Food & Drink | November 2018

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

The Art of Cooking

We bought our first piece of art shortly after we were married, 22 years ago. We got it at a frame shop in Fort Worth. It’s an abstract piece with one figure that looks like an eye and another that sort of resembles a necktie, with some other odd shapes mixed in. The main colors are red and black, and with its intricate silver frame, it looked good on the red wall in our apartment above Town & Country Barber Shop in Bellmead.

We still have that piece, though it’s stored in a closet right now, along with a bunch of other art that we just don’t have room to display. That silver frame, however, now houses a colored pencil sketch of a nude woman, shown from the back. It’s hanging in our bedroom. And we’ve acquired quite a few other pieces over the years. We usually find something we like at the Art From the Streets show in Austin each December. The show features art created by homeless or formerly homeless folks.

When I worked at MCC, I met two student artists, and we have several of their pieces. At one student art show, we bought a drawing of a homeless man holding a dog, and the dog had been colored to look like a patchwork quilt. That artist was Leslie Townsend, and when she graduated from MCC and was going to continue her education at the University of North Texas, she gave us several more paintings she had done. And then we met Gabriela Kolcavova, an exchange student from the Czech Republic, and became good friends with her. She was very kind and gave us several original etchings and photographs.

At the Waco Cultural Arts Fest, we’ve bought a couple of pieces from Fred Gardner, an artist from Coppell. The first one is a dramatic wooden cutout which has the figures of 22 people within the space of a large head. (That’s a very simplistic description of a gorgeous piece.) And we bought a small painting that Gardner calls “Black Santa.”

The large painting that is above the fireplace in our living room is by Bruce Lee Webb, of Waxahachie. It’s titled “Ramblin’ Texas,” and it features the names of 36 Texas towns and cities written within orange and yellow spaces in the profile of a man’s head. We have two other pieces by Webb as well: “Second Sight” and “Waco Cat.” The latter isn’t a cat but another man’s head in profile, with lots of yellow and orange and blue, and a bright red bow tie. With Webb’s blessing, I’m having that piece turned into a tattoo on my right bicep.

All this to say that we love art, and we’ve also written recently about our favorite cookbooks, so naturally we have a pretty good collection of art-related cookbooks as well. Some of the books are recipes inspired by the art of Monet, Jackson Pollock and Frida Kahlo. “Eat Ink” features recipes, stories and photos of tattooed chefs from around the country. “The Artful Table,” “The Artist’s Palate” and “Art What Thou Eat” are also art-inspired cookbooks from our collection.

For today’s meal, we were inspired by some recipes from Kahlo, the Mexican artist who was known for her paintings of the female form and female experience; and Pollock, who was known for his “drip” style of painting. From the book “Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo” by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle, we adapted recipes for Smothered Pork Sandwiches and Corn Pudding with Chile Cream Sauce. Kahlo had a similar sandwich at a small restaurant in the oldest section of Mexico City in 1943 while she was on a shopping trip. And she prepared the corn pudding for a dinner she and her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera, hosted for a group of dignitaries in September 1942.

Pollock donated his famous apple pie each year to a town festival in Springs, New York, an area of East Hampton on the south shore of Long Island. Pies and other delicacies were featured in a fundraising auction, and Pollock’s pie drew bids before the auction even officially opened.

The Recipes

Smothered Pork Sandwiches

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 8 rolls

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the spicy sauce:

  • 1 ounce cascabel chiles (about 5-6 peppers)
  • 1 ounce chiles de arbol (about 25 peppers)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Heat oven to 375 F.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until it’s shimmering.

Liberally season the pork with salt and pepper. Add the tenderloin to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until it’s a dark golden-brown.

On a baking sheet, toss together the carrot, onion and garlic. Place the browned tenderloin on top of the vegetables and place in the oven. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 155 F on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the tenderloin and set aside.

To make the tomato sauce, place the tomatoes, garlic, onion, water and salt in a saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes and onions are cooked through. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour the sauce into a blender and puree until smooth.

To make the spicy sauce, cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds and stems. Place the peppers in a saucepan with enough water just to cover. Place the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 10 minutes. Place the peppers, oregano, salt and water in a blender and pulse until smooth.

To assemble the sandwiches, slice the rolls in half but not all the way through. Place a couple of slices of avocado on the roll, then top with shredded pork. Spoon tomato sauce over the meat. Add spicy sauce to taste, then top with queso fresco and cilantro.

Makes about 8 servings.


Corn Pudding with Chile Cream Sauce

For the corn pudding:

  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs, separated

For the chile cream sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 poblano chiles; roasted, peeled, seeded, deveined and cut into strips
  • 2 cups cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-by-8 baking dish.

To make the corn pudding, cream together the butter and sugar. Puree the corn kernels with the milk. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Beat the egg yolks with the flour mixture until well mixed. Thoroughly combine the butter, corn and egg mixtures.

Beat the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold into the corn mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake 45-50 minutes, or until the top is golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

To make the chile cream sauce, heat the butter in a skillet. Saute the onion until translucent. Add the chile strips and saute for another minute or so. Stir in the cream, salt and pepper, and heat through. Spoon the sauce over individual servings of the corn pudding.

Makes 6-8 servings.


Apple Pie, inspired by Jackson Pollock

For the filling:

  • 4 pounds Granny Smith apples, or a combination of any tart apples
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 level teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • Up to 1/2 cup cold milk
  • 1 egg, for egg wash
  • 1 tablespoon water

To prepare the filling, peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Squeeze the lemon juice over the apples to prevent browning.

In a large skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apples, sugar, spices and brandy (if using). Cook until the apples are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the apples from the skillet and place in a large bowl, leaving any liquid in the pan.

Mix together the cornstarch and water until smooth.

Bring the liquid in the skillet to a boil and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Stir continuously until thickened to the consistency of honey.

Pour the thickened liquid over the apples and set aside to cool. Place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

To make the crust, combine flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add butter and cut in until mixture is crumbly.

Place the egg yolks and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add enough milk to make a half cup of liquid. Pour the egg mixture over the flour and mix until the dough holds together. Wrap the dough ball in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

When you’re ready to make the pie, heat oven to 450 F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough. Place the dough in a greased 10-inch round pie dish, allowing the dough to overhang the edge of the pan by about 1 inch. Trim away excess dough, roll it into a ball and set aside to make the top crust. Seal any cracks in the bottom crust by pressing them together with your fingers. Pour apple mixture into pie shell and distribute evenly.

For the top crust, roll out the remaining dough and place on top of the pie filling, allowing the top crust to overhang the edge of the pan by about 1 inch. Trim away any excess dough, then pinch the top and bottom crusts together all around the rim to seal the pie. Prick the top crust with a fork in about a dozen places, or slice a few small openings with a knife, to allow steam to escape.

Mix together the egg and 1 tablespoon water and brush the top of the pie. Sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar or decorative sugar.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and place in the center of the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 325 F and bake
25-30 minutes more.

Makes about 8 servings.

[Note: If there is quite a bit of liquid after the apples have chilled overnight, strain the apples and reserve the liquid in a saucepan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and reduce the liquid until it’s thickened. You may need to add another teaspoon of cornstarch that’s been mixed with a teaspoon of water.] ­­­­