Turnip greens with taque­ria twist

The Commercial Appeal - - Mlife - Jen­nifer Biggs Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

Ed­die Her­nan­dez and Mike Klank met in At­lanta in 1987, both dis­il­lu­sioned with their careers, both look­ing for some­thing else. Klank, a na­tive Mem­phian, had an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree from Ge­or­gia Tech but was tired of his white col­lar job.

Her­nan­dez had moved to Texas from his na­tive Mon­ter­rey, Mex­ico, in the early 1970s, seek­ing fame and for­tune as a rock star.

“I wanted to make it big,” he said. “I wanted to make it big and travel the world. Un­for­tu­nately, my dream was a lit­tle bit big­ger than my tal­ent.”

So, Klank be­came the man­ager and part-owner of a Mex­i­can res- Book sign­ing of “Turnip Greens & Tor­tillas” ($30; Rux Mar­tin) with Ed­die Her­nan­dez and Su­san Puck­ett Novel, 387 Perkins Ext.

What: 6 p.m. Thurs­day Where:

tau­rant in an At­lanta sub­urb that he soon re­al­ized served sub­par food. Her­nan­dez had laid down his drum­sticks and find­ing him­self in the area, took a job as a waiter there (af­ter be­ing the mayor of a tiny town in Texas; his story is long).

“The food just wasn’t good,” Klank said. “I asked the peo­ple who worked there if they would eat it, and they said no, so I asked them why they thought other peo­ple would. Ed­die told me he knew how to cook so I said go on, get in the kitchen.”

It was to be a tem­po­rary move for Her­nan­dez, who wanted to work his way up to gen­eral man­ager and fig­ured he could show the kitchen staff a few things, then move back to the front of the house.

“Un­for­tu­nately for Mike at the time that we met, his food was not good at all,” Her­nan­dez said. “I mean, re­ally. I felt sorry for Mike be­cause he came across as some­one who cared, but I told him, ‘Mike, at the rate that you’re go­ing, you’re gonna be broke real quick.’

“I told him I’ll go to the kitchen for a few days. I said three days and thank God I said three, be­cause if I’d said four, I’d have 10 more years left. It’s been 30 years.” It all worked out. “I wanted to be a mu­si­cian and I was un­happy when I had to give it up, but you just keep on. We all work our way through life, and Mike and I have made this great,” Her­nan­dez said.

Klank bought out the other own­ers, and he and Her­nan­dez turned the restau­rant around. It be­came Azteca Grill, and a few years later they opened Sun­down Grill, which would 15 years later change its name to Taque­ria del Sol.

To­day there are four lo­ca­tions around At­lanta, one in Athens and two fran­chises in Nashville.

“We started do­ing fast ca­sual in 1992 for lunch,” Klank said. “Ed­die and I both love street food so that’s what we did, but we took some­thing you’d think came from a cart and did it in­side the restau­rant.

“Think back on what Mex­i­can food was like then and you’ll re­mem­ber it was to­tally dif­fer­ent. We were do­ing food no one else was and do­ing fast ca­sual be­fore other peo­ple were, too,” Klank said.

Her­nan­dez’s His­panic spin on South­ern fa­vorites has made him a rock star of a dif­fer­ent sort than he orig­i­nally en­vi­sioned, a highly re­spected South­ern chef. Last year the part­ners were nom­i­nated for a James Beard Out­stand­ing Restau­ra­teur award, and Her­nan­dez has just pub­lished his first cook­book.

“Turnip Greens & Tor­tillas,” cowrit­ten with Su­san Puck­ett, went on sale last week and she and Her­nan­dez will be at Novel from 6-7:30 p.m. Thurs­day to speak and sign.

While the restau­rant also serves au­then­tic Mex­i­can food, Her­nan­dez’s sig­na­ture style is riff­ing on South­ern sta­ples. He read­ily shares the credit for this with Klank.

“He knows what he’s do­ing. I give him as much credit as pos­si­ble be­cause he’s a big part of our suc­cess. He took me all over the South to teach me what the food was about,” Her­nan­dez said. “He comes up with ideas ... he might say see what you can do with snap peas or lady peas or what­ever.”

Re­fried black-eyed peas is one of the what­ev­ers.

“The black-eyed peas idea was mine,” Klank said. “But Ed­die makes it hap­pen, like with the Mem­phis taco. It’s ba­si­cally mine be­cause I bar­be­cue, but I gave Ed­die my recipe for bar­be­cue sauce and of course, he changed it. Still, it’s a Mem­phis bar­be­cue sand­wich, just in a tor­tilla in­stead of a bun and with some Mex­i­can 1 jalapeño, stemmed (re­move some or all of the seeds and mem­branes for less heat) 11⁄2 tea­spoons salt To make the driz­zle: Com­bine the mint, jalapeño, and oil in a blender and puree un­til smooth. Sea­son with salt. To make the chicken: Heat the oven to 350 de­grees. Place a rack in a roast­ing pan or a large bak­ing pan. Line an­other bak­ing sheet with pa­per tow­els. Com­bine the flour, corn­meal, salt, and pep­per in a shal­low dish. Place the eggs and milk in a sec­ond shal­low dish and whisk to com­bine. Heat inch of oil in a large cast-iron skil­let over medium heat to 350 de­grees. Dip 2 chicken breasts first in the egg wash, then in the blue corn­meal mix, coat­ing on all sides. Care­fully Source, all recipes: “Turnip Greens & Tor­tillas,” Ed­die Her­nan­dez and Su­san Puck­ett fla­vors.”

Nashville gets its fair shake with Nashville hot chicken tacos.

Old-fash­ioned fried chicken gets the Ed­die treat­ment with a corn­meal crust and a mint-jalapeno sauce, and he gives chicken-fried steak a spin, too.

Turnip greens are cooked with chile de ar­bol. Col­lards and black­eyed peas and get tossed in a lemon­ha­b­anero dress­ing for a salad. Okra gets kicked up with ser­rano chiles and cumin. Fried green toma­toes? So 2017. Try fried tomatil­los in­stead.

The chicken pot pie recipe in­cludes place in the oil, top side down, and cook for 3 min­utes, or un­til crispy and lightly browned, be­ing care­ful not to burn. Flip and cook on the other side, un­til crispy and lightly browned, about 3 min­utes. Trans­fer to the pa­per towel-lined bak­ing sheet to drain, then set on the rack in the other pan. Re­peat with the re­main­ing chicken. Al­low the oil to re­turn to 350 de­grees be­tween each batch. Cut into the thick­est part of a piece of chicken to see if the juices run clear. If not, place in the oven for 5 to 10 min­utes, un­til cooked through. Serve with some of the driz­zle spooned over and around the chicken. Makes 6 serv­ings. se­ri­ous amounts of cream and cheese and is served in a puffed tor­tilla shell, a seem­ingly daunt­ing en­deavor.

“No, it’s easy to make at home,” Her­nan­dez said.

“You just have to get your oil hot enough. You can do it in a skil­let. Su­san Puck­ett tested all the recipes in her home kitchen so we know they work for ev­ery­one.”

There’s Mex­i­can sushi, gua­camole and cheese dip, nu­mer­ous soups, en­trees, sides and drinks. Ask Her­nan­dez his fa­vorite recipe and the an­swer is sim­ple:

“I have 120 of them.”

over medium-high heat. Add 1 ta­ble­spoon of the sesame oil and when it shim­mers, add the shrimp. Cook, stir­ring, un­til pink and opaque, about 1 minute. Re­move the shrimp to a plate and set aside. Add the re­main­ing cup sesame oil to the skil­let. Add the cel­ery, onion, bell pep­per, and Ca­jun Spice Mix and cook, stir­ring, for 2 min­utes, or un­til the veg­eta­bles are soft. Add the gar­lic and pars­ley and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the beaten eggs and scram­ble just un­til they be­gin to set, about 30 sec­onds. Stir in the cooked shrimp and rice and cook un­til heated through. Re­move from the heat and keep warm. To make the scal­lops: Toss the scal­lops in the Ca­jun Spice Mix. Place the but­ter and oil in a large cast-iron skil­let over medium-high heat. When it shim­mers, add the scal­lops in a sin­gle layer (cook in batches if nec­es­sary) and cook, turn­ing once, un­til caramelized on each side, about 2 min­utes per side. Re­move from the heat and keep warm. Place some of the fried rice in the cen­ter of each plate. Top with 2 or 3 scal­lops. Mix to­gether the oil and Tabasco and driz­zle some of the Tabasco oil over the rice and scal­lops. Gar­nish with chopped pars­ley. Serve hot.

cup fresh mint leaves cup veg­etable oil Pinch of salt 1 cup all-pur­pose flour 1 cup blue corn­meal, or white or yel­low 1 ta­ble­spoon ground black pep­per 6 (6-ounce) bone­less, skin­less chicken breasts cup veg­etable oil 2 ta­ble­spoons Tabasco sauce

PHO­TOS BY ANGIE MOSIER

Shrimp Fried Rice Topped with Bronzed Scal­lops & Tabasco Oil from “Turnip Greens and Tor­tillas.”

Ed­die Her­nan­dez

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