On April 26, 2013, Abby graduated — with honors — from the culinary arts program at Texas State Technical College. The ceremony was held at the Waco Convention Center, and then-U.S. Representative Bill Flores was the guest speaker. My friend Autumn Outlaw worked as a marketing specialist at TSTC at the time, and before Abby was even off the stage after receiving her diploma, Autumn had texted me a photo of Abby and Flores shaking hands.
“It pays to have friends who are on stage during graduation, which is still taking place,” I wrote on Facebook at the time.
Abby had been an elementary school teacher for about 15 years, and then worked at a mothers’ day out program after our kids Sophie and Brazos were born. When they were finally both students at Woodway Elementary, Abby realized she did not want to go back into the classroom as a teacher. She had inherited a love of food and cooking from her grandmother Bessie Zemanek, so after much deliberation, she decided to enroll in the culinary program at TSTC. One of the final classes students there take prior to graduation is a restaurant class, and each student is responsible for overseeing the kitchen at the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center for a week. The students plan and prepare a menu, and Abby’s menu consisted of Southern Creole cuisine and featured dishes such as garlic soup; pecan-crusted chicken with voodoo greens and fried okra; and a steak salad. She aced that week running the kitchen.
A year or so after she graduated, we approached the publishers of the WACOAN with an idea that we begin writing the food and drink column for the magazine. There was one already in place, but we said during our pitch that we would give a local flavor to the food column. We’re longtime Wacoans, and we would also feature other cooks and food lovers from the area. They liked the idea from the start, and our first Food & Drink column appeared in the February 2015 issue of this magazine. It was headlined Love Mousse, and in it, we talked about the connection between love and chocolate. The accompanying photo featured White Chocolate Mousse with Brandy served in a chocolate bowl. I made that dessert the first time I cooked dinner for Abby, back in the summer of 1996. I proposed that night, and we’ll be celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary this December.
We’re also celebrating this Food & Drink column, as it is the 100th one we have written for the WACOAN.
As with everything, we’ve gotten better at this as we’ve gone along. Photos for the first 13 of our food columns were taken on the dark brown table in our poorly lit dining room. We renovated our porch and living room, and beginning with the March 2016 column, the photo shoots have taken place on the porch, with the dishes placed on a wicker and wooden table we bought at Laverty’s Antiques & Furnishings. We’ve placed food on cutting boards, Fiestaware dishes, a salt block, baking sheets and a couple of pieces that I made when I took a pottery class at McLennan Community College when I worked there many years back.
(The cake accompanying this month’s celebratory column we purchased from Baked Bliss.)
We’ve written about food memories from both sides of our family, and we’ve talked to lots of folks from around Waco who have generously shared their stories and recipes. We’ve written about cookbooks new and old, and even had the opportunity to talk to a few of their authors. We get ideas for this space when we travel and dine at new places. We’ve written about food and beverages from Oxford, Mississippi; Nashville; Memphis; and New Orleans; and the small Texas towns of Comanche, Lamesa and Shiner.
In this 100th column, we’ve picked four of our favorite recipes from the past eight years. They each were pulled from different columns but could be combined for a really good meal. The brisket recipe is from March 2017. In that column, we talked about some historic Waco restaurants, such as George’s Surf & Sirloin, where our friends Jan and Jill Hollier were the featured singers; Hickory Stick; O&H Rare Foods; and Nick’s. The brisket tacos were inspired by a dish at Pepe’s, a Mexican restaurant that was located in Lake Air Mall when it was on its last legs.
The tomato salsa recipe was printed in August 2018, when we wrote about the history of the margarita and the annual Margarita & Salsa Festival.
The ice cream recipe is from our August 2015 column. We wrote about my dad, John Tankersley, and his love for ice cream. That brought back good memories of Sunday night ice cream suppers at Timber Crest Baptist Church, where my family attended for many years.
Finally, our drink this month – the Summer Redbird – is from September 2019 where we reminisced about a trip to Shiner, Texas. The combination of Shiner Summer Redbird beer, ginger beer and a slice of grapefruit makes for a cold, refreshing drink that pairs well with the tacos and salsa.
And as we were grateful to the publishers of this magazine at our pitch meeting in 2014, we’re still grateful that we’re allowed to tell whatever food stories we’re allowed to tell, and we’re thankful for the folks who continue to read our stories and recipes. Here’s to 100 more!
- 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.
Roasted Tomato Salsa
- 2 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise (see note below)
- 6 unpeeled garlic cloves
- 1 large white onion, peeled, halved and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 jalapeno, stemmed and halved (discard the seeds to reduce the heat if you’d like)
- 1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
Preheat broiler to high.
On a large baking sheet, place the tomatoes skin side up. Then place the unpeeled garlic cloves, onion and jalapeno, also skin side up, in an even layer on the pan. Broil for 6-8 minutes, or until the tomatoes and jalapenos have blistered and blackened on top.
Remove the pan from the oven. Peel and discard the skin from the garlic cloves and the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes, garlic, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, salt and cumin in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process the salsa until it’s still a bit chunky. Pour into a bowl and taste, then add more salt or lime juice as needed.
Serve warm, or cover, refrigerate and serve cold. Makes 4-6 servings.
Note: For a variation, replace the tomatoes with tomatillos. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and roast along with the other vegetables.
Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet
- 4 cups strawberries (about 1 pound), hulled and halved (or quartered, if large)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- Pinch of kosher salt
Heat oven to 425 F. In a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, combine strawberries, sugar and vanilla; toss to combine. Roast berries, stirring occasionally, until juices are bubbling, for about 15-20 minutes. Let cool.
Puree berries, buttermilk, sour cream and salt in a blender until smooth. Place mixture in the refrigerator to chill overnight. The next day pour mixture into an electric ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 1 hour prior to serving. Makes 6 servings.
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- Zest and juice of half a lime
- Ginger beer
- Shiner Ruby Redbird beer
- 1 slice grapefruit, for garnish, if desired
- 1 slice lime, for garnish, if desired
In a 12-ounce glass, stir the sugar into the water until the sugar dissolves. Add lime juice and lime zest; stir to mix. Add the ginger beer until you have 1 1/2 cups liquid. Stir to mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze. (The ice cubes won’t freeze totally; they’ll be a bit slushy.)
When ready to serve, place 3 or 4 ice cubes in a glass and pour the Ruby Red beer over. Garnish with slices of lime and grapefruit. Makes 1 drink.