We’ve seen so many great cookbooks come out in 2011, books for every palate and skill level. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, we wanted to share a few of our favorite selections that would also make great gifts. From cocktails to carnitas, from sauté to sous-vide, the books range from gorgeous coffee table additions to workhorses that will never leave your kitchen.
As our holiday gift to you, our reader, we’re going to be giving away a copy of each book that we feature over the coming weeks. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see how you can win!
Congratulations to Tracy, the winner of our Homesick Texan cookbook giveaway!
This week’s cookbook is one that is near and dear to both of our hearts. Ryan and I are both originally from North Texas and grew up with plates of enchiladas, refried beans and flavorful rice, among other Tex-Mex favorites. New York City isn’t lacking ethnic cuisine, but good Tex-Mex is hard to replicate and even harder to find in a restaurant.
Our sentiments aren’t just our own though. When Lisa Fain, a seventh-generation Texan, moved to the city years ago, she too missed the dishes she had eaten for years. Lisa started a blog, Homesick Texan, to document her experiences attempting to recreate these dishes.
Now, more than five years later, Lisa is still writing her excellent blog, but she also just wrote The Homesick Texan Cookbook.
The book features more than 125 Texas favorites, ranging from chicken fried steak, the famous West, Texas, kolaches, and brisket tacos, a dish that I never go without when I visit Dallas.
Even if you’re not from Texas and don’t yet understand the merits of a steaming bowl of chile con queso, Lisa’s book features delectable, simple recipes of all kinds—sweets, seafood, salads, et cetera—each accompanied by anecdotes that instantly make you realize Texas truly is a special place on the culinary map. (It doesn’t hurt that Lisa’s photographs, both of food and Texas landscapes, are stunning too!)
Ryan and I tried our hand at a Tex-Mex favorite this weekend: cheese enchiladas with chili con carne, served with refried beans and red Spanish rice. As Lisa notes, this is a classic dish that you can find in almost any Tex-Mex establishment throughout the state.
Cheese Enchiladas Chili con Carne
From The Homesick Texan Cookbook
Chili Con Carne
6 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 tbsp. lard (or vegetable oil)
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 lb. ground beef
2 c. beef broth
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne, to taste
1 tbsp. lard (or vegetable oil)
12 corn tortillas
4 c. cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1. In a dry skillet heated on high, toast the ancho chiles on each side for about 10 seconds or just until they start to puff. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover chiles. Leave the heat on until the water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak until soft, about 30 minutes. Once hydrated, discard the soaking water and rinse the chiles. Place in a blender.
2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil or lard, and cook the onions, occasionally stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Place the cooked onions and garlic into the blender, along with the cumin, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, and 1 c. of water. Blend until smooth.
3. In the same pot you used to cook the onions and garlic, on medium heat, brown the beef, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. (If you like, you can drain the extra fat once the meat is browned,) Add the chile puree and the beef broth, heat on high until boiling, and then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, adjust the seasonings, add salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste.
4. To make the enchiladas, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a large baking dish. In a skillet, heat up the oil or lard on medium-low heat. One at a time, heat up the tortillas in the hot oil. Keep them warm in a cloth or tortilla warmer until all of the tortillas are heated.
5. Take a heated tortilla and use tongs to dip it into the sauce. Shake off most of the sauce, but be sure that it’s moist enough to be pliable. Lay the tortilla on a plate or clean cooking surface, add 1/4 c. of the grated cheese down the center of it, along with a few diced onions. Roll the tortilla. Place the rolled enchilada in the greased baking dish and repeat with the remaining tortillas. Pour the sauce over enchiladas and top with remaining grated cheese and diced onions. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbling.
The end result was a flavor combination that I haven’t had since moving to New York. There’s something about the combination of cheese, the corn tortillas, the spices, and the lard (yes, you must use lard!), that is entirely satisfying and impossible to replicate unless you know what it’s supposed to taste like.
Now, thanks to Lisa, everyone (Texan or not) can have this same epiphany. Anyone who enjoys comfort food of any kind will love this book, even if you’ve never been to Texas.
Since Ryan and I are heading south in a few weeks, this dish was the perfect reminder of what awaits as soon as we touch down in the Lone Star State. I think there’s already a plate of enchiladas at Herrera’s with my name on it!
Want your own copy? Leave a comment telling us: what’s your favorite food from your home state? Good luck!
- Laura and Ryan
P.S. Hunting down Mexican ingredients can be a bit tricky in Manhattan, but we discovered a great itty-bitty Mexican grocery on Avenue A in the East Village. If you need good tortillas, dried peppers, tomatillos, or a number of other hard-to-find items, visit Zaragosa Mexican Deli.