Home Cookin’ | Texas Edition

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).
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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.

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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.

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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.
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(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.

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how many dreams were launched from this very window?

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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!

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  • jessica
    October 11, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Love your photos! What camera/lens did you use for the ones of your mom cooking?

  • veronika
    October 11, 2012 at 9:02 am


    I used a canon 5d mk2 with a canon f.1.8 50mm (the nifty fifty) prime lens (this is my usual set up, I rarely use any other combo unless I’m shooting landscapes/wildlife).

    I shot in RAW and minimally edited the photos in Lightroom using some custom presets I created.

  • mom
    October 11, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Wow, I’m flattered ! Typing correction: Cooking wine after “Cognac or”- Water after “Egg yolks mixed w.” – Braunschweiger after Farmer John. Since I use the cup to seal the edge method, no egg white needed.

  • veronika
    October 11, 2012 at 10:10 am

    the recipe copied all weird — fixed now.

    sly wants to know if you can move in with us and become our personal chef. i think we would gain a zillion pounds.

  • jessica
    October 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Ahh, hmm perhaps I should play with my 50mm more! Do you use any filters?

  • veronika
    October 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

    If you don’t have a full-frame camera, you may want to try a 35mm focal length, or a 50mm made for the crop frame sensor. When I use my crop frame, that’s my “walkaround lens.” The 50mm is almost too zoomed on that body.

    I think I have just a plain ol’ UV filter on my 50mm. Actually, no I just checked, i don’t have a filter on the 50 (should prob get one huh?) I guess I don’t really use anything beyond UV filters though I have a polarizing filter which I think is just ok in terms of results. I want to start playing around with ND filters though for landscapes.

  • Kevin
    October 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Yum and yum and yum again!

    Keeping good thoughts…

  • veronika
    October 11, 2012 at 11:40 am

    and yum!

    posting these photos made me crave asian food — have to settle for cheap chinese, a poor substitute.

  • jj
    October 12, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Just realizedthat the pate chaud filling would be good in ravioli…and that Mom might look cute as a dark blonde..or like Coco’s hair 😛

    What is the dip thing for scooping? Loved this btw.

  • veronika
    October 12, 2012 at 8:32 am

    I almost didnt recognize Mom when we first saw her after seeing her with dark hair our entire lives. But yeah she could be a sassy blonde!!!

    The dip thing is a limey shrimp and jackfruit salad that mom made. We ate it with some puffy poppy crackers. I think mom was testing the recipe on us for when MM comes to visit

  • veronika
    October 12, 2012 at 8:32 am

    we should do a jj in the kitchen shoot one of these days

  • ADB
    October 13, 2012 at 2:56 am

    My mom’s cooking does not inspire much nostalgia. She does many things quite well, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized exactly where all my picky eating habits came from. I was berated as a child for not eating lobster (in favor of hot dogs), but my mother refuses to even try many things that I have come to love, including sushi, mussels, really any kind of Asian or African cuisine. My old man even turns up his nose at yogurt! Yogurt!

    The thing I took from her cooking was the basics… we were pretty poor, growing up, so a lot of food was ad-hoc, based on what was in the fridge. I have, however, managed to expand on and improve many of those old recipes. My scalloped potatoes and meatloaf are quite amazing.

    That said, YOUR mom’s cooking looks quite amazing.

  • funnelcloud rachel
    October 15, 2012 at 5:57 am

    This is AMAZING – the food, the photos, your mom (who is adorable!) – all of it! Yum!

  • mom
    October 15, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Baby clams green jack fruit & shrimps served w. black sesame rice crackers.

  • veronika
    October 15, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Some of our favorite food memories came from my dad’s days of living single and in the army. Even though my mom is an amazing cook, my dad did most of the cooking growing up — a mix of German, 1950s classics, and weird army crap. Some of my fave meals are scalloped potatoes (hand-sliced potatoes cooked in the microwave with butter, salt and pepper), S.O.S. (hamburger with cream of mushroom soup served on burnt toast), and liverwurst and cheese sandwiches.

  • veronika
    October 15, 2012 at 8:17 am

    thank you! I wish everyone could try my mom’s food. Of course I’m biased, but I think it’s the best Vietnamese I have ever eaten.