greece” author Rosemary Barron — still have seats available in their classes.

To find more information or buy tickets, go to passport.centralmarket.com.

How to microwave dinner or even cheesecake in a mug

Since we’re talking about small-batch baking this week, let’s revisit the mug cake.

What? You’ve never heard of “baking” a cake in a mug? This 3-2-1 mug cake is all the rage among the baking-for-one crowd, of which my grandmother is a proud member. (She’s the one who first introduced me to this mug cooking concept.)

Since then, I’d heard about scrambling eggs in a mug, but it wasn’t until I saw two mug cookbooks on my desk that I realized we were actually talking about a bonafide food trend.

Softly Set Raspberry Cheesecake from “Mug Cakes” by Joanna Farrow. Photo by Lis Parsons.
Softly Set Raspberry Cheesecake from “Mug Cakes” by Joanna Farrow. Photo by Lis Parsons.

Joanna Farrow’s “Mug Cakes: Made in Minutes in the Microwave!” (Spruce, $12.99), which comes out next week, sticks with sweets, but instead of endless variations on the traditional cake or brownie, she offers puddings, mousse, muffins and this softly set raspberry cheesecake. (Mmmmm, soft raspberry cheesecake….)

If you want to go beyond dessert (or sweet breakfast), check out “Mug Meals: Delicious Microwave Recipes” by Dina Cheney (Taunton Press, $16.95). Even though the book toes the line of a leftover cookbook (many of the recipes require pre-cooked meats, grains or pasta), it might inspire you to get creative about what you do with that last little bit of leftover rice or noodles, as she does with Japanese salmon dish below.

Softly Set Raspberry Cheesecake

Generous 1/4 cup full-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. vanilla sugar
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
8 fresh raspberries
1 graham cracker or amaretti cookie
Sifted confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Put the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk and cream in a 7-fluid-oz. microwave-safe mug and beat together with a fork until well mixed.

Microwave on full power for 45 seconds. Stir in the raspberries and microwave on full power for 1 minute or until the edges of the cheesecake are set but the center is still wobbly. Crush the cracker or cookie, either loosely with your fingers or finely in a plastic bag using a rolling pin. Sprinkle the crumbs over the cheesecake and decorate with a few raspberries. Serve dusted with a little sifted confectioner’s sugar. Serves 1.

— From “Mug Cakes: Made in Minutes in the Microwave!” by Joanna Farrow (Spruce, $12.99)

Japanese Smoked Salmon with Rice and Avocado from “Mug Meals: Delicious Microwave Recipes” by Dina Cheney. Photo by Andrew Purcell.
Japanese Smoked Salmon with Rice and Avocado from “Mug Meals: Delicious Microwave Recipes” by Dina Cheney. Photo by Andrew Purcell.

Japanese Smoked Salmon with Rice and Avocado

3 1/2 oz. (about 1/2 cup) smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup cooked white rice (ideally short grain, such as sushi)
1 Tbsp. thinly sliced scallions
2 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. mirin (sweet Japanese wine) or honey
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. sesame seeds
1/2 avocado, diced

Combine the salmon, rice, scallions, soy sauce, vinegar, mirin or honey, oil and sesame seeds in a medium bowl and stir together. Pour into a 16-oz. mug and pack down. Cover and microwave until the scallions are tender, about 3 minutes. Invert the mug onto a plate and top with avocado. Serves 1.

— From “Mug Meals: Delicious Microwave Recipes” by Dina Cheney (Taunton Press, $16.95)

Austin360Cooks: A recipe for when you want exactly three cupcakes

I had to throw out half of a birthday cake last week.

It was just a little boxed job my kids and I had baked for my mom in Missouri — we Facetimed with her to show off the cake and sing “Happy Birthday.” Modern love, I tell you — but we could only eat so many pieces before the cake started to mold. (Another side note: I love those boxed cake mixes from Duff Goldman. They always have a super moist crumb, and he shares great decorating ideas on the package.)

Michelle Fandrich has the same problem of sweet treats going to waste.

Her son has a severe nut allergy, and to avoid accidental exposure, she bakes him his own cupcake for birthday parties at school. Fandrich, who is @emmefandy on Instagram, doesn’t need an entire pan of cupcakes, just a handful.

After much experimentation in the kitchen, she’s been able to whittle down her favorite cake recipe from King Arthur so that it makes exactly three cupcakes.

A note about ingredients: Although the original recipe is from King Arthur, Fandrich doesn’t use their cake flour because it’s not certified nut-free. Cake flours from H-E-B and Swans Down, on the other hand, are made in nut-free facilities.

You’ll have to whisk one egg and then measure out 2 Tbsp., which will leave some extra that you’ll have to throw away, but that’s better than using three eggs total and throwing away whole cupcakes.

Fandrich says she hasn’t quite mastered making the exact amount of icing for three cupcakes. She either makes too little and can’t properly pipe it from a bag or she makes enough to properly pipe it and has some leftover. Her go-to buttercream recipe is William Sonoma’s Quick Chocolate Buttercream recipe, and she substitutes cocoa for the melted chocolate.

If you’re not worried about having extra frosting, Fandrich recommends cutting the recipe by half or a quarter. You can then store any extra icing in the fridge for the next round of baking, or, if you’re like me, for when you get a hankering for something sweet and swipe a fingerful.

Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

1 1/4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/6 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. cake flour
1/3 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. beaten egg
1 1/2 Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 or 2 drops of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place 3 cupcake liners in a cupcake pan.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar with the back of a wooden spoon. Add flour and baking powder and stir to combine. Add egg and beat (by hand or with hand mixer) for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add yogurt and vanilla and beat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Divide mixture evenly between cupcake liners. Bake for 17 to 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of one comes out clean. Allow to cool and then decorate as desired. Makes 3 cupcakes.

— Michelle Fandrich, adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Tender White Cake recipe


How to bring a taste of the Austin Food & Wine Festival to your own kitchen

Over the weekend, I was at the Austin Food & Wine Festival, enjoying fancy pants bites of food that I could never make at home but trying to glean tips from chefs and participants that I might actually use.

In Wednesday’s food section, you can find an entire section of news-you-can-use, but here are some of the pieces of info I filed away to try one day.

Tea-infused shrimp and rice noodles, based on a recipe from Gail Simmons, was one of my favorite bites at the Austin Food & Wine Festival. Photo by Addie Broyles.
Tea-infused shrimp and rice noodles, based on a recipe from Gail Simmons, was one of my favorite bites at the Austin Food & Wine Festival. Photo by Addie Broyles.

“Top Chef” judge Gail Simmons developed a tea-poached shrimp and rice noodle salad that would be relatively easy to replicate at home. The noodles are cooked in unsweetened ice tea, which lends a layer of nuttiness to contrast the cilantro, lemongrass and ginger. Tea is also in the dressing that would be great on a regular salad or served with fish.

Blaine Staniford from Grace in Fort Worth served a sweet and tangy pork jowl at the Taste of Texas on Friday night, and if you were making something similar at home, you’d cut a pork shoulder in cubes and braise it in water, rice wine vinegar, scallions, sweet soy sauce and garlic and ginger that have been grated on a Microplane.

During the grand tasting Saturday, Lenoir chef Todd Duplechan served a beet stem sofrito that became a teaching tool for all sofritos, a sauce made from aromatics simmered in oil, almost like a confit. Those could be a classic combination of peppers and onions, or a French mirepoix of celery, onion and carrot. He used beet stems chopped up like celery to give that same earthiness to garlic, onions and spices. The beet greens were sauteed and then tossed with the beet stem sofrito to go with miso flan bursting with umami.

Matt McCallister of FT33 in Dallas taught a demonstration on preservation that included some great tips on preserved lemons. Photo by Addie Broyles
Matt McCallister of FT33 in Dallas taught a demonstration on preservation that included some great tips on preserved lemons. Photo by Addie Broyles

Matt McCallister of FT33 in Dallas, who led a preservation demo on Saturday, says he makes a fancy French onion dip by mixing dehydrated ramp tops with creme fraiche. For preserved lemons, use half salt and half sugar (instead of the traditional all salt) to make a more versatile cured lemon whose floral notes will blossom in the jar. You can also speed up the preserving process by freezing and thawing the jar over and over again for three days. Freezing helps the salt/sugar mixture permeate the cell walls.

Don’t be afraid to use your hands. Wu Chow, the next restaurant from the Swift’s Attic team, served a noodle salad at the grand tasting on Sunday that was well-coated in a peanut sauce because chef Ji Peng Chen was tossing the salad with his hands over a big bowl.

Andrew Wiseheart served a very Gardner-esque dish of charred cabbage with pork in sour beer, the smoky edges of the cabbage infusing the whole dish with a taste of the grill. Just quarter the cabbage and throw it on the grill. Chop and toss with olive oil and vinegar for a smokey slaw.

Nori, a type of seawood, was pureed with cream, brown butter and cauliflower in this dish from the Peached Tortilla. Photo by Addie Broyles.
Nori, a type of seawood, was pureed with cream, brown butter and cauliflower in this dish from the Peached Tortilla. Photo by Addie Broyles.

Eric Silverstein served cauliflower three ways at the Sunday grand tasting, including one variation in which he pureed cauliflower and cream with brown butter and nori. Seaweed and brown butter? Talk about packing a savory punch to pair with steak, chicken, roasted vegetables or mashed potatoes. Just brown the butter and soften the nori. Skim the solids off the brown butter, drain the nori and blend together.

The owners of Tiny Pies handed out perfect little bites of pecan pies with a super flaky crust. I found out that they are now hosting baking classes at their storefront at 5035 Burnet Road. The next classes ($65 per person) will take place on June 7, one from noon to 2 p.m. and the other from 3 to 5 p.m., and you can sign up at tinypies.com.

Austin360Eats: Readers share photos of Austin Food & Wine Fest

It was a big weekend for foodies in Austin.

The Austin Food & Wine Festival, the city’s premiere food and wine event, took place at Auditorium Shores and Republic Square Park Friday through Sunday, and you could find as many phones in hand as wine glasses.

Here are some of the photos that you all posted on social media as part of our #Austin360Cooks social media product.

A healthy Swiss chard polenta and why we don’t publish nutritional info on recipes

Swiss Chard and Turkey Sausage over Polenta from “Skinny Dinners” by the editors of Better Homes and Gardens.
Swiss Chard and Turkey Sausage over Polenta from “Skinny Dinners” by the editors of Better Homes and Gardens.

Healthy cooking seems to be on everyone’s minds.

Yes, we’re just as likely to indulge in bacon-wrapped cheeseburgers as a grilled chicken salad with a tiny cup of dressing on the side (been there), but it seems like many Americans have a general idea that they need to eat healthfully.

But do they have the know-how to do it? The editors of Better Homes and Gardens have put out a book, “Skinny Dinners: 200 Calorie-Smart Recipes that Your Family Will Love” (Better Homes and Gardens, $19.99), to help guide you through the process of cooking lighter fare.

We do our best to print health-conscious recipes even more often than the ones that throw calorie caution to the wind, but in the past week, I’ve received a few questions about why we don’t publish nutritional information with recipes.

Some recipes, such as this Swiss chard with polenta from the new book, come to us with the nutritional content included — 247 calories, 6 grams fat, 786 mg sodium, if you were curious — but not all of them do.

Nutrition analysis used to be much more expensive than it is now. Today, there are websites that you can plug recipes into and get a general analysis, but the results can be thrown off depending on the size of the produce, fat content of milk, meat or cheese, if you’re using kosher or table salt and especially the portion size that you dish out on a plate.

Because of those variables, we’ve decided to stick by our decision not to run nutritional information in recipes and instead take a broader approach to helping readers cook healthier without feeling the need to pull out a calculator.

If you’re concerned about your calorie or fat intake, for instance, use less of the oil (or cheese or meat) called for when cooking a recipe like this, and stay away from the ones whose primary ingredients are the ones you’ve been told to slow down on. The biggest culprit for consuming too many calories, in my opinion, is oversized servings, so use restraint when portioning food.

Swiss Chard and Turkey Sausage over Polenta

4 oz. smoked turkey sausage, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lb. Swiss chard, rinsed, trimmed and sliced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. salt, divided
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup fat‑free milk
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, shaved

In a very large skillet, cook sausage, onion and garlic in hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes or just until sausage is browned and onion is softened. Stir in half of the Swiss chard, the crushed red pepper and 1/8 tsp. of salt. Cook, covered, for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining Swiss chard. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes more, stirring often.

Meanwhile, for polenta, in a large saucepan bring 3 cups water to boiling. In a medium bowl combine cornmeal and the remaining 1/8 tsp. salt; stir in 1 cup cold water. Slowly add cornmeal mixture to boiling water in saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until mixture returns to boiling. Cook, uncovered, over low heat about 5 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in milk.

Serve Swiss chard mixture over polenta with Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

— From “Skinny Dinners: 200 Calorie-Smart Recipes that Your Family Will Love” (Better Homes and Gardens, $19.99)

University of Texas book, ‘Yucatan,’ wins top prize at James Beard Awards

yucatanThe James Beard Foundation gave out its journalism, broadcast and book awards last night in a ceremony in New York City, and “Yucatan” by David Sterling, published by the University of Texas Press, won Cookbook of the Year and Best International Cookbook.

Sterling, an Oklahoma native, runs a cooking school in Yucatan, and we ran this story about him and his work in September.

You can find a complete list of winners here.

The chef awards, for which Austin’s Bryce Gilmore and Aaron Franklin are finalists, will take place next week in Chicago.