It's that time....we've been playing around with The Homesick Texan for a few weeks now. I've shared a few recipes and tidbits here and there. And now....it's time to lay it all out on the table. Tell it like it is....give you the skinny. Express my honest opinion. Give you the scoop on whats between the covers. I'm going to tell you the lowdown on the hoedown.
Before last month I had never heard of Lisa Fain. After reading through her cookbook, I feel like we would totally mesh! There's something about her that echos within my soul. Although I have never lived in Alabama, I feel deeply connected and very rooted to my family, the way of life and the food there. Being in the city, you just don't get that "down home" connection. One of the ways I cross all those state lines between me and my family is by cooking foods that feed my soul. Which is what Fain did when she started her blog and wrote this cookbook. She fed by her need to connect to her home while living in New York.
Now....I have never "really" reviewed a cookbook before. It's rather intimidating. I mean, you want to be accurate and informative as well as sounding like you know what you're talking about. That's when I turned to my peeps over on Facebook and asked them what they're looking for when searching for a cookbook. What points they'd like me to touch on in my review. I got some awesome responses. You people are the best! Thank you so much for your guidance.
With that said, let's get down and dirty....and into the nitty gritty of it all (ok, are you soooo over the idioms? me too)
When I look at a cookbook, the first thing I do is flip through the pages. I hate to sound so "shallow" but honestly, photos are very important. I have a hard time buying a cookbook that doesn't have a single photograph (besides Mastering the Art of French Cooking....HUGE exception). The Homesick Texan has a ton of fabulous photos. Not only of mouthwatering food but also a few nostalgic, pure Texas shots that are scattered about strategically.
Next...contents. Theme. Tex-Mex is totally up my ally. I love Mexican food. I love southern food. When you combine the two.....you have something uniquely Texan. The Homesick Texan has a fabulously diverse content which is brilliantly divided. How often do you open a cookbook and see a chapter called "The Larder: The Homesick Texan's Pantry"? This is probably my favorite chapter. In it Lisa acknowledges and addresses the fact that not every city has the ingredients for a good Tex-Mex meal. She discovered this while shopping in New York City. You will see a solid 8 pages of ingredients and kitchen equipment that you should have, with descriptions and alternatives. In the back of the book you'll find a "Resource" page that tells you where you can order items and ingredients if you can't find them in your local market or Mexican grocer.
Not only does she have your typical chapters for Appetizers, Seafood, Sweets but there are whole chapters dedicated to Pickles and Preserves....Salsa, Sauces, And Gravies and Tex-Mex Classics (not to mention Morning Foods; Chilis, Soups, and Stews; Beef, Pork, and Fowl; Sides, Hot and Cold and last but not least, Breads). That pretty much covers it all. And if you can't find what you need based on the chapters....all you have to do is look in the Index where you will find recipes listed not only by name, but by ingredient.
One important factor that was brought up on Facebook was the desire to see the level of cooking experience needed as well as the length of time it takes. Neither of these are addressed in The Homesick Texan. I have found though, that most of the recipes range from very basic to requiring a bit more "how-to" knowledge. But to be honest, this is all good, down-home food that can be cooked and enjoyed by anyone with any level of cooking experience. Each recipe includes a great little intro that makes you wish you were in Texas having it the way it was originally experienced. As for the "how long" portion. You'll have to gauge this a bit. If you browse through the instructions...mentally adding up the cooking time frames...you should get a pretty good idea on what's required. I will say that the instructions are easy to follow.
If you haven't been following along during The Homesick Texan journey I've been on, you can view the recipes I've cooked below:
And now I have one more recipe to share. This is an easy one. Not as quick as your typical scrambled eggs....but when you're getting ready to experience something fabulous.....prep is never as quick as ready set, ready go. But it can be effortless.
Oil for frying
4 corn tortillas cut into strips
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 jalapeno chiles, seeded, stemmed and diced (I didn't have fresh jalapenos so I used the kind in a jar)
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (4 oz) grated cheddar cheese, jack cheese or maybe a combo
Usually I show you a nice display of ingredients all arranged on a cutting board or something. This time I decided to be real. I do gather all of the ingredients before starting on a recipe. But it's always "everywhere" on the counter....and that's how I really cook.
In a large skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of oil over a medium-high heat. Put the tortilla strips in the hot oil and let cook until nice and crispy...about 3 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
Drain out the oil, leaving about 2 TB. Turn the heat down a bit and add the onions and jalapenos. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent. While that's going on, whisk together the egg, milk, salt, pepper, cumin and cilantro in a bowl.
Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
Add the egg mixture to the skillet along with the tortilla strips. Let the egg cook for a minute so the bottom sets a bit. Stir gently and then add the cheese
I have a confession to make here. I did a few things out of order. When I measured the cumin, instead of tossing it into the egg mixture, I tossed it into the pan with the onions and garlic. (silly me). Then I forgot to add the cilantro to the egg...so it went in along with the cheese. But you know what? It didn't matter. This is such a free-form recipe and very forgiving as it also allows for adjustments to accommodate your own personal tastes. More cheese? Less cheese? No onions? More heat? Just do it. We're talking about eggs here. Make it so you like it.
Once the cheese has been added, gently stir until the cheese has melted. Add more salt and pepper to taste (if needed).
Lisa Fain recommends that you serve Migas with salsa and tortillas. I personally found it very filling and satisfying. Not to mention simple. I didn't need the extras. (BTW...I halved the recipe and this plate served 2). All I did was sprinkle some jack cheese over the top and let it melt. (love me some melted cheese).
This is the perfect example of many of the recipes in The Homesick Texan. Complex in flavor yet simple enough for any level of cook to make. I loved the corn flavor that the tortilla strips added to the eggs. The jalapenos were a great addition of some slight heat. The smokey flavor from the cumin was wonderful. If I wanted to beef it up a bit....I could've added some chorizo or sausage. If I wanted more veggies...some diced tomatoes would've been a wonderful addition.
Let me wrap this up with a simple 5 star rating for a fabulous cookbook. It has been a sheer pleasure being part of the The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off that was sponsored by Hyperion and hosted at Girlichef*, (where you will find others who have cooked from and reviewed this cookbook. I recommend that you mosey on over there and see what the rest of us have to say).
If you love Mexican and / or Tex-Mex food....I highly recommend that you not pass this one up. It's a keeper and bound to become a favorite in your collection, as it is mine.