I had some very special guests coming over this past Wednesday and so I spent the weekend before that trying to figure out what to make. My first destination was the top shelf of my cookbook collection, where, as you now know, I keep the books I’m most excited to cook from these days. The book that I reached for was Nancy Silverton’s Mozza at Home which, I’ve come to believe, is Nancy Silverton’s best cookbook.
I own all of Nancy’s books–from her iconic Breads from the La Brea Bakery to The Food of Campanile (which she wrote with her then-husband, Mark Peel)–but this one is really geared towards the home cook, much more so than the others. Sure, it’s nice to know how she makes her sourdough bread (and I made that recipe once from Breads from the La Brea Bakery, almost a decade ago, creating a wild yeast starter with grapes and flour and water in an open Tupperware container… my roommate Lauren wasn’t thrilled), but it’s even better to know how she feeds her actual friends who are coming over for dinner. And as I flipped through the pages, I suddenly found my answer in the least likely recipe you’d ever expect to find in a Nancy Silverton cookbook: her version of Dean Fearing’s Frito Pie.
Sometimes it’s nice to cook for friends who favor a particular cuisine because it steers you in a new direction. Normally, I default to European/Mediterranean things like pastas and chicken with couscous and preserved lemon and stuff like that. My friends Jim and Todd (you know them!) are Tex-Mex fans and so, when I cooked for them last week, I decided to pull The Homesick Texan Cookbook off the shelf to delight them with food that they love. Turns out, I love it too and now I have some new dishes up my sleeve to pull out at dinner parties. The one I’m most excited about? Queso with Chorizo (it’s in the title of the post, duh.)
Enchiladas have come into my life in a big way. It started when Craig talked about his mom’s enchiladas in the first episode of The Clean Plate Club. That inspired his mom, a week later, to make her famous enchiladas for dinner when we were all up in Bellingham. Her recipe is hand-written on an old, barely intact index card; bacon drippings are involved (though, in a pinch, she uses butter). Here’s a picture of the card.
There are a few things you need to know about my trip to Austin, Texas. First, the purpose of my trip was to support Craig’s film at SXSW, so while a typical trip to a new city would involve obsessive visits to any and every eating establishment, this trip I was pretty restrained and also a bit hobbled because I didn’t have a car. Craig’s film team had a van that would drive us to screenings and interviews and other film events, but to get anywhere food-related cost about $25 by cab because our hotel (a dilapidated Day’s Inn that we fled to after the house we rented had fleas) was way out in the boonies. Add to that the fact that my camera overheated and died (I used Craig’s camera instead), this was quite the challenging trip. And yet still, somehow, I ate really well.