Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cholula and Threadgill's

Cholula and Threadgill's. Sounds like it could be a band or a mixed drink, but it's neither. What it is is a near-perfect marriage of hot sauce and comfort food. Settle in while I explain in one of my rambling stories.

You can find Cholula in stores throughout the country these days. It's worth buying Cholula for the bottle alone. There's a distinctive wooden ball on top of the bottle. And the label is a work of art - a softly smiling Mexican woman standing in a kitchen over a counter full of peppers, garlic and tomatoes. She's shooting you a look that says, "I'm gonna whip up some hot sauce, Bubba."

In a recent exchange with my pal the Barbecue Bachelor, I was inventorying the hot sauces we had in the house. The bottle of Cholula was sitting in the back of the pantry, not having been used for awhile. Which is too bad, because it's a really terrific complement to lots of foods.

Cholula's not so much hot as it is flavorful. The sauce is imported from Mexico and on the front of the bottle it reads, "El sabor autentico de la salsa Mexicana." According to an online translation tool, that means, "The flavor I authenticate of the Mexican sauce." Okay. I guess that means it's the real deal. It has a thicker consistency than Tabasco, and is savory and a little smoky, without overpowering you with the burn.

I first encountered it when we lived in Austin in the late '90s. It was great atop burritos or rice, but my favorite uses were on fried eggs and especially on Garlic Cheese Grits, something everyone should eat at least once, but the stuff will cause you to expand and explode if you eat too much.

And that's where Threadgill's comes in. Threadgill's is at once the seminal location of the Austin music scene and the Southern comfort-food center of the universe. The full history of the place is a must read, but a little long for this blog. In a nutshell, it was a gas station-turned-music venue-turned-restaurant. Threadgill's launched or furthered the careers of Janis Joplin and many other Austin-area musicians, and its two current locations remain popular stages today.

But it's also a real belt-loosener as a restaurant. It's one of the best places to get chicken-fried steak and other so-good-but-oh-so-bad-for-you comfort foods, like the aforementioned Garlic Cheese Grits. I had gotten a taste of the grits before arriving in Austin thanks to my wife, the Remarkable Marcy, who had given me "Threadgill's: The Cookbook" as a gift before we moved down from Chicago. From that book, here's the grits recipe:

Garlic Cheese Grits

6 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups hominy grits
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon yellow onion, minced
8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Bring water to a boil. Add grits and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add all other ingredients, and put into oiled casserole pan. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes, stirring midway. Makes 10 big servings.

And then, of course, douse heavily with Cholula.

The book is loaded with other great comfort-food recipes, among them Chicken-Fried Steak, Meatloaf, Smothered Pork Chops, Banana Pudding and Double Chocolate Ice Box Pie. And while you're waiting for the food to cook, you can read about how Kenneth Threadgill and the enterprising Eddie Wilson turned the place into an Austin institution. It's definitely worth adding to your cookbook collection.

For a taste of the music fare that Threadgill's offers, here's a video of Ruthie Foster singing "People Grinnin' in Your Face" in May 2007.


1 comment:

Johnny Pierre said...

Great post Sully-Man! What would the world be without grits?