Scavenger Shakshouka

Shakshouka, a tomato based stew topped with eggs, has been trendy for awhile as breakfast,a brunch or a light supper. I’ve made and posted traditional shakshouka, green shakshouka and even a leftover corn bread version my daughter named Corn Shouka and enjoyed them all. I was surprised this month when one of my food magazines had multiple shakshouka recipes including one in an advertisement for a diet program’s new marketing plan. There were multiple spelling including the magazine’s Shakshuka version. All that got me shukaed up, so you might find different spellings scattered through here.  Yes, it is a terrible pun; just deal with it!
I decided to make shakshuka for breakfast, regardless of the spelling. The challenge was that most published recipes make a lot, come calling for a dozen eggs!  These days, I’m cooking for one. Reading some of the recipes, I got a feel for ingredients and decided to check out the fridge and pantry to see what I might scavenge for an impromptu shakshouka. You know how I enjoy playing with my food!

Shakshouka just out of the often. Drat!!! one egg yolk broke. Not bad, though, for scavenged ingredients!

Scavenger Shashouka

Ingredients found on hand:
Diced canned tomatoes left over from another project
Bell pepper
One foil packet (two tablespoons) tomato paste What a great convenience discovery they are! Six packets in a box so you don’t have to throw away most of a can of tomato paste.
Jarred red chile salsa (Chimayo brand is amazing!)
Greens (I happend to have some red Swiss chard)
Feta cheese
Olive oil
My stove top blend of 60% kosher salt and 40% ground black pepper

NOTE: Measurements included in the methods are eye-balled estimates. Trust your experience and instincts and play with that food! Makes two servings.

Heat up the broiler in your oven.
Add a splash (1 or 2 Tbsp) olive oil to an 8-inch non-stick sauté pan and heat until it begins to shimmer. Use a second-press inexpensive olive oil for this, save your EVOO for salad dressing or for drizzling over the shakshouka at serving.
Add chopped onions and bell pepper, about a Tbsp or two of each, and cook until tinder.  Lower heat if needed to keep from burning the onion.
Add a minced garlic clove or two and let them soften, but not turn golden, stir in the packet of tomato paste, but don’t include the foil. When paste is soften and blended in, add a cup of so of drained diced tomatoes. My pan was filled to about half an inch short of the top. Stir in the salsa (as much for Chile heat as you think you can take) onion, bell pepper and garlic and let it all simmer until reduced and not soggy wet. Add chopped greens to the pan, stir into the mix as the greens wilt and be come tender.
Make two wells in the tomato mix and crack an egg into each. When eggs begin to set, transfer pan to the oven under the broiler. Check it frequently and remove the pan when the egg whites are just set. The yolks should be just set.
Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on the tomato mix an eggs. Let it set up a couple of minutes and the cheese soften a little, salt and pepper mix to taste, then plate and enjoy.

Half an 8-inch plan and a side of toast was just right for breakfast. The good news is I get to have the second half today!

Bulletin: Left overs were more flavorful than the first time around!  I may have to experiment making it a day ahead.

Sweet Potato Hash Browned Waffle

You can do many more things with sweet potatoes than serve them baked with syrup and marshmallows once a year. And you can tell yourself that sweet potato fries are better for you than French fried potatoes. I suspect you have not tried Sweet Potato Hash Browed Waffles!  I saw a recipe and drooled at the photo so I had to try it.  The recipe is gluten free, and it is posted below as such.  I found that the batter of rice flower, coconut oil and egg did not hold the sweet potatoes together well in my Belgian waffle maker. I used the gluten free items because of a friend’s dietary needs. I’ll make the recipe with regular flour for myself next time. I’ll also use my panini press to cook the sweet potato has because on only have a Belgian waffle maker.

Open-face sweet potato hash brown waffle topped with ham and a Brussels sprout slaw and dried cranberries make an exotic and delicious breakfast!



2 medium-size sweet potatoes (about 20 oz.), peeled and julienned

1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion

3 Tbsp brown rice flour

1 Tbsp melted coconut oil plus more for greasing the waffle iron


3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp pure maple syrup

8 ounces Brussels sprouts, shaved

1/3 cup dried cranberries

8 ounces nitrate-free reduced-sodium thinly sliced ham


1 Preheat a waffle iron to high. (I recommend a regular waffle iron rather than a Belgian waffle iron.) Combine the grated sweet potato, onion slices, 1 Tablespoon coconut oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl.  Grease the waffle iron with coconut oil and place 1-1/2 cuts of the sweet potato mixture in the center of the waffle iron, spread the mixture to create a 6-inch square.  Close the waffle iron and cook until browned and tender – about 13 minutes. Remove the waffled sweet potato hash and remove and repeat the procedure until four waffles have been made.

2. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.  Add the shaved Brussels sprouts and let stand until the sprouts are tender – about 10 minutes.  Fold in the cranberries.

3. Put one waffle on each of 4 plates.  Top each with 2 ounces of ham slices and about 2/3 cup Brussels slaw.

Note: This slaw is especially flavorful and would be good as a side or topper for most anything.

Cheesy Grits with Scallions and Jammy Eggs

Green Chili cheese grits topped with a poached egg have long been a favorite cool weather breakfast, but, now there’s a new game in town!  In the April issue of Bon Appétit, I ran across a technique for Jammy Soft Boiled Eggs served on cheesy grits that I just had to try. No green chili in the grits, but a sprinkling of sautéd scallions and thin-sliced jalapeño saved the day.  I think the jammy eggs rank right up there with poached eggs for silky delicious yolks just a bit more firm than poached egg yolks.

Cheesy grits topped by jammy eggs and crisp scallions and jalapeño.

If you don’t know that the ratio of grits to water is 1 to 4, you must be a Yankee.*  Slowly pour 1/4 cup grits into 2 cups gently boiling lightly salted water and stir. As grits begin to thicken, reduce temperature and stir occasionally until grits are tender.  You might need to add more liquid near the end of cooking.  At this stage, I thin it with milk and stir in a tablespoon or so of butter.  I don’t use = quick cooking or instant grits, I use the real thing that takes about 25 minutes to cook.  It is well worth it to get luscious, smooth and rich flavor.  While the grits cook, slice scallions an jalapeño in thin strips. Use an entire bunch of scallions, green and white parts, and two stemmed and seeded chilis, sautéd crisp, the drained on paper towels.

To make the jammy eggs, bring a large saucepan of water deep enough to cover eggs to a boil over medium-high. A 2-quart pan should hold 6-8 eggs. Carefully lower eggs into water using a slotted spoon.  Cook for EXACTLY 6-1/2 have minutes, then transfer the eggs to a ice bath and chill until the eggs are slightly warm – about 2 minutes.  The ice baths stops the cooking and makes the eggs easier to peel. Remove the eggs from the ice bath, peel and slice them.  The yolk will be jammy and warm.

Dish up the grits, top with slice eggs and sprinkle with crisp scallions and jalapeño.

These eggs are so good that I’m searching for things I can serve under them.

Corn Shucka Invented When I Played with My Food

Corn Shucka Invented

Dicussion this morning with my daughters this morning about making shakshouka for dinner this evening. The question was “red or green’. We’re in Colorado, but the discussion sounded like we were in Santa Fe.
It was an interesting morning for food discussion. We were invited to a pot luck supper last night. Mande made two kinds of cornbread, one recipe plain, one recipe with green chile. There was a debate about sugar in the cornbread. The girls have some Yankee notions about sugar in cornbread and white bread stuffing, thanks the “other” side of the family.
I decided to do a Play With Your Food demo for breakfast with distinctly Southern and Tex-Mex overtones.
It started with left over cornbread of both types and toasted thin slices of a baguette, a little chopped onion and celery, sweated in butter, some vegetable broth and chopped long green chile left over from yesterday’s cornbread prep.
I mixed it all together in a bowl and transferred it to a baking dish. I sunk six wells into the batter and popped it into the oven for about 20 minutes. The wells were inspired by thoughts of shakshouka which a vegetable stove top casserole in which eggs are cooked.
After 20 minutes my green chile cornbread stuffing was set and hot. I broke an egg into the wells and returned the dish to the oven with the goal of setting the egg whites while leaving the yolks soft and runny. I will admit I let the yolks overcook and they were not runny.
We each had two helpings of eggs in the green chile cornbread stuffing and pronounced it good. Daughter Emily came up with calling this Corn Shucka based on the eggs nestled in the corn bread.
Cooking without a recipe and Playing With Your Food produces good results.

Cornbread stuffing becomes Corn Shucka.



When you don’t know what else to do, play with your food.

Breakfast is always a challenge.  It seems to be a conflict between healthy and sweet or savory not so healthy. Who has time to plan as far ahead as the next day’s breakfast anyway? So, here it is Sunday morning.  An inventory of the kitchen: one medium potato, a couple of onions, eggs, left-over grated cheese from earlier in the week and a little bit of smoked pork belly that really should be used soon. There were a few slices of 21-grain bread and, hiding in the refrigerator, a jar with about two tablespoons of Seville Orange Marmalade.

Seeing the marmalade made me imagine flamenco guitar music. And then the magic words Spanish tortilla popped into my head. A Spanish tortilla works  for breakfast and as one of a table of tapas or small plates at happy hour. The good thing is the tortilla is basically eggs and potatoes with some imagination tossed in. Since I didn’t have Spanish chorizo, a hard sausage, I decided to use my pork belly. I diced the pork belly into cubes about 1/4 inch square, then I used my hand-held mandoline to slice the potato and paper thin rings of onion. An an afterthought, I grated some extra sharp cheddar, in case there wasn’t enough fat going into the tortilla from the pork belly!

I warmed the pork belly in a wide shallow sauté pan, spread it evenly and added a layer of onion slices separated into rings over the pork.  Next was a layer of potato slices.  I let the onions and potatoes soften for a few moments, then poured two beaten eggs and a splash of boxed egg product over everything. A few shakes and swirls got the egg mix down around the potato and onion slices.  After the eggs began to set around the edges, I put the pan in a 375º oven for about 10 minutes.  I check that the eggs were set throughout, then place a plate over the pan and flipped the tortilla out onto the plate.  I slipped it back into the pan, bottom side up, sprinkled it with a little cheddar cheese and popped it back into the oven to  melt. I turned the oven off while this happened and made toast.

My Spanish tortilla inspired breakfast was a  hit.  My good neighbors gave us a wonderful homemade salsa that added a good kick to the tortilla. And, FYI, I polished off the marmalade on my toast!

This is one of those play with your food and cook without a recipe meals that I’d like to make another time.  Let’s hope memory and this posting kick in and make it as good a second time.

Layer tortilla and eggs just beginning to set.
Upside down tortilla showing meat layer now on top and melted cheese.
Toast, a few grape tomatoes for color and two slices of Spanish-inspired breakfast tortilla. A wonderful salsa from my neighbor livens up the tortilla.


Taco Tome

Last Friday’s paper had a large article about a book promotion event for The Tacos of Texas, a newly released book by Jarod Neece and Mando Rayo, a former El Pasoan, both of whom now consider themselves taco journalists.  The book is the product of 7,000 miles of driving around Texas eating tacos, interviewing local taco eaters and recruiting members of the Texas Taco Council for the promotion and perpetuation of tacos.

fullsizeoutput_b90 The promotion event was free tacos in different styles by four different chefs. There were traditional tacos, Tex-Mex tacos and New Americano Tacos. The gates opened at noon and the lines ran out the gates and up the block at Memorial Park’s special activity area.

I didn’t not choose to wait in long lines for a free taco.   Instead, I had tacos and enchiladas at nearby Doña Lupe’s instead.  Afterwards, I returned to the park go find the lines still were long. The book buyer line was very short. Go figure – 45 or more minutes or in line in the sun for a taco or five minutes in line and $20 for a book.

img_2728 I purchased the book, waved goodbye to some friends in who’ve been in line line in the sun and headed home in the air conditioned comfort of my truck.

At home, I kicked back and read the introduction to the book and then skipped ahead to the chapter on El Paso. There are interviews with the owners and chefs at restaurants, taquerias and with local celebrities and just folks who know their way around a taco. Somehow, they failed to interview the Gringo Gourmet for the book

Each of the sections of the book follows this pattern of interviews and offers a list of five “bests” for tacos, based on the interviews. You’ll have to read the book to find out who is on the list!

Folks who read this blog know that there is a category called play with your food. Dishes there start with a basic premise and adapt it into something individual.  It evolved from reading Bon Appetit’s Cooking Without a Recipe feature on their e-mail feature series.  I use their model and list ingredients and tips on methodology if needed, but don’t create a formal recipe with things like quantities and measures.  It becomes a fun adventure for me and no one, so far, has complained or been harmed by my creations.

The book calls tortillas, fillings and salsa the trinity of tacos. It also says a taco can be anything served in a folded-over taco, the exception being taquitos which are rolled and fried tacos sometimes called flats, and what folks in the north and eastern parts of the state call a breakfast taco that looks suspiciously like an egg burrito to me.

The book does have recipes from each of the five “bests” in each locale and a few from the local celebrities. It will be fun to try some from the different regions of the state – even those bastions of Mexican food, Midland-Odessa, Abilene and Dallas.  I will give the authors credit for been unbiased-ish in their statewide taco tasting.

I am enjoying the book greatly. It is fun for foodies to read and to be inspired by some new approaches to tacos.

After a night of reading The Tacos of Texas I woke wanting a chile based breakfast. Here’s how the taco exposure affected a couple of breakfast favorites in this house – the Chile Relleno al Flojero (lazy man chile rellenos) and enchilada montages (stacked enchiladas with an egg on top).

Bye the book definition of a taco being a tortilla filled with something, my Relleno al Flojero must really be a cheese stuffed green chile taco.  It loses something in the translation, but the flavor is still there.

I usually use three tortillas for my breast enchiladas with egg.  But under the taco spell, I decided to fill the tortillas in half with a green chile, cheese, onion and dollop of red chile sauce, then top the taco looking enchilada with more red chile, onion and cheese.  I made two and added the requisite fried egg and christened it tacolada montada.  I think this breakfast will appear on the the table again soon, perhaps with a side of refried beans that the authors call Mexican mayonnaise.

From the bottom” green chile and cheese taco AKA Chile relleno al flowers and tacoladas montadas – eggs topped cheese enchiladas folded like a taco instead of stacked – warning: tacoladas are not finger food.





I’ve posted shakshouka or shakshuka before. I’m doing it again, because today it fits in the “Play With your Food – Cooking Without a Recipe category. I’ll post a recipe for Shakshuka below as a starting point for you and then have fun with it as I did this morning.

I inventoried the pantry and fridge and found I didn’t have all the ingredients in the recipe.  I did have things that were close to it and decided to give it a go anyway.

What I pulled together were:

A bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 small white onion, peeled and diced

One good sized garlic, diced

One large fresh tomato

One can of diced tomatoes

One tube of tomato paste

A jar of green chile sauce

Four eggs

A bunch of cilantro.

Some crumbled Mexican Cotija cheese

Kosher salt

That’s sort of like the list of ingredients in the recipe, don’t you think?

Sweat the onions in olive oil, when soft, add the garlic followed by the tomato sauce, diced fresh tomato and the can canned tomatoes.  Cooked off about half the liquid, taste and added a couple of pinches of salt.  Then stir in four tablespoons of El Pinto Green Chile Sauce. I love El Pinto Green Chile Sauce and El Pinto Red Chile Sauce. They are manufactured by twin brothers who have the El Pinto Restaurant in Albuquerque, NM. Their salsas are good, but a little too Northern New Mexico style for this border guy. I tell people that the green chile sauce is huevos rancheros right out of the jar and the red sauce is enchiladas, slightly thinned, is enchiladas right out of the jar!


Lower the heat under your skillet and carefully break four eggs into the mix. Cover the pan and let the eggs cook in the shaksuka until the whites are set and the yolks still soft.  When the eggs are nearly done, lightly sprinkle a few pinches of Cotija cheese over it all to add another subtle layer of flavor.

Cotija cheese, a little cilantro and a few sliced yellow grape tomatoes finish the shaksusa and it’s breakfast!

Below is a very good recipe for Shakshuka.  I hope you’ll try it and that you’ll make it your own by adding your own special touches to the basic tomato/egg stovetop casserole.




1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 medium brown or white onion, peeled and diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 medium green or red bell pepper, chopped

4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp chili powder (mild)

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste– spicy!)

Pinch of sugar (optional, to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

5-6 eggs

1/2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional, for garnish)


Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. Slowly warm olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant

Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste to pan, stir till blended. Add spices and sugar, stirwell,and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce. At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences. Add salt and pepper to taste, more sugar for a sweeter sauce, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier shakshuka (be careful with the cayenne… it is extremely spicy!).

Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. I usually place 4-5 eggs around the outer edge and 1 in the center. The eggs will cook “over easy” style on top of the tomato sauce.

Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much, which can lead to burning. image: Some people prefer their shakshuka eggs more runny. If this is your preference, let the sauce reduce for a few minutes before cracking the eggs on top– then, cover the pan and cook the eggs to taste. Garnish with the chopped parsley, if desired. Shakshuka can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For breakfast, serve with warm crusty bread or pita that can be dipped into the sauce (if you’re gluten-intolerant or celebrating Passover, skip the bread). For dinner, serve with a green side salad for a light, easy meal.

Cooking Without a Recipe

I’ve mentioned the Bon Appétit online “Cooking Without a Recipe” feature a few times. I have borrowed that title as part of new category on this blog: “Play With Your Food – Cooking Without a Recipe.”  I’m enjoying experimenting with everyday staples in new ways and writing about the experience.

You probably have realized that I love chiles rellenos (stuffed long green chiles). They are a lot of work and can make quite a mess if you fry them. My mother made crispy crusted chile rellenos rather than the traditional soggy egg battered version. I’ve replaced her crushed cracker crumbs with panko to make a crusted  baked relleno and a stuffed green chile in a pan-browned corn tortillas that I call chiles rellenos al flojero – lazy guy chiles rellenos.

Panko crusted baked chiles rellenos.
Chiles rellenos al flojero – lazy guy chiles rellenos.

Now, I’ve done a riff on that and combined my rellenos  flojeros with the fixings for huevos rancheros another breakfast favorite, ranch style eggs and chile. You warm corn tortillas, cover them with a green chile sauce of chile, tomatoes, onion and garlic and top them with soft fried eggs.  There’s something magical about silky soft egg yolk and chile sauces. If you use green chile sauce on one, and red sauce in the other, it is called huevos divorciado – divorced eggs.

Huevos divorciados – one chile and egg topped tortilla with green sauce, the other with red chile sauce.

Playing with my food, I made chiles rellenos al flojero, then drenched them with green chile sauce and topped them with a soft fried egg as I would for huevos rancheros. I’ll have to call this riff huevos rancheros rellenos because the tortillas are filled with stuffed chiles and folded. What ever I call it, it was a terrific breakfast made without a recipe a by playing with my food.

Huevos rancheros rellenos – best of both worlds – stuffed green chiles and green chile sauce drenched tortillas toped with eggs. Would this breakfast two days in a row be a bad thing?

Steamed Egg Bliss

I read about steamed eggs and got curious.  One recipe was for blending eggs and a little water, putting then mix in a small pan, covering it and placing the pan in a larger one and steaming it in the oven.  The result was a fluffy, puffy egg that, because of the size of the pan, was just the right size for sandwich.  Interesting, but I haven’t tried it yet.

What I did try was cooking eggs in a steamer basket over a half inch of water.  Add water to a sauce pan, place eggs in a steamer basket, bring water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pan and steam for about seven minutes.  Remove the eggs to an ice water bath. When cool enough to handle, peel them.  The result is tender white and a silky smooth  yolk.  I discovered that it takes practice.

The first time I steamed eggs, the ones I was peeling remained in the ice bath.  As the eggs cooled off, the membrane around the white glued the shell and white together making it almost impossible to peel the egg without tearing chunks out of the white.  I was really disappointed by this.  The eggs were delicious, but ugly.  And the ones that had stayed the longest in the ice bath were really chilled through.  This was not what I had hoped for.

Egg whites torn in peeling are lot the look I’d hoped for.

It was time to get busy in the Gringo Gourmet Academy Test Kitchen and figure out how to make this work. The taste is so good! I wanted the appearance to be just as good.

A couple of days later, I wanted an egg garnish on avocado toasts, so I made hard boiled eggs.  Again, I put the cooked eggs in an ice bath to prevent the gray ring around the yolk that sometimes happens.  Again, the eggs were hard to peel after the ice bath.  I tried a YouTube video inspired peeling method that worked pretty well. It was very entertaining.  Chip away some peel at both ends of the egg, place it to you lips and blow very hard. The boiled egg pops out of the shell into your hand.  It was fun to do this with a couple of eggs but I think it is a technique I will save for Easter eggs after the hunt. The  youngsters will get a kick out of watching and trying it.

This morning, a Sunday, I gave it another go.  I steamed the eggs, and this time plunged them in the ice bath and immediately took them out.  They were much easier to peel while still a little warm. As they cooled, it became a little more challenging.  I tried blowing one. The soft white and yolk didn’t stand up to the blow and I had to clean up the countertop and backsplash.  I did have to laugh about it.  I served the virtually empty and deflated egg white to a friend and told him it was a low cholesterol egg since he takes a cholesterol medication.

My last peeling attempt was to crack the shell on the side and remove enough to allow me to slip a soupspoon between the egg and shell.  Carefully I worked the spoon around the egg and was able to remove it easily and neatly.  A little of that adhesive membrane remained on the shell, but none was on the egg. I was greatly relieved that I had smooth eggs to plate this morning.

While the eggs were  steaming and peeling was going on, I cooked a few strips of thick-sliced bacon and placed them on paper towels to drain.  After removing most of the bacon drippings, I sautéed some chopped onion and coins of tiny fingerling potatoes.  The potatoes were a mix of blue, red skinned and white skinned potatoes.  I had used most of the white skinned ones the first time I steamed the eggs.  This time, I had more blue and red potatoes than white, so the presentation potatoes were dark.  I removed the potatoes from the pan and dumped in the remains of a box of mixed spinach and arugula leaves to add a little flavor and color to the plate. A slice of multigrain toast was included to sop up the silky egg yolk.

What a difference a smooth white makes on the plate over a pitted one!
Sunday breakfast bliss. Steamed eggs on wilted greens, bacon, sautéed fingerling potato coins and toast to soak up silky egg white.


Crepes – Sweet and Savory, What’s Not to Love?

Sunday morning, I needed to use some macerated strawberries and fresh blueberries that were waiting in the fridge. Rather than top a bowl of cereal with them, I decided to make crepes.

Crepes sound difficult but are only as hard to make as you want them to be. I use a very simple recipe that works with minimal hassle.

After enjoying the berry crepes for breakfast, I still had about half a recipe of batter left. A fond memory of a crepes treat years ago inspired me to experiment.

Strawberry and Blueberry crepes in a strawberry yogurt sauce.

Back in the 1980s, the Hotel Paso del Norte was renovated and expanded into an El Paso showplace replete with a Tiffany glass dome over what had been the lobby and now is a bar. After the renovation, the historic Trost designed hotel became the Westin Paso del Norte*. I had the pleasure of organizing a number of functions there for the then Texas Tech Regional Academic Health Center at El Paso.

I was invited to a Chef’s Table, a private dining area off the kitchen of the hotel where guests enjoyed an elegant meal with then Chef Paul Bellegarde. We dined on blue corn crepes filled with quail in an exquisite sauce. I was naïve enough to ask Chef Paul for the recipe. He pulled an old chef trick on me. He gave me the list of ingredients, but no quantities and told me to figure that out for myself.

I made the blue corn crepes a few times and filled them with chicken in an herby sauce; they were quite passable. I have never tried to cook quail and don’t really know if I could find them in El Paso. I know there are some in a flood control basin near my house, but I am not a hunter, especially within the city limits.

As I thought about what to do with my leftover batter, I thought about Chef Paul and the many great meals of his I enjoyed. He later served as chef de cuisine for the Hospitals of Providence and for the University Medical Center here in El Paso.

As I worked out what might be a good thing to do with my batter, I decided on savory crepes with a chicken and green chile filling and sauce. I used measurements equivalent to half the original crepe batter and substituted corn meal and mesquite flour for the white flour. Mesquite flour has a nutty/sweet flavor and made a good tasting batter. The corn meal added a little texture and helped hold the batter together. I combined the left over batter and my amended version. That gave me six good-sized crepes and one not so good that became my test taste and reward for all the work. I felt I was on the right track .

It was still morning, so I made my crepes, let them cool, layered them between sheets of waxed paper and refrigerated them until evening.

Crepe cooking in a shallow skillet.
A finished crepe.

For my sauce, I sauted onion and garlic, added low sodium chicken broth and then boiled two chicken thighs and about ¾ lb of chicken breast to make an enhanced broth. I skinned the thighs and removed the bones, but boiled the bones in the broth. By the way, this was done without a recipe, but I am giving you the ingredients!

When the chicken was done, I removed the meat to a platter cool a little and strained the savories and bones from the broth. I removed the thighbones and celery pieces and scraped the onion and garlic bits back into the broth. When the chicken was cool enough to handle I cut it into about a 3/8 inch dice, covered it and set it aside. I also diced a few roasted and peeled and green chiles. For garnish and kick, I brushed oil on a couple of jalapenos and lightly charred them on the grate of a gas range burner.

As dinnertime neared, I made a roux using equal parts butter and flour. As the roux thickened and lost its raw taste, I began to add small amounts of the broth and stirred like crazy with a small beater to make a smooth sauce. When the sauce was simmering and of a good thickness, I added the diced chicken and chopped chile and brought it up to temp. I didn’t want the roux and sauce to be too dark in color because mesquite flours cooks dark by itself.

I warmed my crepes in a pan and filled them with chicken and chile removed from the broth with a slotted spoon so they wouldn’t be too soggy. I wanted to tuck the sides and ends of the crepes to make a nice package on the plate. That’s not as easy as it sounds. It is a skill I’ll have to work on another day.

On the plate, I drizzled a bit of sauce over the crepes, sprinkled chopped cilantro and pickled red onions on top and served them with a simple salad.

Cornmeal and Mesquite Chicken and Green Chile Crepes. A flame roasted jalapeño adds a little kick.

I was very pleased with the texture of the crepes with the corn meal. It added a very subtle rich undertone to the dish. The mesquite flour made the crepes a little darker than they might have been otherwise. There was no sugar in the original recipe. The mesquite made the crepes a little sweet that balanced the rich chicken sauce. I had been worried about the sweetness, but it was just right.

Below are the original recipe for the crepes and the half-recipe with corn meal and mesquite flower I developed. If you choose to try this recipe, you could use all corn meal – white, yellow or blue, and it would work. If you want mesquite, get food grade meal from a reputable source.

I made the half recipe because I had what looked like half a recipe of left over batter to begin with. You could halve the original recipe or double the corn meal and mesquite version.



1 Cup flour

1 1/2 cups milk

2 eggs

1 tsp vegetable oil

¼ tsp salt


Combine flour, milk, eggs and oil. Add salt.

Heat a lightly greased 6-inch skillet; remove from heat. Spoon in 2 Tbsp. batter; lift and tilt skillet to spread the batter evenly. Return to heat and brown on one side only. Carefully using a spatula, release the edges of the crepe from the pan. Peek under the edge to check doneness. Your batter and subsequent crepe are very thin, so you don’t need to brown both sides. To remove, invert pan over paper toweling.

Repeat with remaining batter. Fill with your favorite filling.

Note: You may add a Tbsp sugar to the batter if you are making sweet filled crepes.



¼ Cup plus one Tbsp corn meal

2 Tbsp mesquite flour or meal

¾ Cup milk

1 egg

½ tsp vegetable oil

dash of salt


Combine corn meal, mesquite flour, milk, egg and oil. Add salt.

Heat a lightly greased 8 inch skilled; remove from heat. Spoon in ¼ Cup batter. Lift and tilt skillet to spread evenly. Return to heat and brown lightly. This crepe will be a little bit thicker than the simple crepe above. Loosen the edge of the crepe all around and peek under the edge to check for doneness. The surface should be honey colored. Carefully take the edge of the crepe between the thumb and forefinger of each hand and turn it over. After a minute or so, that wide will be done. It will have spots of color and not be an even brown like the first side. Slide the finished crepe out of the pan onto a waiting plate.

Repeat with remaining batter. Fill with a savory filling.



Chopped onion

Minced garlic


Chicken broth

Chicken thighs, skinned and boned, but use the bones in your broth

Seeded and chopped long green chiles

Butter and flour for a roux


Re-read the description above and cook the filling and sauce, or as Chef Paul instructed me, go figure it out and make it!


I like pickled red onion as a garnish on dishes with green chile. I slice onion strings using a hand held mandoline (a chef’s knife works, too). I put a generous half cute of the onion strings in a glass measuring cup and cover them with white vinegar. I microwave them for a minute to a minute and a half and let them cool until needed. They become a very tasty garnish.

*A few years ago the Mexican Camino Real hotel chair acquired the Paso del Norte and operated it. Sadly, it has declined considerably. The property has been acquired by and El Paso group who, this month, announced their intent to restore the hotel to its former glory and make it a showplace convention hotel. The city has given them 10 years of tax rebates to encourage the project. Let’s hope it becomes a star in downtown again.