As legend would have it (and it indeed might be legend), a woman loved Neiman Marcus' famous chocolate chip cookies so much, she offered to pay for the recipe. Her waitress told her the cost would be "two fifty," and the woman agreed. Then she saw her credit card statement: $250. Yikes!
That story might just be a tall, half-baked tale. But it gets at the heart of dining in Dallas: Some dishes are so exceptional, so iconic they've become part of the intricate story of Dallas. Maybe they remind you of our history. Perhaps they've helped you define "delicious."
Here's a list of some of those coveted recipes. Now it's time to hit the grocery store.
Cheeseburger from Keller’s
Jack Keller, owner of Dallas’ Keller’s burger restaurants, says “it’s hard to mess up a hamburger.” He may be right, but a lot of us aren’t making burgers as good as the famous Keller’s. His secret is his grills, one of which has been seasoned for 40 years. It imparts flavor into his burgers you might not be able to get at home. His at-home trick is to use a seasoned cast-iron skillet – the older the better.
Keller’s family has been making burgers in Dallas for 65 years. Take the recipe below as a suggested list of steps that might yield a Keller’s-like burger. If it doesn’t stack up, head to the old-school burger joints on Northwest Highway or Garland Road, and Keller’s friendly staff would be happy to show you how it’s done.
Makes one burger
1 thin beef patty measuring 2.66 ounces, made with 80 percent lean, 20 percent fat
1 poppy seed bun
One slice of cheese (optional)
Texas 1015 onions, sliced
Dill pickle, sliced for sandwiches
Slather of Red Boy mustard
Hand-shape one thin beef patty made with 80/20 beef. The patty should be half of a third of a pound, or 2.66 ounces. (Optional: Many people prefer a burger with two thin beef patties, for a double-patty hamburger. Do not combine the patties into one large patty.)
Warm a cast-iron skillet on low heat. Don’t put the patty on the skillet until the skillet is warm.
Cook the burger meat, low to medium heat, on one side until the edges of the meat turn brown. Keller doesn’t give a number of minutes per side; he judges when it’s time to flip the meat based on its color. “You only turn a good piece of meat once,” Keller reminds.
Place the poppy seed bun in a separate skillet on low heat. Mist it with water to lock in moisture.
Flip the burger when ready, then put a slice of cheese on the patty, if desired. Let it melt briefly, then put a slice of tomato on top of the cheese + burger stack. Sprinkle the tomato with salt and pepper and top it with a dill pickle.
Flip the poppy seed bun.
When burger is well done, pull it off the grill. Remove buns. Slather bottom piece of the poppy seed bun with Red Boy mustard. Plate the stack of beef + vegetables on top, and top it with the other bun.
To serve the burger like Keller’s does, wrap half of it in wax paper, then enjoy.
A word on the well-done-ness of the burger: Keller believes all beef products taste best well-done. He says it’s possible to produce a juicy, well-done burger if cooked properly on a seasoned grill or skillet.
Source: Jack Keller
The Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie
Makes about two dozen cookies
½ cup (one stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in the work bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla for 30 seconds longer, until well combined.
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the mixer, while beating on slow speed., Beat for about 15 seconds, stir in the chocolate chips and espresso powder, and mix for 15 seconds longer.
Prepare a cookie sheet with about 2 tablespoons of shortening (or use a non-stick spray). Using a 1-ounce scoop, or using a 2 tablespoon measure, drop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet in dollops about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into 2-inch circles; there should be room on the sheet of six or eight cookies at a time. Transfer to the oven in batches and bake for about 20 minutes or until the cookies are nicely browned around the edges. Bake for a little longer for crispier cookies.
Source: The Neiman Marcus Group
The Grape's Famous Mushroom Soup
When chef Brian Luscher purchased the Grape on Greenville Avenue in 2007, mushroom soup had been on the menu for more than three decades. He'd be crazy to take it off. And he won't, he assures: His regulars would be too heart-broken. Many tell stories of having first dates at the Grape, or getting proposed to, or celebrating anniversaries. The mushroom soup is part of the order almost every time. "Everybody's all about new and exciting," Luscher says. "Old and familiar is pretty delicious too."
Makes 16 servings
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 large diced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 dry bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
2.5 pounds button mushrooms, washed and chopped (use a food processor)
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 quarts beef broth or stock, or the equivalent made with beef bouillon cubes
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
In a heavy bottomed, 6-8 quart stock or soup pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaf and thyme, and cook until translucent.
Add the chopped mushrooms and cook until most of the water comes out. Add the sherry, if you like, and reduce by half. Add the flour and stir well to avoid lumps. (If you do get some, it's OK: They can be pureed out later). Slowly whisk in the broth or stock and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. You must continue to stir the soup at this point or the bottom may scorch.
When the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally. Finish by adding the heavy cream and nutmeg, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the thyme and bay leaf. Puree the soup in a blender or with a hand-held blender.
This recipe may easily be cut in half. It freezes well if you make a larger batch.
Source: The Grape
Dean's Tortilla Soup with South of the Border Flavors
Chef Dean Fearing, one of the fathers of Modern Texas cuisine, brings heavy Southwestern flair to his dishes. He's now the chef-owner of Fearing's in the Ritz-Carlton, though his style of cooking at the Mansion on Turtle Creek is one of many ways he's remembered in Dallas. Scads of home cooks have tried to recreate his famous soup -- available then at the Mansion, now as a slightly different recipe at Fearing's. The guessing game is over: Just follow this recipe.
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 corn tortillas, cut into long strips
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups fresh onion puree
4 cups fresh tomato puree
5 dried ancho chilies, fire roasted and seeded (see note below)
2 jalapeños, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon epazote, chopped (or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro instead)
1 large bay leaf
1 ½ quarts chicken stock
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Ingredients for garnish:
1 smoked chicken breast, skinless, boneless and diced small
1 large avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
½ cups shredded boyacá (Latin cheddar) cheese
4 tablespoon diced green cabbage
3 tablespoon diced red radish
1 tablespoon seeded and minced jalapeño
4 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips and fried crisp
To make onion puree: Chop onions, then add them in small batches to a blender. Blend until very smooth. Set 2 cups aside.
To roast chiles: Using a pair of kitchen tongs, hold each chili directly over open flame. Lightly roast each chili on all sides for about 30 to 45 seconds. (Be careful not to blacken or burn chiles.) When chiles are cool, remove seeds and stem. This same process can be done in a preheated 400 degree oven. Cook chilies for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add tortillas and garlic and sauté until tortillas are crisp and garlic is golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add onion puree and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until reduced by half. Add tomato puree, roasted chilies, jalapeños, cumin, coriander, epazote, bay leaf and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for approximately 40 minutes. Skim fat from surface, if necessary. Remove bay leaf. Process through a food mill to attain the perfect consistency or use a blender. (Soup may become thick; thin out with additional chicken stock.) Season to taste with salt, lemon and cayenne.
Garnish each warm soup bowl with smoked chicken breast, avocado, shredded boyacá (Latin cheddar) cheese, green cabbage, red radish, jalapeño and corn tortillas. Ladle 8 ounces of tortilla soup over the garnish. Serve immediately.
Source: Chef Dean Fearing
Bob Armstrong Dip
"Hey, what's he eating?" customers would ask when they saw the Bob Armstrong Dip at Matt's El Rancho -- an off-the-menu item. It was a bowl of queso with taco meat, guacamole and sour cream, and Matt's regulars had never seen queso look like that before. The appetizer was named after the late Texas Land Commissioner Bob Armstrong, who once requested "anything besides queso" and fell in love with owner Matt Martinez's spur-of-the-moment concoction. The Martinez family finally added the Bob Armstrong Dip to the menu in the mid'90s, though they probably didn't have to: It had become enough of a sensation that most customers knew to ask for it anyhow.
Serves 4-6 people, or 1 person who really loves Bob
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lime or lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 1/2 cups canned green chiles
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
Tex-Mex spice (recipe below)
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound cubed American cheese
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pound lean ground beef
Dollop of sour cream
To make Tex-Mex spice:
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
Mix avocado, lime or lemon juice and salt in a bowl. Set aside; that's your guacamole.
In a saucepan, combine green chiles, tomatoes, 1/2 cup onion, 1/2 cup celery, 2 teaspoons Tex-Mex spice and chicken broth. Bring to a light simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn heat down and add the cheese. Simmer until cheese is melted. Add water if it's too thick; add cheese if too thin. Set aside; that's your queso.
In a cold skillet, stir the bell pepper, 1/4 cup celery, 1/2 cup onion and 1 tablespoon plus two teaspoons Tex-Mex spice. Spread uncooked meat on top. Turn up to medium heat. When the meat starts to simmer, stir and break up meat. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Set aside; that's your taco meat.
Warm a 9x13-inch pan. Spread guacamole in the pan, then add a layer of taco meat. Top with chile con queso and sour cream. Serve with chips.
Source: Matt Martinez III, owner of Matt's Rancho Martinez in Dallas
Norma's Cafe's Mile-High Cream Pie
The mile-high pie at Norma's Cafe isn't a mile high, of course. But you get the idea: It's tall. It's decadent. It's also one of Dallas' most famous pies. The folks at Norma's Cafe have been making the mile-high pie since the shop opened in 1956.
Makes 1 pie with 6-8 slices
One pre-baked pie shell (homemade or store-bought)
Pie filling (recipe below)
Meringue (recipe below)
1 quart milk
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup corn starch
¾ cup water
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon gelatin, optional
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup cocoa
½ cup chocolate sprinkles
6 egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar
7 tablespoons sugar
In double boiler, add milk and sugar and let heat to a simmer.
In separate bowl, dissolve corn starch with water (equal parts). Add vanilla and egg yolks and whisk together until the mixture is smooth and creamy, no lumps.
Add mixture slowly to simmering milk and sugar and cook mixture, whisking to prevent lumps for 5 to 15 minutes, or until mixture has thickened up, taking on the consistency of a vanilla pudding. Note: If your filling still will not thicken, you can add a little bit of gelatin to your mixture by following the directions on the gelatin packaging to bloom the gelatin, if required, then add to your mixture and whisk to combine. The gelatin will not change the consistency until the mixture has cooled. Be careful not to add too much gelatin, however: No more than a tablespoon or so.
Add the melted butter and cocoa. Whisk until smooth and creamy, no lumps. Pour in to pre-baked pie shell. Let pie cool for two hours. If you cool it in the fridge, let it come to room temperature again before putting it in the oven to bake the meringue, as you don't want to crack or break the pie pan from a drastic temperature change. Best bet is to cool it on the counter instead of in the fridge.
Once pie is cool, make meringue. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large glass or metal mixing bowl with a hand mixer, add egg whites and cream of tartar. Make sure bowl is completely clean and free of any lint, dust or soap residue. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.
Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. When you think you are at stiff peaks, take your whisk and scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl and check the very bottom of your egg whites. More often than not, they will need another 30 seconds to one minute of whipping, as the very bottom of the bowl tends to trap whites that don't get whipped up as much as the rest.
Spread meringue over pie filling, taking care to seal the edges. Sprinkle the top evenly with chocolate sprinkles.
Put in preheated 350 degree oven until lightly brown (about 15 minutes).
Source: Norma's Cafe
The Mariano margarita
Surely you've heard of Mariano Martinez: He invented the frozen margarita machine. The Dallas restaurateur helped make frozen margaritas popular in North Texas and beyond. His original frozen margarita machine has since retired; he donated it to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, where it can continue to be remembered as an important tool in the life of tequila cocktails.
These days, Martinez prefers his margaritas on the rocks anyhow. His tastes have evolved, you might say. So in honor of Martinez's important invention, plus his new-found love for shaken, not blended margaritas, here's his signature cocktail.
Makes 1 margarita
2.5 ounces Don Julio Reposado tequila
3/4 ounces Cointreau
2 drops Agasweet agave nectar
2 limes, squeezed to become 1 ounce fresh lime juice
Full pint glass of cubed ice
Kosher coarse salt, as needed
14 oz. sorgente glass
On a cutting board, roll 2 whole limes back and forth using the palm of your hand. Cut the limes in half and hand squeeze 1 oz. of lime juice into a measuring cup.
Fill a 14-ounce Sorgente glass with ice. Salt the rim.
Add 2.5 ounces of Don Julio Reposado tequila into a shaker. Add 1 ounce of fresh lime juice. Add 2 drops of Agasweet agave nectar. Add 3/4 ounce Cointreau.
Shake mixture exactly 13 times in shaker tin. Pour mixture into the glass. 10. Serve with a 6" straw.
As for that fancy decorative lime in the picture, well, that's a secret. You'll have to go to La Hacienda Ranch or Mariano's Hacienda to get one.
Source: La Hacienda Ranch and Mariano's Hacienda