Southern meets Mexican in new cookbook

Southern dishes get a Mexican twist with the collaborative efforts of Eddie Hernandez and Susan Puckett in “Turnip Greens and Tortillas.”

Hernandez, executive chef of Taqueria del Sol in Georgia and Tennessee, and Puckett, a former food editor and food writer, have teamed together in a cookbook with more than 125 recipes with Southern flair and Mexican spice.

The book is divided into 12 chapters: Good for Breakfast, with recipes like Fritos Chilaquiles; Chips, Dips and Other Snacks, with recipes like Taqueria Del Sol Jalapeno-Cheese Dip; Tacos, with recipes like Nashville Hot Chicken Tacos; Wrapped, Stuffed and Sauced, with recipes like Cheese Enchiladas with Morita Pepper Sauce; Soups, Stews and Chilis, with dishes such as Zucchini and Corn Soup with Brie; Eddie’s Blue Plate Lunches and Special Suppers, with dishes such as Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potatoes, Chilie Glaze and Shiitakes; Breads, Beans, Rice and Corn, which has dishes like Mexican Spaghetti; Salsas, Sauces, Relishes and Condiments, which has sauces like Tomato-Habanero Sauce; Salads, Slaws and Hot Vegetable Sides, with side dishes like Lemon-Garlic Delta Salad; Drinks like Tequila-Mango Smoothie; Sweet Treats, with desserts like Chocolate Chimichangas; and Basic Recipes with spices like Cajun Spice Mix.

I tried out two different recipes from the book: Sopapillas and Eddie’s Pork with Roasted Jalapeno Gravy. Both turned out really well and the sometimes picky family enjoyed both. My husband just bought me a Dutch oven, and it got a workout with these two — I fried up the sopapillas in it and baked the pork in it.

I used to love going to a Mexican restaurant and occasionally getting sopapillas, so I was excited to make them. They are little pieces of bread dough fried, rolled and cinnamon and sugar and then usually served with honey or chocolate sauce. I had to make the bread dough, and heady after my success of finally making a loaf of bread that rose, I decided to dive in and try this. And it actually worked! I made the bolillo dough, then fried it up and rolled in the sugar and served. My family all loved them (including the dog and cat) and found putting apple butter or various jams or jellies on them was good too. Success!

Everyone approached the Pork with Roasted Jalapeno Gravy with a bit of trepidation. The pork is rubbed in simple spices of salt, pepper, garlic and onion and then roasted in my lovely Dutch oven. It is served sliced and with the homemade gravy.

The jalapenos you roast a bit in the oven and take out the stems and seeds and membrane, or get spicy and add the seeds. Using a roux you make from the book and stock, and half and half, you make the gravy to serve alongside it. Everyone surprised themselves by actually loving it, and we ate every bit of the pork! And other than the time to make the gravy, there isn’t a lot of hands-on cooking going on.

The recipes were all easy-to-follow and there was plenty of variety in the dishes. There are plenty of photos to help guide cooks in what their dishes should look like in the end.

The recipe for the pork dish is included below, as well as note from the authors about what recipes they suggest for the novice cook. Enjoy!

“Turnip Greens and Tortillas” is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It is $30.

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Contact Amy Phelps at aphelps@newsandsentinel.com

From The Authors

“What dishes would you recommend for a novice cook?”

Several that come to mind for them both are:

* Cheese dip

* Basic salsas/pico di gallo

* Guacamole

These are very simple techniques that if followed correctly, will guarantee you success, and also are easy to adjust to your liking to gauge how much heat and acidity you like, going forward. The guac is good because it is a common recipe with some uncommon tips that make it better than your average (i.e. lemon juice instead of lime, blistering the peppers.)

* Also the Cajun Hash (page 28 in the cookbook) is just a simple saute, but so flavorful and versatile. Again, its an opportunity to adjust the heat to taste.

* Meatloaf with Tomato-Habanero Gravy (page 146 in the cookbook) is good and hard to screw up. Likewise, Oven-Baked Memphis-Style Ribs (page 145) or Shrimp and Grits (page 173.)

* One of their very favorites is Zucchini and Corn Soup with Brie and Tortilla Croutons (pages 118-119.) This would also be great for cooking light; it is super healthy and you really can’t mess it up.

* Sloppy Jose Tacos is another simple dish. It has no separate sauces, just chili with garnishes.

Eddie’s Pork with Roasted Jalapeno Gravy

Makes 8 servings

This interpretation of a traditional Sunday supper in the South is one of our most requested specials. I roast the pork quickly at a high heat to give it an extra-crusty exterior and keep it moist inside, and smother it in a creamy gravy flecked with savory bits of roasted jalapeno.

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon granulated onion

2 1/2 to 3 pounds boneless pork loin (with some fat on it)

Roasted Jalapeno Gravy

2 jalapenos

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 cup half-and-half

2 cups pork stock or chicken stock, preferably homemade

1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as desired

4 to 5 tablespoons Blond Roux (recipe follows)

Heat the oven to 475 degrees.

Mix together the seasonings. Place the pork on a rack set in a roasting pan and sprinkle all over with the spice rub. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. (Tent the pork loosely with foil if it begins to brown too much.) Cover and let rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

To make the gravy: Reduce the oven heat to 450 degrees. Place the jalapenos in a small pan, brush with the oil, and roast for 6 minutes, or until soft. Remove the stems and remove some or all of the seeds and membranes for less heat, if desired. Dice the jalapenos. Place the half-and-half, stock, salt, and jalapenos in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat (watch carefully so the mixture doesn’t boil over); reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until reduced slightly.

Stir in 4 tablespoons of the roux and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking continually, until the sauce is thickened and bubbly. Stir in a little more roux if needed to reach the desired thickness.

Serve the pork with the gravy.

Blond Roux

Makes about 1/2 cup or enough to thicken 1 quart liquid

I like sauce and gravy–and lots of it. You can thicken sauces and gravies with a paste of flour (or cornstarch) and cold water, or make a beurre manie the way the French do, by blending softened butter and flour with your fingers or a spoon, and stirring in bits at the end of the cooking. You have to be very careful with these methods, though, because if you don’t cook the sauce long enough, it will have a raw flour taste. But you will never have this problem if you make a blond, or white, roux, as cooks do in Louisiana. In a blond roux, the butter and flour mixture is cooked, and it thickens without imparting much flavor and with little risk of lumps forming. Unlike the more time-consuming dark roux used for gumbo, this cream-colored roux is hard to mess up and takes only a few minutes to make.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and whisk vigorously until smooth. When the mixture thins and starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking slowly, until the mixture smells nutty and toasty and is still lightly colored. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool at least to room temperature before adding to hot liquids.

The roux stores well, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

For 1 cup roux: 12 tablespoons butter and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. (Thickens 3 quarts liquid.)

For 1/4 cup roux: 3 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour. (Thickens 3 cups liquid.)

EDDIE’S PORK WITH ROASTED JALAPENO GRAVY is excerpted from TURNIP GREENS AND TORTILLAS c 2018 by Eddie Hernandez with Susan Puckett. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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