Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Her first two books Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. Her Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story was published in 2012. Learn more about Kathleen and her books at her website and blog.
I’ll Have Mine with Pecans, Olives, and Raisins
Welcome to Day Two of my blog tour “Travels to Austin: A Trip Back in Time” where I write about famous, infamous, and legendary locales in Texas’ state capital. I’m celebrating the upcoming release of my fourth Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Driskill (Austin, Texas) by sharing one of my favorite recipes--Chile Rellenos, a dish I discovered at one of the city’s most famous Mexican restaurants. Getting me there the first time wasn’t easy. Read on.
Sausage, kolaches, sauerkraut, and veggies from my family’s garden are what nurtured me in the small Czech town of West, Texas. When I moved to Austin in 1977 to attend the university, some friends invited me out for Mexican food. Till then, the only Mexican food I’d tasted came frozen in an aluminum tray: “I’ll go, but I really don’t like the stuff.” Boy, was I in for a surprise.
A white stucco building on East First housed Matt’s El Rancho. Matt Martinez and his wife opened the restaurant in 1952, and it soon earned Mr. Martinez the title, “King of Mexican Food.” That first visit taught me why.
While my friends dug into chips and salsa, I perused the menu with the skepticism of a food snob. My plan was to order a salad and hope for the best. But aromas wafting from the kitchen were too enticing, so I ordered their signature dish, Chile Rellenos. With platter before me, I regretted not sticking to my salad order. Under a slather of sour cream topped with the most ungodly food combo—chopped pecans, green olives, and raisins—was a deep-fried thing called a poblano. And with it was stuffed with cheese. I mustered my courage and took a bite. The melding of those odd flavors exploded in my mouth. Before I knew it, I’d scraped my plate clean.
That was also the night I had my first “real” margarita.
Back the next week and numerous times thereafter, Chile Rellenos is still my favorite, although I’ve tasted other dishes. Seems I’m not the only one who got hooked. The story goes that LBJ often called in to-go orders, which were picked up and flown to the White House.
In Murder at the Driskill, protagonist Sydney Lockhart’s cousin, Ruth Echland, goes on a date to El Rancho. If you’ve read my other Sydney mysteries, you might expect that Ruth loved the food and drank the margaritas mightily. And that she later insisted on Sydney stocking her apartment with tequila and limes, instead of gin and olives.
4 large poblano chile peppers
1 cup of grated pepperjack cheese
2 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
2 ounces cream cheese
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of vegetable oil
4 tablespoons of sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped green olives
2 tablespoons of chopped pecans
2 tablespoons of raisins
Grill chile peppers on both sides until the skin turns black and starts to blister. This can be done on the stovetop if you have a grill pan or in the oven. If you choose the oven, turn the setting to broil and set the rack about six inches from the heat. Place peppers on the baking sheets lined with aluminum foil. It should take about ten minutes to char peppers on both sides.
When peppers are cool to the touch, rise them in cold water and peel off the blacken skin. Cut a slit along the side of each pepper and remove the seeds. Pat each one dry with a paper towel.
Mix the pepperjack cheese, onions, jalapeno, and cream cheese. Stuff each pepper with a quarter of the mixture.
Beat the egg whites with an electric beater until they form stiff peaks. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Spread flour into a shallow dish.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Dredge each pepper in the flour and shake off excess. Dip the peppers into the egg mixture. Gentle lower each into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown. About five minutes.
To serve, top each pepper with a tablespoon of sour cream. Sprinkle with chopped green olives, pecans, and raisins. I like to serve the dish with a side of beans and rice and sliced avocado.
If you’ve ever been to Austin, tell me what you liked best about the city whose promo campaign is “Keep Austin Weird.” At the end of the tour, I’ll give away a signed copy of the book. To be eligible, leave a comment on each blog.
Yesterday Condo Douglas kicked off my blog tour at Conda’sCreatIve Center. On Friday you can find me at Cyndi Pauwell’s blog.
You’d think that newspaper reporter Sydney Lockhart, comfortable at home in Austin, Texas, could stay away from hotels and murders therein. But when she and her detective boyfriend, Ralph Dixon, hang out a shingle for their new detective agency, they immediately land a high-profile case, which sends them to the swanky Driskill Hotel. Businessman Stringer Maynard has invited them to a party to meet his partner/brother-in-law, Leland Tatum, who’s about to announce his candidacy for governor. Maynard needs their help because Tatum is hanging out with the wrong crowd and jeopardizing his chances for winning the election. Before Sydney can finish her first martini, a gunshot sounds and Leland Tatum is found murdered in a suite down the hall.