Cook the Book: Homesick Texan Cookbook

Have you heard about Cook the Book? I've got a book club, based on cookbooks. Each month, we pick a cookbook and have a potluck based on it. It's an ongoing project that has been both challenging and enlightening. We often cover ethnic cookbooks, but recently, we've started exploring regional American cookbooks. As a longtime fan of Lisa Fain's Homesick Texan blog, I was thrilled when her book was selected for January's Cook the Book.

For the uninitiated, Lisa is a seventh-generation Texan who moved to New York City. After a fruitless search for tastes of Texas in NYC, she took matters into her own hands. Collecting recipes from friends and family, Lisa streamlined and revised a treasure trove of recipes. Those craveable Texan flavors came alive in her kitchen. What I love about Lisa? The stories behind her recipes offer a touching and personal anthology, tracking memories through food.

My current roommate is from East Texas and I showed him the book. Opinionated and full of bravado, his response took me by surprise, "That's 'high-falutin' food!' We like simple food in Texas. What is this? Migas?" He reads the headnotes, "Ah, that's from Austin. That's  not Texas." 

"It's not?" 

"No. That's The Republic of Austin. It's different." 

While there are plenty of traditional favorites, you'll find Lisa's imprint throughout the book. Think of it as Tex-Mex, with a twist. Here, down home food is revised. For the better. A favorite potluck dish--green beans with pesto get's a Texas spin with cilantro and toasted pecans. Tex-Mex Meatloaf skips the traditional  slather of ketchup, in lieu of a smoky chipotle and tomato glaze. It's by far the best meatloaf I've ever eaten.

This month's Cook the Book was an epic feast! With a heaving table of options, we ended up dining in stages...drinks and appetizers, the soup course (three soups!), and a frenzy of passed dishes at the table. Lee Hochberg put his camera to good use, firing off a terrific set of images. Our Homesick Texan dinner looked like this:

The full Homesick Texan menu:

- Bacon-jalapeno Cheese Ball*
- Cinnamon-chipotle Pecans
- Cranberry, Orange and Cilantro Salsa*
- Pickled Shrimp*
- Fuego Salsa
- Avocado Soup*
- Corn Chowder with Roasted Jalapenos and Bacon*
- Seven-Chile Texas Chili*
- Pan de Campo
- Chorizo Empanadas*
- Biscuits*
- Sawmill Gravy*
- Red-eye Gravy
- Tomato Cobbler
- Green Beans with Cilantro Pesto*
- Ancho Cream Corn*
- Texas Caviar
- Tamales with Rajas
- Spinach & Mushroom Enchiladas with Tomatillo Salsa
- Coffee-chipotle Oven Brisket
- Lamb Barbacoa
- Lavender Brownies*
- Mexican Chocolate Chewies*

Note: a handful of these recipes are from the Homesick Texan website (linked). My favorite dishes are marked with an asterisk. (*) 

Final thoughts:
While I can't say I loved everything (I like Naomi's tamale recipe better), what I did like, replaced my own tried and true favorites (like the meatloaf). All three soups were a hit, as were both the desserts. For the Cinnamon-chipotle Pecans, I should have pulled them out of the oven a few minutes earlier than the recipe stated. The dough on the empanadas? A new favorite, as is the pickled shrimp. Lisa's cheese ball is the stuff of legend. And both the corn and green beans were welcome additions to my side dish file. 

There are many more recipes in the Homesick Texan cookbook I plan to the Gorditos, Chicken-fried Steak, and Grandma's Chocolate pie. It should keep me busy until Lisa's new book, The Homesick Texan Family Table, comes out in April!