My dad had a penchant for meeting people in the most random ways. Many times I would answer the phone, and he’d say, “You have a minute?” I would then sit down and prepare for a 30-minute — at least — conversation. His stories often started, “I met someone interesting today.”
He met lots of folks at sporting events, either by sitting next to them or chatting while standing in line. He also met people at Wal-Mart or stranded next to a car that had run out of gas or sitting at the next table over at Wendy’s. There really was no telling where he would meet his newest friend.
I don’t remember where he met Jan and Jill Hollier. They were students at Baylor University at the time — twins from Port Arthur — and were singers at George’s Surf & Sirloin restaurant on Franklin Avenue. We didn’t eat there often — it was a bit pricey for our budget at the time — but when our folks did splurge, my sister and I felt like VIPs. We knew the singers, after all, and they would come talk to us between sets.
Memories of Jan, Jill and Surf & Sirloin surfaced recently as we were looking through a couple of local cookbooks. “The Great Chefs of Waco” was produced by the Historic Waco Foundation in 1987. It features recipes from 21 restaurants, including the Brazos Club, Northwood Inn, Elite Café and Water Works. We bought it for $3 at the Friends of the Waco-McLennan County Library book sale.
“Delicious Memories: Famed Recipes From Waco’s Restaurants of Yesteryear” was published in 2006 as a fundraiser for Talitha Koum Institute and the Gospel Café. This cookbook contains recipes from and memories about 13 eateries, such as Hickory Stick, Italian Village, O&H Rare Foods, Sam Coates Restaurant and Pete’s Café. Nick’s — a Greek-inspired restaurant that was on Waco Drive for years until it closed in 1996 — and Surf & Sirloin were the only two restaurants that were featured in both cookbooks.
We found “Delicious Memories” in Baylor’s Moody Library. Moody and the Texas Collection at Baylor both house impressive collections of cookbooks. (The public is welcome to visit the libraries and browse the collections.)
The recipes this month were inspired by some of our favorite local restaurants that are no longer with us. The brisket tacos were Abby’s favorite at Pepe’s, a small Mexican restaurant that was in Lake Air Mall during its last days. The salmon recipe was inspired by a similar dish at Mitchell’s Grille in Clifton, which recently closed. (Last month’s recipe for Truffled Cream Corn was also inspired by Mitchell’s.) The pie recipe is similar to one served at Sam Coates Restaurant, which was located on the 3500 block of Franklin Avenue, according to “Delicious Memories.”
“The building was spacious and beautifully furnished. It was Waco’s finest,” Alton Pearson, the president emeritus of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center wrote in the introduction to Coates’ recipes. Pearson also talked about several dishes on the menu and finally said: “Then the desserts! They were all winners, but the one that stood out was black bottom pie with two layers of custard topped with real whipped cream.”
And the chocolate chimichanga recipe replicates a dessert we ate at Arizona Bar & Grill in Rosebud. Shortly after Eddie and Bea Hernandez opened the place, a local review called it a “four-star restaurant in a one-light town.” The food was outstanding, as could be expected from Eddie, who was executive chef at several restaurants in Atlanta. Bea, however, was from Rosebud and wanted to move back to her hometown, so they opened Arizona Bar & Grill. There was briefly an Arizona Bar & Grill in Waco at the Diamond Point Shopping Center. It was in the space that Salty Dog Sports Bar & Grill now occupies in Ridgewood Village.
While the margarita recipe wasn’t inspired by a restaurant visit from the past, we had a grapefruit in the house, and it needed to be used. This made for a refreshing drink to sip alongside the desserts.
- 1 4-pound brisket
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 bottle Mexican beer
- 1-2 cups beef stock
- Zest and juice of 4 limes
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- Corn tortillas
- Taco toppings of choice
Heat oven to 325 F.
Season brisket liberally on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat a griddle or skillet large enough to hold the brisket. Place the brisket, fatty side down, on the griddle and sear it on one side until there’s a nice, brown crust, at least 5 minutes. Flip the brisket and sear the other side. Transfer to a baking dish or pan and deglaze the griddle or skillet with the beer.
Let the beer reduce by about half and then pour over the meat. Add enough beef stock to submerge about half the brisket in liquid. Sprinkle the lime zest over the top of the brisket and pour the lime juice into the cooking liquid. Add the garlic as well. Bake for about 4 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and easily pulls apart.
Remove the brisket from the oven and place on a platter to cool. Using a mesh strainer, strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring liquid to a boil. Let boil for about 5 minutes to thicken and reduce slightly.
Use two large forks to shred the brisket. When ready to serve, pour the reduced sauce over the top.
Serve with warmed corn tortillas and whatever taco toppings you desire. Makes enough meat for 10-12 generous servings.
Salmon with Orange-Chipotle Glaze
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 to 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, to taste
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 2-3 tablespoons rum
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 salmon fillets
Heat olive oil in small skillet set over medium heat. Add garlic to pan and sauté just until it’s fragrant. Add chipotle and orange juice to the skillet and stir. Remove the pan from the heat and add the rum. Return the pan to the heat and reduce the mixture by about half, until it thickens. Take the pan off the heat when the sauce has thickened.
Add 1 tablespoon butter and swirl until it’s melted and incorporated into the sauce. Repeat with the remaining butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Heat oven broiler and position oven rack about 4 inches from the heat. Lightly brush salmon with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Place, skin-side down, on a foil-lined pan under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until the top of the salmon is lightly browned. At this point, the salmon will be slightly undercooked in the center. If you like salmon cooked this way, remove it from the oven. Otherwise, turn off the broiler and leave the salmon in the hot oven for another 3-5 minutes until it reaches the desired degree of doneness.
Remove the pan from the oven and use a spatula to place the salmon on plates. Spoon the orange-chipotle glaze over the salmon and serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.
Black Bottom Pie
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon rum
- 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
- 1 baked pie shell
For the whipped topping:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons rum
To make chocolate ganache: In a microwave-safe bowl, heat 1/2 cup heavy cream for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set ganache aside.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cornstarch, sugar, salt and milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
In a small bowl, beat egg yolks. Gradually add a few spoonfuls of hot milk mixture to the yolks, stirring constantly, until the yolks are warm. Pour the yolk mixture into the saucepan and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in butter and rum. Divide the custard into 2 bowls. Add the melted bittersweet chocolate to one of the bowls and stir until combined to make chocolate custard. Set both bowls aside to cool to room temperature.
Spoon the chocolate ganache into the baked pie shell and spread evenly. Refrigerate to allow the ganache to set, about 15 minutes. After the ganache has set, pour the chocolate custard on top of the ganache, spread evenly, and refrigerate for another 15 minutes. Then spoon the remaining bowl of custard on top of the chocolate custard, spreading evenly. Refrigerate the pie until serving.
To serve, whip 1 cup heavy cream into stiff peaks. Add the powdered sugar and rum and beat to combine. Top the pie with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, if desired. Makes 1 pie, about 8 servings.
Chocolate Chimichangas with Tequila Cream Sauce
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon tequila
For the chimichangas:
- 4 flour tortillas
- 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
To make the sauce: in a heavy saucepan, combine milk, cream and vanilla. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Slowly whisk milk mixture into the yolk mixture. Return custard to saucepan. Place over low heat and stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Strain into a clean bowl and stir in tequila. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
To make the chimichangas, lay out the tortillas on your work surface. Divide chocolate chips evenly among the tortillas, placing them slightly off-center of each tortilla. Use a finger or pastry brush to lightly brush the perimeter of each tortilla with the beaten egg.
Fold the bottom of the tortilla over the chocolate chips and press down slightly. Fold the sides of the tortilla in, and then roll up the tortilla, sealing in the chocolate chips. Make sure to pinch closed any opening in the tortilla. It’s important for it to be completely sealed. Repeat with all the tortillas and chocolate chips.
In a heavy saucepan, pour about 2 inches of vegetable oil. Heat until the temperature is 365 F, or until a kernel of popcorn added to the oil pops. Carefully place 2 chimichangas in the hot oil and fry, flipping until golden brown on all sides. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Fry the remaining chimichangas.
To serve, spoon some tequila cream sauce onto a plate and place a chimichanga on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve while still warm. Makes 4 servings.
- 2 ounces tequila
- 2 ounces grapefruit juice
- 1 ounce lime juice
- 1/2 ounce triple sec
- 1/2 ounce agave
- Salt or chili salt for rim
In a shaker, combine the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, triple sec and agave with ice and shake well. Run a lime wedge around the rim of the glass. Pour salt or chili salt on a plate and twist the rim of the glass in the salt. Add ice to the glass and strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with a small slice of grapefruit, if desired. Makes 1 drink.