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Food Trucking Through Texas

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A journey to find the quirkiest gourmet trailer treats in the Lone Star State.

By Tiffany Harelik, Easy slider photo by Tiffany Harelik; Craft Infusion photo by Kelly Wendt Photography.

I began writing the Trailer Food Diaries cookbook series here in my hometown of Austin in 2009. Since then, my journey to find the quirkiest gourmet food coming out of Airstreams and food trucks has taken me to 10 states, where I have eaten hundreds of food-truck meals. Five cookbooks later, I found myself road tripping through the Metroplex (Dallas/Fort Worth) and the Bayou city (Houston). I found each city worthy of individual editions.

DALLAS / FORT WORTH

Dallas/Fort Worth may seem like an unlikely place to accept the quirkiness of the food-truck business, but the Metroplex community has embraced what many perceive as the next step in creative entrepreneurialism in the food industry. To this end, I featured everything from herb- and pepper-infused olive oil and fried yellow tomatoes, to strawberry-basil balsamic lemonade, Cajun crawfish pasta and poor man’s paella in the Dallas/Fort Worth edition. While there, I found one of my favorite sliders I’ve eaten on this food-truck journey, at the Easy Slider truck.

“Originally from Summit, Miss., Miley [Holmes of the Easy Slider truck] went to LSU and worked in retail for Fossil and Abercrombie. She transferred to Dallas for work with Fossil and ended up at the House of Blues, where we met. She was the operations manager for the music hall and I was the logistics manager for special events,” Caroline Perini says. “We were at the House of Blues, working together for five years. At some point, we had a conversation about food trucks that gradually became more prominent. After many late night meetings at local watering holes, we decided we were going to have to stop talking about it or actually pull the cord and do it. We both put in our two weeks’ notice on the same day and launched Easy Slider in December of 2012. We took a little bit of everything we’ve done our whole lives and put it in one job at Easy Slider.”

Perini’s dad, Tom, has received national attention for his mesquite-smoked beef tenderloin from the Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, Texas.

“My first job as a kid was slinging iced tea at catering parties. I ran my dad’s steakhouse for seven years as an adult and then worked in fine dining in Dallas. When my parents ask, ‘How’s the business?’ I have to laugh because they treat it like it’s a lemonade stand or a hobby,” Perini says.

Sweet and Lowdown Slider

Courtesy of Caroline Perini and Miley Holmes of the Easy Slider truck. Strawberry jam, bacon and goat cheese make the Sweet and Lowdown a slider to be remembered.

Ingredients:

  • Brioche slider bun (slightly sweet)
  • 3-ounce patty of angus beef
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon goat cheese, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon homemade strawberry jam, or something with no high-fructose corn syrup
  • 1 slice thick-cut fried bacon
  • 1 strawberry on a skewer, for garnish

Directions: Season beef patty on griddle top with sea salt and cook each burger medium to medium-well, approximately seven minutes. Toast the bread plain (no butter) on a hot griddle. Place the cooked patty on the bottom bun. Smear goat cheese, jam and bacon on top bun, flipping that top bun onto the beef patty. Skewer it with a strawberry garnish and serve.

HOUSTON

Houston food trucks represent every culture and every walk of life in the mobile-dining industry. The Houston edition of the Trailer Food Diaries cookbook series features chocolate almond butter, chimichurri sauce, seafood Bloody Marys, salmon quettes, spicy escargot poppers, red velvet fritters, Froot Loop cereal milk creme brulee and more creative foods. While there, I had the opportunity to visit food-truck chef Justin Turner, former personal chef for NBA player Shane Battier and current owner at Bernie’s Burger Bus. Originally from Chicago, Turner was excited about the opportunity to move back into a bigger city.

“I like risk and opportunity, and I like to say that I’ve done it. In May of 2010, there were all of these things on the Food Network about the Great Food Truck Race, and there was nothing in Houston like that,” Turner explains. “There were two food trucks gourmet at the time and I knew it was going to be big, food trucks. I wanted to get in on it as soon as possible. I’ll never find a player to work for that’s as good as they were to me. I knew that with his age, he was probably getting closer to retirement, so I knew eventually I was going to have to start over. I was 31 at the time and felt like I could work 90 hours a week and not sleep and just do it.”

One of my favorite things I tried while in Houston came from the Craft Infusion truck, where Chef Troy Witherspoon was using craft beer in all of his recipes.

Beer Braised Lengua Tacos & Beer Tortillas

Courtesy of Troy Witherspoon of the Craft Infusion food truck. These “talking tacos” give you a unique recipe to use lengua in home cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cow tongues
  • 6 cascabel chiles, dried and whole
  • 6 ancho chiles, dried and whole
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 growler of your favorite craft beer
  • Beer tortillas
  • Onions, diced to top tacos
  • Cilantro, chopped to top tacos

Directions: Pour vegetable oil into bottom of pressure cooker. Cut stem off of whole peppers and layer in bottom of pressure cooker. Cut each tongue into eight equal pieces and layer on top of peppers. Add salt and black pepper. Pour beer into cooker until all ingredients are covered by at least half an inch of beer. Seal cooker and heat to pressure. Reduce to low pressure and cook for two hours. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once pressure has released, open pot and remove tongues, reserving liquid and peppers. Peel all skin off tongues and discard. Slice tongues thinly and then crosscut so they are approximately 1/8-inch cubes. Place in a large container. Place all peppers into blender or food processor and puree with 1/2 cup to 1 cup of braising liquid. Combine puree with chopped tongues. Top lengua with diced onions and chopped cilantro in a warm beer tortilla.

Beer tortillas Ingredients:

  • 4 cups masa harina
  • 3 cups beer
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions: Combine dry ingredients. Add beer and mix until a ball is formed. Moisture is correct when a ball can be rolled and holds together. Roll out approximately 24 balls. Use a tortilla press or just roll out with a rolling pin two or three at a time. Cook on a medium-hot to hot greased griddle or in a sauté pan.

WHAT’S NEW IN AUSTIN: CO-OP FOOD COURT

The Austin food-trailer landscape has undergone major changes since the trucks’ initial appearance in 2009. We have seen food-truck businesses come and go, and we have watched iconic food-truck parks be cast aside in the name of development. This early trend to use vacant land as a food-truck park to kill time until the lot can be developed is quickly transforming. More lot owners are re-purposing their public spaces to be committed food-truck courts. Such is the case with Austin’s newest food truck lot: the Co-op Food Court. The lot directly behind the University Co-op on Guadalupe Street, commonly referred to as the Drag, will host a blend of new and old food trailers, movie nights and eccentric displays in the name of keeping Austin eating weird. Central in the lot is a statue of Bevo, the Longhorn mascot, where several students and Longhorn fans have enjoyed snapping photos over the years.

 

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