Friday, May 4, 2012

The Texas Handroll: A Party in Your Mouth

It's finally Friday (!!) so I'm going to stick with Vanessa's classy party theme here, ya'll.

New York City's Hill Country Chicken in the Flatiron area is an atomic little heaven of rich Southern fare: fried chicken, biscuits, and homemade pies with names like Whiskey Buttermilk and even an apple pie with a cheddar crust (note to self: need to try this). I've ended up here in the past because I love food but also because of it's proximity to an awesome antiques garage and flea market right down the street. This is dangerous stuff. Rummaging for finds (like this) and then settling down for a hot cafeteria-style lunch at HCC is a pretty decadent and perfect day for a girl like me.

One of my favorite things to get is also probably the weirdest on the menu: The Texas Handroll. Just don't sound right, does it? The Texas Handroll is like if Waylon Jennings had went to Japan and returned with a tasty illegitimate love child. It's wrong but so right. It's fried chicken strips (or deep fried avocado if you go with the vegetarian version) with a mound of coleslaw, sweet red pepper jelly, and sliced almonds all wrapped in a flour tortilla like a sushi handroll. Cute right? This thing is a delicious party in your mouth - a slightly disorienting party where you forget who you are and where you were going. Cool, hot, crispy, creamy, crunchy - there are a lot of textures and sensations going on here and it pretty much rules.

This week, craving one and getting bored with usual dinner options, I decided to experiment with making a healthier version at home using some of my favorite foods and and go-to tricks. Here is how it went down.

Kitchen-grams: red pepper jelly, my mug looking
a little post-lobotomy, Van Lear Rose, and some sweet slaw.

Confession: My boyfriend Casey and I are hoarders of spicy condiments. Jalapeno mustard? Got it. Dijonaise? Yep. Creamy horseradish? Hell, yes. So when I made red pepper jelly for the handrolls and have been snacking with the stuff ever since, I wonder how I've lived without it in the kitchen for so long. No more, I tell you! I used this recipe but added more red pepper flakes than called for to make it extra spicy. The recipe was painless and I even ended up with enough for a few jars to give some away. The hardest part of the process is probably finding pectin in your grocery store since different grocery stores keep it in different places - check the baking supplies/Jello section first and then the jelly/jam aisle if that fails. Other than that, super simple recipe.

Fake chicken and fiber cereal breading. Shh, don't tell anyone.

Confession #2: It's not winning me any cool points, but I'm the owner of Hungry Girl cookbooks. While not as into them as I once was, I still find them helpful for figuring out how to make healthier versions of favorites while making sure they stay tasty. For the handrolls, I made a batch of HG's coleslaw, which is perfectly tangy and undetectable, in my opinion, from any fatty version of the stuff.  I also HG style "faux fried" slices of ripe avocado and MorningStar Chik'n Strips (love these things) which makes anything come out amazingly crispy and when drizzled with red pepper jelly and wrapped in a big whole wheat tortilla with coleslaw and a sprinkling of sliced almonds, it all just works. Casey and my brother (who was joining us for dinner and brought home a jar o' red pepper jelly) had two each and didn't even notice that it wasn't real chicken in the wraps till after I told them. It was that good. Next time, I will probably go all out and make these as authentic and greasy as possible but that's the fun of cooking - doing anything you damn please. Either way, I would very much recommend entering Texas Handroll territory in your kitchen if you're in the mood for a fun dinner that's out of the ordinary!

Dinner is served.

Tino begging and Casey grubbing. An everyday scene.

The aftermath. Oh yea, there was wine.

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  1. I love you, and I want this party in my mouth.

  2. I want a party in my mouth, but I would also settle for meeting you. ha.