As many of you know, I'm a native Texan. I was born and raised in Corpus Christi and went to college in San Antonio. Then, for grad school, I decided to branch out a little, and I moved to Missouri. I lived there for two years, and while there were things I loved about it (four unique seasons, crazy college football fans, burnt ends), what I missed the most about home was the food I grew up with.
I missed the Tex-Mex, the barbecue, the Cajun cuisine. I searched all over for decent salsa, and never found any. A few times I resorted to making my own, but I was usually too busy, so I just went without.
What I needed was this cookbook. Lisa Fain's newest cookbook, The Homesick Texan's Family Table, contains recipes for everything from peach salsa to Texas pecan pie, and everything in between. Fain is the author of the popular blog The Homesick Texan, which she started writing after she moved from Texas to New York. That led to her first cookbook, The Homesick Texan Cookbook, containing recipes that Fain created as well as dishes from famous Texas restaurants like Ninfa's.
There's some overlap between the two books, but this newer one is a collection of Fain's family's own recipes and favorites that the seventh-generation Texan has developed while living in New York and pining for the Lone Star State.
I have no doubt that this book will make you nostalgic for family dinners in Texas as well, even if, like me, you're living here right now.
Recipes or food porn: Both. Fain not only wrote the entire book, but she took all the photos as well. She's known for posting great images of food on her blog, and this book is no exception. The photos are straightforward, but they're drool-inducing, because most of the dishes aren't diet fare. They're heavy Texan chow, and the images almost make you feel like you could smell the aromas wafting off the pages. The book also includes photos of Texas itself, from small town life to the pastoral countryside. The recipes are all relatively simple, and each one has an introduction (sometimes longer than the recipe itself) explaining why this dish is meaningful to Fain.
Ease of use: The book is divided into seven sections: Breakfast and breads; starters and snacks; salads and sides; chilis, soups and stews; the main event; sweets; and accompaniments. There's also a resource guide in the back that gives websites where you can order some of the potentially more difficult to find ingredients as well as a measurement conversion chart. The index lists all the recipes and ingredients, so if you want to find something that uses peaches, just look under "peaches," and you'll find several recipes.
The recipes themselves seem fairly simple to execute, and the explanations provided are easy to understand. Even a novice cook could probably prepare most things in the book with little stress.
Difficulty of finding ingredients: Some items might be harder than others to find. Because there is some Cajun and Tex-Mex food in the book, recipes call for masa, andouille and ancho, hatch or guajillo chiles. In Houston, that wouldn't be a problem, and, as stated earlier, the book does provide a list of websites where you can order spices, pecans, citrus and other items.
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Production value: The hard-back book is very nicely made. Almost every recipe has a full color photo to go along with it, and the glossy pages make the photos pop even more. It costs $29.99 for 277 pages of quality recipes and photos that are making me hungry, even as I write.
Recipes I want to try: There's one particular recipe that I keep going back to: Buttermilk bacon fat flour tortillas. Mark my words, I will make these soon. I'd also like to make several of the salsas, like the peach salsa and tomatillo chipotle salsa. And the Mexican chocolate cake, a twist on a German chocolate cake with a pinch of cayenne pepper for heat, sounds absolutely divine.
Verdict: If I ever move out of Texas again (God forbid), this book is coming with me. I think it would be a great graduation gift for a student going to college out of state, not just for the recipes, but for the stories that go along with them. Anyone who's lived in Texas for a period of time can relate to Fain's anecdotes, and the personal nature of the book makes it even tastier.
Stats: The Homesick Texan's Family Table By Lisa Fain Photography by Lisa Fain $29.99 125 recipes 277 pages