From the Valley to the Hills

7720 TX-71 Austin

Festive Culinary Traditions/From the Valley to the Hills
True Texas
Written By True Texas

The Texas Highways staff searched the state to find the elements that most consistently resonate as representative of the quintessential Texas town. We’ve named that collective community “True, Texas.”

​Growing up among the citrus orchards, towering avocado trees, and fertile farmland in and around Brownsville, chef Jack Gilmore—owner of Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Austin and Round Rock—has been connected to South Texas since he was old enough to climb the mango tree in his backyard. Today, the region’s bounty and robust flavors influence his comfort-driven menus with dishes like bacon-wrapped Texas quail and slow-roasted barbacoa.

​Many of his favorite childhood food memories involve vegetables. For instance, he remembers his Hispanic aunt, “Tía Maria,” sizzling skillets of onions and a mix of calabacita, zucchini, and crookneck squashes.

The seductive aroma of vegetables browning in the pan led to his love of hash, a crispy, savory side dish of diced potatoes and various other vegetables and aromatics. ​

Around the holidays, the chef pairs potatoes with butternut squash. “Butternut squash has the earthy characteristic of potatoes and the sweetness and color of pumpkins,” he says, “so it’s perfect for the season.” The recipe is also endlessly versatile.

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“Hash is basically a canvas for any of your favorite ingredients. You can add chopped bacon, ham, shredded meat, or peppers.” —Jack Gilmore

The dish is particularly great for holidays because it can be prepped in advance. Once the diced vegetables are roasted, they can be refrigerated for a couple of days and then finished in a cast-iron skillet with olive oil, butter, or bacon fat.​

Hash is a snap to assemble, but the chef insists size matters. Whether you opt for a large or small dice, you’ll get the best results if you “cut everything the same size,” he says. ​See the man of the house himeself on GoodTaste TV below.

Vegetable lovers will welcome the addition to the usual starch fest of mashed potatoes and cornbread dressing. “Hash is the perfect accompaniment to any roasted meat,” Jack adds, “and it’s delicious drizzled with maple syrup or honey.” Major bonus: Leftovers are even better the next day, topped with poached eggs.

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