Last Minute Gifts: Houston Cookbooks

It’s the nth hour and you are rushing. You could get a gift card, but that’ll show that you really didn’t put any thought into the gift. If you’re looking for something special and meaningful for someone who loves food, a cookbook by a local chef or author is just the ticket. Luckily we have several excellent ones for you this season.

The Enchilada Queen Cookbook: Enchiladas, Fajitas, Tamales, and More Classic Recipes from Texas-Mexico Border Kitchens

Just this past November, Houston’s own enchilada queen debuted a beautiful hardcover book filled with 80 recipes that she tested and adapted to make them easy for the home cook. Love her enchiladas? Get recipes for her north of the border and south of the border creations, along with tried and true Tex-Mex recipes in the tradition of her hometown of Brownsville, Texas, such as the Holy Triniti spice paste (at the core of many of her dishes) as well as classic Tex-Mex faves such as pork and chicken tamales and slow-fried pork enchiladas with salsa Hidalgo roja. Available for download on Amazon Kindle, at major bookstores and at all three Sylvia’s Enchiladas Kitchen locations in Houston: 6401 Woodway, 713-334-7295; 12637 Westheimer, 281-679-8300; and 1140 Eldridge, 832-230-3842. List price: $27.99.

With Gratitude, Johnny Carrabba Celebrating 30 Years of Recipes, Stories, and Family
Thirty years is a lot to put in a cookbook, and Johnny Carrabba does it with grace and elegance, weaving engaging stories about family and food throughout 288 pages that include 100 classic recipes beautifully illustrated by local photographer Debora Smail. Among the favorite recipes to entice you are Carrabba’s fried calamari and shrimp, cozze in bianco, Carrabba’s house salad with creamy parmesan dressing, Mamma Mandola’s Sicilian chicken soup, pasta Carrabba, chicken “Bryan
Texas,” and Common Bond chocolate chip walnut cookies. The cookbook is available at Carrabba’s on Kirby, Carrabba’s on Voss, Grace’s, Mia’s and Common Bond Café and Bakery, and at major bookstores. List price: $50.

Cordúa: Foods of the Americas from the Legendary Texas Restaurant Family
Released to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the family's first Churrascos, the Cordúa cookbook tells the story behind Food & Wine Magazine Hall of Famer Michael Cordúa’s journey from Nicaraguan immigrant to one of Houston’s most successful and enduring restaurateurs. You'd better believe there’s a recipe for his famous churrasco and tres leches in this book. Available at all Cordúa family restaurants and major bookstores. List price: $29.95.

Hugo Ortega's Street Food of Mexico
In this cookbook by award-winning chef and restaurateur Hugo Ortega, he takes you on a journey with him through the streets of Mexico. It's rich with recipes for everything from tacos to tlayudas, cocteles, bebidas and dulces, so if you love real Mexican food, you will learn much and have great fun making these dishes. Sold in major bookstores and, of course, at Hugo’s. List price: $34.95.

Energy Cuisine, by David Denis and Jani Lehtinen
If you live out on the west side, pop on over to Le Mistral and pick up a copy of Energy Cuisine by much-loved Master Chef of France David Denis and his lifelong friend from Finland, Jani Lehtinen. Released in 2010, this cookbook takes you on a journey through four countries — France, Finland, Italy and the United States — blending friendship and classic culinary technique for a book that’s as enjoyable as the food. Sample dishes include baked striped bass fennel confit basil pesto and the exquisite creamy morel soup. Available at Le Mistral, 1400 Eldridge, 832-379-8322. List price: $34.95.

Houston Cookbooks by Erin Hicks
Houston author Erin Hicks has a treasure trove of recipes from Houston’s best restaurants and chefs to share with you in her Houston cookbook series. With five cookbooks — Small Plates and Sips, Houston Classic Desserts, and Houston Classic Mexican and Houston Classic Seafood, and the soon to be released Houston Soups & Sips — you can get them individually at $16.95 (soups or plates) or $24.95 (classics) apiece or as a package at $75 for the four hardcovers, or $95 for all five, with the Soup & Sips as a pre-order that will ship the second week in January. Available for pickup at Arthur Ave,  or you can message Erin via her website,

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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham