Photography: Claire McCormack
Photography: Claire McCormack

We asked Stephan Pyles to create a holiday meal for C&I readers, one that illustrates Stampede 66's blend of history and innovation. He obliged with the fabulous menu and recipes that follow.

Instead of turkey this holiday sason, try Stephan Pyles' reccipe for Molasses Grilled Quail with Cranberry Barbecue Sauce, a Texified addition inspired by his mother, and Mable's Buttermilk Biscuits, named for Mable Stanley, the matriarch of a family that was close to Pyles' family when he was growing up.

Stephan Pyles' Holiday Menu

Serves 8

Corn and Coconut Soup with Shrimp Albondigas

Molasses Grilled Quail with Cranberry Barbecue Sauce

Mable’s Buttermilk Biscuits

Chipotle Yams with Coriander Marshmallow, Pecans, and Candied Bacon

Baked Maple Grits with Wild Mushrooms and Country Ham

Pumpkin Crème Brulee Tostada with Cajeta

Photography: Claire McCormack
Photography: Claire McCormack

Corn and Coconut Soup with Shrimp Albondigas

This recipe may sound too exotic for the grandparents, but Pyles says to just think of it as a creamy corn chowder with coconut milk instead of butter and cream.

Shrimp Albondigas

½ pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons cooked corn kernels
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tablespoon minced tomato
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon coriander seed, ground
1 tablespoon chipotle puree (or chipotles en adobo)

Corn and Coconut Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
½ medium onion, diced
4 serrano chiles, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons diced ginger
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup dry sherry
4 cups chicken stock
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
8 ears corn, husked, kernels removed and reserved
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup cilantro leaves
½ cup basil leaves
Lime juice to taste
Salt to taste

To prepare the albondigas: Place shrimp in a food processor and mince using pulse function. Place the minced shrimp in a bowl and add all remaining ingredients; combine thoroughly. Refrigerate while making soup.

To prepare the corn and coconut soup: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Saute the carrot, celery, and onion for 3 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the Serrano chiles, ginger, and cumin; continue to sauté for 1 minute more.

Deglaze the pan with the sherry and reduce liquid to a glaze. Add the chicken stock and reduce by half; add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain mixture into large clean saucepan or stockpot then add the corn kernels and cream. Bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer. Tie the cilantro and basil together and add to the soup; let simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.

Remove the herbs and place soup in a blender; puree until smooth. Strain the soup and return to heat, bringing it back to hard simmer.

Remove the shrimp mixture from the refrigerator and divide it into 12 rounded spoonfuls. Poach albondigas in the soup for 5 minutes, adding additional chicken stock if soup becomes too thick.

Ladle the soup into warm bowls and garnish each with 1 or 2 albondigas.

Photography: Claire McCormack
Photography: Claire McCormack

Molasses Grilled Quail with Cranberry Barbecue Sauce

Instead of turkey, Pyles gave us a recipe for Molasses Grilled Quail with Cranberry Barbecue Sauce. I asked him if he ate a lot of quail growing up. “No, but we ate a lot of dove. People were always bringing us dove because everybody hunted in West Texas. You can buy quail in a good supermarket, but you can’t buy dove, so I can’t serve it in the restaurant. But if your readers have some dove or other game birds in the freezer, they should feel free to substitute it for the quail in this recipe.” The Cranberry Barbecue Sauce is a Texified addition inspired by his mother. “My mom always served canned cranberries for holiday meals,” Pyles says. “I remember you could see the ridges of the can in the slices. Later on, she got fancy and started making a cranberry Jell-O mold.”

Molasses Grilled Quail

½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup dark beer
2 tablespoons dark molasses
Zest of 1 lemon, minced
Zest of 1 orange, minced verbena or lemon thyme
¼ cup fresh ginger, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
8 boneless quail, 4 – 5 ounces each

Cranberry Barbecue Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ habanero chile, stemmed, seeded,
and chopped
2 cups cranberries
Juice of 2 oranges
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon pasilla chile purée
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt to taste

To prepare the marinade:Place all marinade ingredients except the quail in a mixing bowl and combine thoroughly. Add quail and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, and up to 3 hours, turning occasionally.

To make the barbecue sauce: Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until lightly smoking. Add onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add garlic and habanero chile, and continue to cook for about 2 – 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Add cranberries and cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Add orange juice and lime juice and reduce liquid to a glaze.

Whisk in vinegar, sugar, and pasilla purée; cook until thick, about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Whisk in dry mustard and Dijon mustard; simmer for 2 more minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing hard against strainer to get as much pulp as possible (sauce should be thick at this point). Season with salt.

To grill the quail: Remove quail from the marinade and reserve marinade. Season quail lightly with salt and grill for 2 – 3 minutes on each side, brushing with the reserved marinade. Note: The molasses in the marinade will caramelize and look burned, but the flavor is very pleasant.

Serve grilled quail with Cranberry Barbecue Sauce and Mable’s Buttermilk Biscuits.

Mable's Buttermilk Biscuits

"Mable Stanley, now 89, is the mother of my dear friend Sharron Smith," Pyles says. "Mable is a Southern classic with deep roots in Mississippi, and people are drawn to her as if she were a magnet. She possesses many talents, not the least of which is the way she makes her buttermilk biscuits. I thought my great-grandmother’s or mother’s were the best until I tried Mable’s. The only other person in America who made such delicious biscuits was another good friend, Edna Lewis. If you really love biscuits, you probably already have Edna’s recipe; if you don’t, you need her books anyway, such as The Taste of Country Cooking and In Pursuit of Flavor. One ingredient you’ll only find in this recipe is self-rising flour. Mable swears by it and it makes the recipe much simpler as it already contains baking soda and salt. To my surprise, self-rising flour had been around longer than I expected; Mable says her grandmother used to bake with it. While I’ve never used it before, the proof is in the pudding — or in this case, the biscuits."


4 teaspoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1½ cups self-rising flour
cup + 1 tablespoon buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the butter in a 9½-inch skillet. Place the skillet in the oven for 5 minutes to heat through and to melt the butter.

In a mixing bowl, crumble the shortening with the flour using your fingertips, until the mixture is the size of small peas. Add the buttermilk in 3 or 4 additions while stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, and mix until the buttermilk is thoroughly incorporated. Do not overbeat. The dough should be quite sticky and hold together.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and lightly flour the top of the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circle about ½-inch thick. Cut the biscuits into 2½-inch circles (or 2- or 3-inch circles if you prefer). Dip each biscuit on both sides into the melted butter in the heated skillet, and then arrange them in the skillet.

Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the biscuits have risen and are lightly browned on the bottom. Turn on the broiler, transfer the skillet to the upper rack of the oven, and bake for 4 – 5 more minutes or until the biscuit tops are browned. Turn out onto a rack to cool.

Photography: Claire McCormack
Photography: Claire McCormack

Baked Maple Grits with Wild Mushrooms and Country Ham

1¾ cups chicken stock
¾ cup milk
¾ cup stone-ground grits
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces wild mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, portobello, etc.), sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
6 ounces honey baked ham, thinly sliced and cut into narrow strips
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ teaspoon red chile flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-8-inch baking dish.

Bring chicken stock and milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly pour in grits while stirring constantly. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 18 – 20 minutes, or until stock and milk have been absorbed. Stir in 3 tablespoons of butter and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pour into prepared dish.

Heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan until lightly smoking. Add mushrooms and garlic, and sauté until mushrooms are wilted. Pour in white wine, add sage, and simmer until liquid has evaporated.  Spread the mushrooms over the grits and the ham over the mushrooms.

Melt remaining tablespoon of butter;  stir in maple syrup and red chile flakes, and pour over ham. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup cheese on top. Heat in oven until ham is crispy and cheese is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Chipotle Yams With Coriander Marshmallow, Pecans, and Candied Bacon

The addition of chipotle purée to this Thanksgiving staple adds a touch of smoke and heat to this sweet-as-pie side dish.

Candied Pecans

1 cup pecan pieces
1 egg white
2 tablespoons sugar

Candied Bacon

12 slices bacon, about 1/4-inch thick
Finely ground black pepper
⅓ cup light brown sugar

Chipotle Yams

2 large yams (or sweet potatoes), peeled and diced
1 medium new potato, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons chipotle purée (or 2 chipotles en adobo)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
½ cup toasted chopped pecans
Salt to taste

Coriander Marshmallow

2½ packages powdered gelatin (or 2 tablespoons + 1¼ teaspoons), bloomed in ½-cup cold water
¼ cups toasted coriander seeds, crushed
½ cup water
2 cups sugar, divided
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon zest

To prepare the candied pecans: Place pecans in a small mixing bowl. Add enough egg white to coat and moisten the nuts. Add sugar and combine thoroughly. Spread pecans onto a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes or until the coating is dry. Allow pecans to cool to room temperature. Separate the pecans, as they will stick together. Set aside.

To prepare the candied bacon: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Put the bacon slices in a bowl, season them with pepper, and toss with the brown sugar. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and arrange the bacon in a single layer on top. Sprinkle any sugar left in the bowl over the bacon. Top with another layer of parchment or foil and top it, squarely, with another baking sheet. The baking sheet will flatten the bacon as it cooks.

Place the tray in the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Check the bacon by lifting the top tray and parchment. If it is not golden brown and fairly crispy, resist the temptation to turn up the oven temperature and cook it for 10 to 15 minutes longer. Check it again. Keep in mind that when you remove the tray and transfer the bacon to a serving platter or individual plates, the bacon will “crisp” up a little more. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the chipotle yams: Bring the yams or sweet potatoes and new potato to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until soft. Place in colander set in the sink and let drain thoroughly for about 20 minutes.

Place the yams or sweet potatoes and new potato in a bowl and whip with an electric mixer while adding the chipotle, maple syrup, orange zest, and butter. Spoon into a baking dish; sprinkle with the pecans and keep warm.

To prepare the coriander marshmallow: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine ½ cup water and crushed coriander seeds and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let infuse for 10 minutes. Strain through fine mesh strainer and measure — you should have ¼ cup. Add water if needed to have correct measure.

In another saucepan, bring the coriander water, 1¾ cups of sugar, and corn syrup to a boil; cook mixture to 260 degrees on a candy thermometer, then stir in the gelatin.

In a mixing bowl, beat the vanilla, salt, and egg whites until frothy. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and lemon zest while beating. Add the gelatin mixture and continue to beat until the mixture has cooled somewhat and is creamy.

Pipe or spoon the coriander marshmallow on top of warm yams and spread to coat evenly. Brown the marshmallow slightly with a blow torch or place in 400 degree oven for 3 – 5 minutes. Decoratively place the candied bacon on top.

Photography: Claire McCormack
Photography: Claire McCormack

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée Tostada with Cajeta

Instead of pumpkin pie, Pyles finishes the meal with a spectacular deconstructed crème brûlée. To save on time, feel free to substitute the pre-made goat's milk cajeta found in Mexican markets.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

2 cups half-and-half
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
12 egg yolks
1½ cups pumpkin purée


4 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
Vegetable oil for frying
8 flour tortillas, each cut into 3 pieces
Powdered sugar for dusting


1½ cups sugar
2 cups goat’s milk
2 cups cow’s milk
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch of baking soda

To prepare the crème brûlée: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Meanwhile, set a large baking dish with 1 inch of water in the preheating oven.

Combine half-and-half, heavy cream, and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to a low flame and keep the mixture hot — do not boil.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and the corn syrup. Add enough water to just cover the sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat until the temperature reaches 356 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and, while stirring, immediately drizzle in the hot cream, being careful to pour slowly as the mixture will splatter. When all the cream is added, stir well to fully incorporate the caramel and cream.

Place the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl. While stirring, slowly add the caramel and cream mixture to the yolks until completely incorporated. Whisk in the pumpkin purée and strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a 2-quart baking dish.

Place the dish into the preheated water bath in the oven. Bake uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes. Check the brûlée after 20 minutes by lightly shaking the dish. The brûlée will be set but tremble lightly if completely cooked. Remove both pans from the oven carefully so that no water spills. Remove the smaller baking dish from the water bath and refrigerate until cooled completely, about 2 hours. Note: The crème brûlée can be made a day ahead.

To prepare the tostadas: In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon.
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan until lightly smoking. Fry the flour tortillas in the oil, turning often, until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Remove tortillas from the oil and place on a towel to drain the excess oil. Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

To prepare the cajeta: Place ¾ cup of the sugar in a small skillet and melt over medium heat for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden brown and free of lumps. Remove from heat.

Combine the 2 milks and pour about one quarter of the mixture (1 cup) into a bowl. Add the cornstarch and baking soda, and set aside.

Add the remaining ¾ cup of sugar to the 3 cups of milk and heat in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, bring just to the boiling point. Then add the caramelized sugar all at once while stirring vigorously. Add the reserved milk and cornstarch mixture, and stir well.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 50 – 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cajeta will begin to thicken during the last 15 minutes of cooking; stir more frequently to prevent sticking.

To assemble the tostadas: Place 1 fried tortilla in the center of each plate. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin crème brûlée over the tortilla. Repeat the procedure for a second and third layer then dust with powdered sugar.

Using a blowtorch, caramelize the dusted sugar. Then spoon some of the cajeta around the plate.

From the December 2012 issue.

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