Is there anything better than Mom’s home cooking? I don’t think so. Whenever we are home in Texas, my mom plans the most elaborate ten-course meals where everything is made from scratch. We have breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, dessert and second dinner (because the thought of the leftovers sitting in the fridge is usually too tempting to resist).
Our trips usually involve at least one trip to the Asian market, where my mom will take her time picking the best of everything: the freshest, largest shrimp, the plumpest, juiciest fruits. I usually grow impatient and run off to the “goodies” aisle to select some Vietnamese snacks (as if I needed to add to the already bulging cart of food).
On our visit to the Asian market this trip, Sly asked my mom about the Vietnamese savory buns (banh bao) he saw at the checkout counter. The next day, my mom made them for him. From scratch. They were hands down the best banh baos ever, although I still have a special fondness for the version my mom used to make when we were kids with butter-flavored Pilsbury dough.
Sly and I aren’t originally from Texas, but we both grew up and have a lot of food memories there: Rudy’s, Taco Cabana, Whataburger, Luby’s, Shipleys… However, when you have a mom that cooks such amazing food, it feels like cheating to go out and eat somewhere else.
We did manage to convince my mom to ‘take a night off’ on her birthday and try out a bbq place we had never tried (a place my mom found out about by watching the Food Network). Of course we ordered an insane amount of food — more than enough for a group three times as large as ours. And of course we had to have peach cobbler for dessert.
Going home is always a bit bittersweet. There is a sense of disorientation being an adult occupying a space that I remember as a child. Over time, things and people change, are moved, are lost, are replaced, but I can always count on my mom’s cooking.
(pate chaud recipe below)
I remember back in high school when my friends thought it was weird that our family still sat at the table together like some 1950s family and shared all our meals. Maybe we were just lucky to grow up in a family that loved to eat and cook (although Dad’s shriveled brisket was really pushing it). I think it’s more than that. Food has always been a way for us to communicate with each other, a way to create memories, and a way to express our love.
how many dreams were launched from this very window?
Ok, now my mouth is watering.
Mom’s Pate Chaud
(Makes 6 big, round or 12 small round or rectangle cakes)
2 Puff pastry packages
1/4 lb pork or chicken
1 small onion, diced
1 T oyster sauce
2 T pork paté- Farmer John-Braunschweiger
2 t sugar
1 t white pepper
1 T cognac or cooking wine
1T fish sauce
1/4 t salt
¼ C black mushrooms, sliced (soak in warm water if dried)
½ C peas (optional)
2 egg yolks lightly mixed w/1 T water
1 egg white, whisk w. a fork (for sealing the pouches – not needed if crimping shut)
Thaw the pastry in the fridge ‘til firm, not soft. Or thaw at room temp. for 30 mins. It
won’t rise if it’s handled too much or too long, too soft.
Combine the filling ingredients. Line parchment paper on baking sheet
Open the pastry sheet carefully so it won’t break. Flour both sides of the pastry and the
board. Using a cutter to cut the pastry into 3 or 4” circles.
Place the filling in the center of each circle. Place another pastry circle on top of the
filling. Use a cup w. a smaller diameter than the pastry circle to press down the dough.
Preheat oven to 400 F
Brush the top of the pastry with the egg yolk.
Finally, poke a tiny slit at the top to allow steam to release and the puff pastry to rise.
Bake, 350 F for 30 mins. or until golden brown. Use the lower third oven rack!