The Homesick Texan Cookbook
Lisa Fain (author)
Hyperion, $29.99, 357 pgs.
Why I'm squeezing it onto my overloaded bookshelf: As a native Oklahoman sharing a border with the great state of Texas, I grew up eating many of the same foods Lisa Fain chronicles in The Homesick Texan. Now living New York, she celebrates the flavors and experiences of the state's traditions with authentic dishes, but has modernized recipes by omitting many processed ingredients that are frequent players in old-school community and church cookbooks from the region. This means I can tuck into a nostalgic platter of Tex-Mex or meltingly tender brisket without sacrificing my preference for made-from-scratch cooking.
I especially love: Fain successfully dispels the myth that Texas cuisine only consists of Tex-Mex, barbecue, and chicken-fried steak. As the second biggest state in the country, Texas has a bountiful diversity of food that varies along with the geography and culture. Head to dry West Texas for incredible beef and chiles, across to the Gulf coast for abundant seafood, deep into South Texas' Rio Grande Valley for their famously sweet and juicy citrus, back up to verdant Hill Country for cuisine strongly influenced by German heritage and teeming crops of peaches and pecans, then over to East Texas where Deep South staples leave their mark—think fried catfish, collards, and beans. The foodways of Texas are rich in history and indigenous ingredients, and Lisa Fain brilliantly captures the spirit of eating and cooking in the Lone Star state in this book.
What's a bit annoying: Now that I'm a West Coast resident, I often find myself passionately describing many of the dishes that appear in Homesick Texan to friends who are unfamiliar with cuisine in the south and midwest. For context, I wish the book included a map or two of the state and where certain dishes/traditions originate.
The next recipe I'll make: I can't wait to tear off a chunk of warm Chorizo Asadero Bread—soft white dough baked up full of creamy asadero cheese, spicy red chorizo, and flecks of smoky chipotle chiles. When I'm really ready to feast, I'll create a classic Tex-Mex combo plate—gooey cheese enchiladas drowning in spicy chile con carne and a crispy flauta nestled in between hearty refried beans and a fluffy mound of red rice. And then for a Mexican version of that magical cake batter that separates into two distinct layers while it bakes—I'll serve up Chocoflan for a sweet finish.
Caroline Ford is a food stylist, writer & recipe developer in Portland, OR. More of her writing can be found on her blog: Food. Write. Style.