Chef Stephan Pyles grew up in the food business—his parents owned the Big Spring Truck Stop Cafe—and despite a degree in music and the best intentions, he’s still cooking. With two restaurants in Dallas and two in Minneapolis, Pyles and partner John Dayton have enthusiastically spread the word about Southwestern flavors. This tart with roasted-garlic custard and Gulf Coast crabmeat is on the menu at Routh Street Cafe, Pyles’s original Dallas restaurant at 3005 Routh. With its sophisticated flavors (a peppery cornmeal crust, smoothly subtle filling, and riotously spicy topping), the easy-to-prepare entrée makes an impressive presentation. See recipe, page 167.

Roasted-Garlic Custard

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat olive oil in small roasting pan over medium flame. Add garlic and bake 15 minutes, or until garlic turns golden brown. In saucepan, bring garlic and cream to boil, then purèe in blender. In bowl, beat eggs. Then whisk in garlic purèe a little bit at a time. Season to taste.


1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup water
2 dried ancho chiles, seeded
1 1/4 cup masa harina
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening

In saucepan, cover bell pepper with water and boil until soft. Place pepper and water in blender and purèe. Set aside. Sear chiles in 450-degree oven for 1 minute, then cover with warm water and soak for 20 minutes. Purèe chiles and water. Set aside. Combine masa harina, cornmeal, salt, cayenne, and cumin. Set aside. In bowl, beat shortening until fluffy. Add dry ingredients and slowly whip until smooth. Beat in 2 tablespoons of each purèe. Shape dough into a ball and pat into 9-inch false-bottom tart pan. Fill with garlic custard and cover pan completely with plastic wrap. Place in bamboo steamer over boiling water, and steam 25 to 30 minutes.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion
10 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
1/4 cup diced red tomato
1/4 cup diced yellow tomato
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons diced serrano chile
1 teaspoon lime juice

In sautè pan, heat olive oil over medium heat until lightly smoking. Add onion and sautè for 1 minute. Add crabmeat, tomatoes, cilantro, serrano, and lime juice. Cook until warmed, about 2 minutes, Season to taste. Spoon on top of tart, slice, and serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10.