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June 2012 Cookbook of the Month: The Homesick Texan Cookbook, by Lisa Fain

Welcome to the June 2012 Cookbook of the Month! This month we will be cooking from Lisa Fain's The Homesick Texan Cookbook.

If you've never participated in the Cookbook of the Month discussion, we hope you'll give us a try in June. We have a lot of fun, and we learn from each other's experiences. The basics of COTM, and the archive of past books, can be found here:

If you are curious about the selection process, and the accompanying discussion, the voting thread is here:
and the nomination thread is here:

Here are the links to the reporting threads for The Homesick Texan:

Pickles and Preserves; Salsas, Sauces, and Gravies; Morning Food

Appetizers; Chiles, Soups, and Stews; Tex Mex Classics

Beef, Pork, and Fowl; Seafood

Sides Hot and Cold; Breads; Sweets

In addition to using the above threads to report on specific recipes, please feel free to use this thread for general impressions, menu ideas, ingredient sources, and links to online recipes.

The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Here's a link to the Recipe Index at the Homesick Texan's blog site...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      Love the cookbook, will at least be watching, but hope to participate.

      1. re: bayoucook

        Same here. Got the book from the library last night and was surprised (I should have expected it) to see how prominently fresh and dried hot chiles were featured in most recipes. I've just graduated from Rotel to using ancho chile powder. It will be fun to just lurk for now.

    2. Big thanks LN!!

      Looking forward to cooking from this book as the recipes are not especially familiar to us but they sure look and sound appealing! I do have some questions about ingredients and was hoping one of y’all would give a gal a hand:

      Longhorn Cheddar: New to me. LF describes it as being milder than most cheddars. If you’ve worked w it, is this a melty cheddar?

      American Cheese: Is this Velveeta?

      St. Louis Ribs: Huh? I’m assuming this is a cut. Back ribs? Side ribs? Pork? Beef?

      Mexican Red Chorizo: When I first saw this in an ingredient list I was wondering what it was. I later found a recipe for it on pg. 213 of the book. Not all recipes that call for it actually refer back to the recipe for it on p. 213 so I thought I’d post this here in case others share in my confusion.

      14 Replies
      1. re: Breadcrumbs

        I can try to answer some of these questions, not sure if I have the right answers though so others may want to chime in.

        Longhorn Cheddar is a very mild cheddar, also sometimes known as Colby and you can sub Monterey Jack. It is relatively melty but American cheese (which is not real cheese) is meltier.

        American Cheese is a processed cheese of which Velveeta is the most well-known brand, but there are other brands as well. Personally I can't stand the stuff. It melts very well though.

        St. Louis Ribs - a cut of pork spare ribs, see Wikipedia entry for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pork_ribs

        1. re: Westminstress

          Not much information to add, except when you are looking for either Longhorn Cheese or American Cheese:
          I have always found that Longhorn is sold in 1/2 of a round which round was about 8" in diameter.
          I have always found that American cheese has been sold in slices. (Perfect for hamburgers - you would always see the tip of the square outside of the hamburger).

          To me Longhorn cheese is a 'thing past' of my childhood, even though I do see it in some grocery stores;

          the same as American Slices, I sat up and took notice that they are still selling this when my aged father-in-law decided he wanted some cheese and American Cheese was what he wanted. As I recall, DH found some at Costco (some 2 years ago, I believe.) Costco sells other slices of cheese, but are not American. Is not Kraft the main supplier of American Cheese today?

          Colby cheese was used quite a bit for the mixture of cheese, pimentos and mayo.

          1. re: Rella

            Kraft Singles are not cheese but cheese food.
            American cheese is a different product.


            1. re: Berheenia

              I think I may have said somewhere else that Kraft 'was' American cheese after I saw some Kraft cheese slices on a site. I take that back!
              Thanks, Berheenia.

        2. re: Breadcrumbs

          About the chorizo, even though she has a recipe for homemade, I think she assumes you can get this at the grocery store. It would be a very soft, rusty-colored sausage, in a casing, which is always removed from the casing (at least for every application I can think of). Since we've been cooking Spanish for the past month, it's important to understand that this is nothing like Spanish chorizo.

          1. re: Breadcrumbs

            American cheese is real cheese. It is heated with emulsifiers, which allow it to melt without separating.

            Technically and legally,
            Cheddar cheese = 39% moisture (water) and 50% milkfat
            American cheese = 43% moisture (water) and 47 % milkfat

            Velveeta is different-- 60% moisture and 20% milkfat -- it can contain dry milk, whey -- which reduces the amount of cheese in the product.

            American cheese--the flavor is mild, the texture is uniform, but I think it would be hard to find an American who hasn't really enjoyed many a cheeseburger or grilled cheese sandwich made with American cheese.

            The French cheese that comes in the little triangles, The Laughing Cow brand, is also a processed cheese. I'd say the best American cheese is Boar's Head brand. I don't like the individually plastic-wrapped kind -- it can taste of plastic.

            1. re: blue room

              You can count me as an American who doesn't like a hamburger or grilled cheese sandwich made with American cheese. And in fact, I don't like laughing cow either. I do appreciate the correction on my cheese info though!

            2. re: Breadcrumbs

              Breadcrumbs - Here in Washington I can find Mexican chorizo at the supermarket, and an even better selection at our one little Mexican market. If you have a Mexican or Latin American market, you could look for it there. And MelMM is correct, *very* different from Spanish chorizo.

              Wikipedia has an interesting read on American cheese, and mentions that it is sold as Canadian cheese in canada:
              Personally, I would never have it in my house, let alone cook with it. To me, it has a plastic texture and tastes like a petroleum product.
              Snobbily yours,

              1. re: L.Nightshade

                My Canadian husband (as opposed to my other husband/s?) swears that he grew up on "cheese slices" in his grilled cheese, and that it is the same thing we call American cheese. So I'm going to guess that in some form it is available there.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Absolutely LM, we get Kraft singles (and various copy-cat/similar products by other brand names). Sounds as though it's the "fancy stuff" like Boar's Head that we may have trouble finding.

              2. re: Breadcrumbs

                Not sure what brands are available in Toronto (and I've never bought American cheese, myself), but this thread discusses various brands Chowhounds recommend, including the Boar's Head blue room mentions: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/705705

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  Thanks to everyone for all this wonderful information. Other than Velveta and Kraft Singles I don't believe we have anything similar here in therms of the American cheese. I did ask at a small gourmet market today and those 2 were the only they came up w as well. Caitlin thanks for the link to that thread. I've saved it to my profile as there's a lot of useful info there. I'll ask about the Boar's Head brand (thanks too for your input on this blue room) when I'm at my favourite cheese shop. LN thanks for that link too. I've never seen Canadian cheese or Canadian singles as the article suggests. That said, I've never looked for it so who knows. I'm keen to find out now!!

                  For the chorizo, fortunately I do have access to excellent Mexican chorizo however it was LF's distinction of Mexican "Red" Chorizo that threw me off since in some recipes, she simply calls for Mexican Chorizo. I now see that she also has a recipe for Mexican Green Chorizo in the book (another chorizo I've never heard of). I'll ask my Mexican butcher about this. Mel it sounds like you're very knowledgeable regarding chorizo and I'd be interested to get your thoughts on how LF's recipe compares to the ingredients you'd normally expect to see in the Mexican chorizo you purchase.

                  The St Louis ribs look like what we'd just call side ribs (thanks Westminstress). That being the case I may just use baby back ribs since we prefer those and the Dr Pepper Ribs in this book just sound too interesting to pass up.

                  Westminstress thanks too for the info on the Longhorn cheddar. I can definitely get colby cheese so that's a tremendous help!

                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    Kraft singles is American Cheese.
                    American Cheese is Kraft - :-))


                2. re: Breadcrumbs

                  Whenever we bbq ribs we try to get St. Louis style (just our preference) - but have substitued regular spare ribs with no problem. They are clearly labeled as "St. Louis" on the package or in the case.

                3. I got an early start on this book, as I know I'll be doing a lot of traveling later in the month. It's an odd book for me to cook from. I'm a homesick Texan myself, now living in SC. In the early nineties, I went through an experience much like the author's, except even worse. I spent three years in Albany, NY. At that time, I really couldn't get anything there. No tortillas, no decent salsa, a real dearth of ingredients. I remember spending hours on a Saturday morning, making tortillas by hand, making salsa, cooking beans, all just to recreate the breakfast taco that, when living in Austin, I would walk to the corner for and buy for 59 cents.

                  So while I truly appreciate the sentiment behind this book, I find it odd to cook from. Most of this food is stuff I don't need a recipe to cook. And when I read through the book, I find myself shaking my head and mentally arguing with the author. Because I have my own "religion" on how these things should be made. But for this COTM, I will put this aside, as much as possible, and try the recipes and make an honest assessment if someone else's "way" works as well as my way.

                  18 Replies
                    1. re: MelMM

                      I would be very interested to hear your way as well. I didn't cook much before I left Texas and my mother is from Alabama and never embraced Tex-Mex, so most of my love of the food came from restaurants. I have a great appreciation for Lisa Fain because her blog helped me through some very bad bouts of homesickness (enchiladas were the hardest thing for me to get right) after I moved to Montreal after a year in DC. It's also been nice to have her blog to point to when I try to explain to friends here about nachos, queso, or chili without beans. I do find it odd, however, to see recipes for breakfast tacos or biscuits and gravy. I also wish she had given a savory recipe for the kolaches instead of the fruit filling!

                      1. re: TxnInMtl

                        I loved reading your post TxninMtl. Did you find the breakfast tacos and biscuits & gravy recipes odd because you didn't have those in Texas? mr bc & I would love to visit Texas one day (we're drawn to San Antonio but would welcome suggestions for the best food-lover locations). I can only imagine how different Mtl would have been for you! A great food city but nothing like the types of food you'd been accustomed to!

                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          Thanks. Breakfast tacos and biscuits & gravy are a fixture in Texas food. It's more odd to me to see a recipe for something that's as varied as breakfast tacos. For breakfast tacos, I usually just throw whatever leftovers I have in. For biscuits and gravy, I think I still consider that to be normal and something that you wouldn't need to be told to do, despite not having access to decent biscuits unless I cook them myself for several years now.

                          San Antonio is an excellent city to visit. If you're interested in barbeque, you'll probably want to go up to Lockhart, at which point you'll be so close to Austin, you should spend some time there. Austin's Whole Foods is gigantic and worth a visit. My boyfriend is from Sudbury and was sad he didn't get to go ice skating on the roof outside when we were there over Christmas and it was almost 20C. If you want to see more of the German influence on Texas and the bluebonnets in the spring, Fredericksburg is a short drive west of Austin. If I remember correctly, they sell quite a few nice jams and thing like that out there. I'm also hesitant to recommend it because I think of it less as a vacation destination, but Houston's food scene has gotten quite good. San Antonio, Austin, and Houston are all a short drive from each other, so they're feasible for one trip if you have enough time to explore.

                        2. re: TxnInMtl

                          I remember going to a little hole in the wall Tex-Mex place in Montreal when visiting friends. It was pretty good, but it was obvious that, if this was the best the city had to offer (as our friends said it was) then there was work to be done. Has it gotten any better? This was about 5-6 years ago.

                          edit: obviously they have amazing food of other types there!

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            As a general rule with one exception, I avoid all Tex-Mex and Mexican style places in Montreal. We were having dinner with some friends of ours from LA last night though who were raving about a cute Mexican restaurant near them. The city's slowly improving on Mexican I think, but that's a bit different. Oddly enough though, about a year and a half ago, some Australian friends of ours highly recommended a new Chilean place, Icehouse, that's on my way home from work. I stopped in and was looking at the menu for a while thinking that red fish tacos, frito pie, and fried chicken didn't sound very Chilean. Then I noticed that the flag was most definitely a Texas flag (the Chilean is quite similar). The chef is originally from Houston, but has been in Montreal for 20 years or so. The cuisine is more fusion than straight-up Texan and the menu is eclectic to say the least, but the feel of the restaurant reminds me of home and it's the only place in the city that I know of that serves frito pie. If they did brisket and chicken fried steak, it'd be heaven, but their tacos, chili cheese fries, and ribs make up for that. It's not a place I'd take out of town guests when the city has so many more amazing things to offer that are more unique, but their food is good.

                            1. re: TxnInMtl

                              I didn't realize how similar the two flags are!
                              Funny how a mistake led you to a little piece of home in another country.

                              1. re: TxnInMtl

                                Mmmm, frito pie! One of my good friends is from Texas and introduced me to this. She told me that when she first moved to North Carolina she'd rave about it to her friends over and over, and then finally made it for them. They took one taste and looked at her like she was crazy and said "This? This is what you've been raving about?" She gave me her recipe, and I absolutely loved it.

                                Glad you found a place that at least sort of scratches your itch.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  So, frito pie. What is it? Is it actually made from fritos the addictive potato-chip type thing that I've only had once - in Grand Cayman.

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    It is chili (meat only, no beans is Texan standard) ladled over Fritos, topped with grated cheese.

                                    ETA, Fritos are corn chips.


                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                      Sounds like heaven, but how is it different to, say, nachos?

                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        Nachos are pretty "upscale" compared to a Fritos pie. Nachos are broiled with cheese and toppings on a permanent serving dish. A Fritos pie doesn't include that pesky broiler. Instead, the chili and other toppings are dumped into an opened bag.

                                        This is the size bag I would see at the State Fairs:

                                    2. re: greedygirl

                                      This is the best part:
                                      "Typically, it’s served in the bag—you just open up an individual-sized Frito package, ladle on the chili and dip in with your spoon."

                                      1. re: blue room

                                        This is an education! I've never seen it in a bag, but when I was young I remember seeing a Frito pie occasionally at a pot luck. It was always baked in a dish. So I ended up reading Wikipedia on Frito Pie. Looks like it's been around a long time!

                                        1. re: blue room

                                          Wow, I had no idea about the stuff being served in bags! My friend's recipe was made in a pie dish or casserole.

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            Oh, Frito Pie.... When I was in high school, there was a stand just outside the campus, where many of us would grab our lunch. They served... well, I don't remember, but I think hamburgers, maybe hot dogs, and (this part is certain) Frito pie. I would always get Frito pie. It also would be at the kind of concession stand you'd see at a high school football game. They'd take an individual bag of Fritos, slice it open down one of the long sides, and dump a ladle full of chlle over it, and top with onion and cheese. You eat it right out of the sliced-open bag. Heavenly, at least for a teenager. As an adult, I attempt to replicate the experience by putting some tortilla chips in the bottom of my bowl before ladling the chile in. Not the same. If you've looked at the nutritional info on a bag of Fritos, you'll understand why I don't typically serve myself the concession stand version. But for a Superbowl party? Perfect.

                              2. re: MelMM

                                Mel, please, throw caution to the wind and do share your thoughts on how these dishes compare to your Texan meals. I'd love to hear your variations and suggestions. I have so many tabs in this book its ridiculous! Currently I have 11 dishes tabbed that I'd like to make this weekend so at some point between now and tomorrow morning when I go grocery shopping, I'll need to narrow that list!!

                              3. For those of us using the website as our resource, do we just guess which thread a recipe belongs in? Obviously, I wouldn't know if it is actually in the book or the page number. Just need a quick etiquette lesson.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: smtucker

                                  Good question! Can you just put it in the thread corresponding to the type of dish? I know some of the categories won't be completely self-explanatory (Tex Mex Classics, for example), but things like fish or sauces would be easy to place. If you want to be a perfectionist about it, you can view the index with page numbers on Amazon here:
                                  But, as I understand it, not every recipe on the website is in the book. So just take your best shot!

                                2. I don't have the book, but I've looked through the index @ Amazon -- am I correct that neither the site nor the book offer Tamale Pie? I'm surprised at that.

                                  Also, I'm thinking of buying dried chiles from this place:
                                  unless somebody tells me I shouldn't...

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: blue room

                                    Both the book and, the author's blog have been indexed on EYB. I'm not a follower of any blogs but I do have the book on my shelf and I can confirm there isn't a recipe for Tamale Pie in the book. Not sure if EYB allows you search the blog if you're not a member but if so, that may be helpful to folks. I looked through the book recipes on EYB and very few shoe an online recipe. Not sure if that means that the book contains recipes that are not on the blog or, that EYB simply hasn't added links to all the online versions recipes for the book yet.

                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      Just an update to this post. EYB allows members and non-members to search cookbooks and blogs. Also, I just realized that EYB has a relatively new feature that allows you to search recipes from within just one book or blog "Search this book" or "Search this blog" - this makes life MUCH easier!

                                    2. re: blue room

                                      I never saw a tamale pie in Texas when I lived there, but I didn't travel often around the state. I thought they were a California thing. Anyone have a "history of tamale pie" link we could read?

                                      1. re: smtucker

                                        I've never heard of a Tamale Pie so br's post made me curious and hungry! I searched my EYB library and I'm guessing this originated in Mexico since most of my recipes for this dish are in Mexican books (and Ra-Ray!).

                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          Well, I've never had anything called a "Tamale Pie" that I didn't like -- and just assumed that Tex-Mex would be where I'd find it. I do prefer the top to be moist masa rather than cornbread. It's actually just a disc / drum-shaped tamale, I suppose. I first became aware of tamale pie in Tennessee in the 1950s -- my mother probably found it in a "woman's magazine." I wonder when/how *canned* black olives came into the picture.

                                          1. re: blue room

                                            mmmmm, stop it br, I so would like to have myself a lovely Tamale Pie right now!! I'm going to have to make one I guess and would likely start w my Rick Bayless recipe since he seldom (if ever...) disappoints.

                                            1. re: blue room

                                              It's a good assumption that it'd be in a Tex-Mex book/blog. The three other books I have that are focused on Texas cooking (Robb Walsh's Tex-Mex Cookbook, Texas Home Cooking, and The Junior League of Houston's Stop and Smell the Rosemary) all have tamale pie recipes. Walsh's book is great for giving the history of the food, but doesn't mention how the black olives got added.

                                        2. re: blue room

                                          Ha! I have to say, that this seems funny to me. The only time I ever heard of tamale pie, was when, as a high schooler, I took a class from our Southern California power company's home economist. She made tamale pie, from supposed leftovers. I've always considered it a bit of a "fake" California/Tex/Mex dish. But maybe there is real version too.

                                          As for World Spice? The best spices I've ever bought, and the best customer service. I love to go into their store in Seattle, but if I can't make it in, I order by phone or online.

                                          1. re: L.Nightshade

                                            Thank you, World Spice gets my business today!
                                            I have the Robb Walsh book TxnInMtl mentioned, and have found the tamale pie. I sure like the looks of the Homesick Texan tamale fillings though, I'll figure something out. It's only 8 a.m. and I'm ready for (more than one) dinner.

                                            1. re: L.Nightshade

                                              L.Nightshade, I received a box today from World Spice -- Ancho and Guajillo chiles are both plump and fragrant --thank you, I'm very pleased with this place. Also now have both Turkish and Mexican oregano -- haha I feel like quite the gourm ... um ... chowhound. Making my own chorizo next week.
                                              Also bought a fistful of tarragon but cannot for love or money remember what I was gonna use it for!

                                              1. re: blue room

                                                I'm so pleased you are happy with your order!
                                                Our neighborhood has a bank of mailboxes a couple blocks from my house. Even though the spice packages are well sealed, I can tell my spice order has arrived about 10 feet away from the mailboxes. So fragrant!

                                                1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                  This is a place I've ordered from and I was happy with my order, too.
                                                  Thanks for reminding me of World Spice as it's been about 2 years ago, and I've forgotten.

                                          2. I've never been to Texas, but what's interesting to me reading this thread is how a lot of the ingredients just aren't easily available in Europe. For example:

                                            American cheese including Monterey Jack
                                            Many of the chillies
                                            Mexican chorizo

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              There are a few ingredients in your list that might be difficult to find here in the U.S., as well; perhaps Mexican chorizo, tomatillos, many of the chilis, maybe Queso. However, tamales is a completed dish; maybe you mean the husks thingies to make them by hand? I rarely see them either.

                                              1. re: Rella

                                                Rella, you have a hard time finding tomatillos? My local Harris Teeter always has them, let alone the fancier places. You should ask, if you have interest. I'm sure they could get them for you.

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  Yes, I just recently found them recently at FoodMaxx where I have been shopping, but I hadn't seen them anywhere in years. I bought loads at first thinking I'd never see them again, but now I see they have them all the time. I believe I did see them occasionally over the years, but they were sooo tasteless.

                                                  The first time I tasted how good a tomatillo should taste was some years back in Washington State, DH planted them. We've tried here in Virginia two years, but tasteless here - that's it for me raising my own, now that I have a source at FoodMaxx.

                                                  I notice that they have also nopalitos. I may get around to fixing them sometime. http://forkitover.wordpress.com/2009/...


                                                  1. re: Rella

                                                    That salad sounds really good. I've never had them before, and have seen them in the grocery store ... maybe now I have an excuse to try them and not be so daunted.

                                                    1. re: Rella

                                                      I love cactus salad, and Lisa Fain has a recipe for it in the book, I believe. I usually prefer it with some Mexican cheese as part of the mix (I also like my greek salad with feta).

                                                      1. re: Westminstress

                                                        Just a note: I've tried the jarred nopalitos - doesn't taste like much, tho. I assume the book uses the fresh ones.

                                                2. re: greedygirl

                                                  Homemade Fritos...

                                                  Substitute a mild cheddar for American cheese
                                                  Substitute Ricotta for Queso fresco


                                                  Substitute gooseberries, cherry tomatoes or green tomatoes for tomitillos

                                                  Mexican chorizo...

                                                  Tamales consist of a filling wrapped in a leaf. Usually corn husks are used to wrap the filling.

                                                  KIM... a substitute is only an approximation of the missing ingredient. But you knew that GG.

                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                    Thanks Gio. I'm not sure I'll be cooking along much this month as I don't have the book. Maybe some of the internet recipes will take my fancy....

                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                      I just intend to cook from a few of her website recipes as well, GG and that chorizo recipe is on my list to make. At least it gives me a chance to control the ingredients. In Re:

                                                    1. FYI everyone, the July COTM nomination thread has been posted here:

                                                      1. AN EARLY POST-MORTEM – THE HOMESICK TEXAN

                                                        I was so excited about the prospect of cooking from this book. I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Texas or, tasting authentic Tex-Mex cuisine and when I first received this book, I flagged almost every recipe. Everything looked delicious to me!!

                                                        Fast forward to present day and I’m here to report that now, after having prepared 13 recipes from this book, I’m parting company with Ms Fain and retiring this book to my bookshelf.

                                                        There simply haven’t been enough hits from this book for me to continue. I also find that because there are some quirks with the recipes (inconsistencies or errors in directions, relentless use of cumin), I’ve lost faith in the author’s recipes. Because this cuisine is new to me, I don’t have my own instincts as to whether an ingredient, quantity of ingredient(s) or method of preparation is authentic or accurate so this has translated into some failed or, disappointing results.

                                                        Here’s how things played out for me for the 13 dishes I made:

                                                        1 Great Dish – Smoky Tortilla Soup. Loved this. Great balance of flavours and textures. I could have eaten this all day long. Still, an error in the instructions. LF calls for 2 dried pasilla chiles, stems and seeds removed yet has you toast them until “They start to puff” – Unless they’re whole, they won’t puff since there’s no air trapped inside. A novice cook could easily burn these waiting for them to puff.

                                                        4 Good Dishes – Guacamole was good but I’d adapted the recipe by adding red onion and omitting cilantro. Chorizo Empanadas had good flavour but were a bit dry. Error in recipe – instructs to fill shells w 2 tsp of chorizo and should be 2 tbsp. Red Chile Rice – not a traditional recipe from what I understand but I love chipotle so the smoky flavour appealed to me though the rice was a bit stodgy as others noted as well. Pasilla Tomatillo Braised Short Ribs – Good, not the best short ribs we’ve had but still tasty. Better when used in tacos. Same issue w directions on pasilla chili toasting noted above. If I’d left to cook uncovered as LF suggest, there wouldn’t have been any sauce left.

                                                        9 Dishes I wouldn’t repeat or just didn’t like – Jalapeno Buttermilk Dressing was a bit flat and I would have preferred less (or no) mayo and more buttermilk. Jalapeno Pinto Beans were kind of bland, nothing special. Frijoles a la Charra – seemed to be missing something and even though I used just 1 vs 2 chipotles, this was a bit hot for us. Cabbage and Radish Slaw – not great, cumin seeds were completely out of place IMHO. This was better when served inside tacos. Cucumber Salad – yogurt version too thick and gloppy. Textural issues due to salting and draining of cucumbers. Again, what’s with the cumin??? Texas Caviar – fresh-tasting but not as good as other recipes I’ve made for similar dishes. Dr Pepper Ribs – way too hot. Way too much black pepper. We actually couldn’t finish the ribs.

                                                        I’ve posted reviews and photos for all these dishes in the respective COTM threads.

                                                        With so many great T&T books on my shelf and others that are under-used and that I’m keen to cook from, I’ve decided it’s best to cut my losses and move on. I hope to visit past COTM’s and use some of my produce/farm market books for the remainder of the month and, look forward to continuing to read about how others are making out w The Homesick Texan. If someone has a great Tex-Mex book they’d recommend, I’d love to hear about it as I'd be happy to check out more recipes. I did notice that my Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless Mexican books had recipes for some of the dishes in this book so I may turn to them in the future.

                                                        35 Replies
                                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                          Thanks for this, BC. This book was so lauded and it's the sort of thing that makes me wonder if any of the professional critics who reviewed this book and voted for it when awards time came actually cooked from it. I have the feeling everyone liked the IDEA of this book and perhaps cooked from the blog, and didn't really realize that a lot of the recipes that ended up in the book weren't actually from the blog and, if they were, were revised. I'm guessing (based on other people's recipes I've noticed in her blog) that there are some copyright issues with the blog that the publisher wasn't willing to roll with.

                                                          Bummer, I was really looking forward to it. I have only cooked one recipe --which I modified but still had success with--this month so far,but it's been from the blog, not the book.

                                                          But, now I don't want to cook fomr the book at all. Too many cookbooks, too little time. I think I'll dump this book in a swap when the month is over.


                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                            Thanks DQ. There have been some reports of successful dishes this month but for me, this just wan't producing enough hits to continue.

                                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                              I have so little time to cook these days, that I just really don't feel I want to waste any time with an unreliable cookbook. I have too many other books I want to cook from that I know will yield consistently excellent results... And it seems I can do just as well cooking from Fain's blog if I feel I want to try her recipes.



                                                          2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                            Great and helpful post-mortem, BC. Somehow I'm not reading (I'm probably going over it and just not seeing it) what the 1 great dish was.

                                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                                              Thanks Llm, good catch! I was getting ahead of myself. I've ETA that it was the Smoky Tortilla Soup. Delicious!

                                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                See, you get in a hurry, you make a mistake -- I actually thought to myself yesterday that someone was in a hurry when they put the book together.
                                                                I don't know if it is still in place, but the Epicurious site used to have a cookbook review section--anybody remember this? It always included the line: "How much of the book you'll actually use" -- and the answer was always -- 10 to 15% !! I realized this was true for me, for most cookbooks, so I'm no longer disappointed.

                                                                1. re: blue room

                                                                  I've always given myself this leeway/lattitude. "If it has one recipe that I will make that I may make again, then I'm not disappointed."
                                                                  That's really all I'll ever expect.

                                                                  Be that as it may, I didn't purchase Homesick Texan, so I'm not the best of reviewer, but I did make this recipe from the online recipe from Homesick Texan. It is good until I find one that is like the first carrot pickle I ever tasted in San Diego, CA 1964 - yes, I know, that's impossible! :-))


                                                                  1. re: Rella

                                                                    I think 1 recipe that I'll make over and over is worth the price of a book, but a cookbook that has more than that is to be treasured.

                                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                                      Truly so.

                                                                      There is one more recipe I will make from this book this month, and I'm poised!

                                                                      I bought 4 cactus paddles yesterday and they await the recipe from Homesick Texan - I think it is online vs in the book (the book has the salad - online is the casserole, as I understand it). The casserole is the one I prefer, lots of cheese ...

                                                                      Hopefully I'll get to these cactus paddles before they go bad as we are moving an eldery from one state to another and getting him settled the next couple of weeks.

                                                                      Last night I took them out of their plastic package to refrigerate and preserve them the best I can, appropriately. GLOVES REQUIRED!

                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                        You know before I had a cookbook um, problem, and before recipes were copied and bootlegged all over the internet, I used to buy into the rule of thumb that one exceptional recipe was enough to have a book pay for itself. I now own too many cookbooks for that to be my rule of thumb anymore. My standards are higher now.

                                                                        I suppose if the one exceptional recipe were a super detailed, involved recipe, such as Judy Rodgers roast chicken and bread salad, I might keep the book, but barring that, if a book only has one good recipe, I copy the recipe down and release the book back into the wild. Of course, Judy Rodgers entire Zuni Cafe book is fantastic so it's one I keep. This recipe is on the internet, though...

                                                                        A cookbook has to have 5-6 can't-live-without recipes to justify a spot on my shelf these days.


                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          "A cookbook has to have 5-6 can't-live-without recipes to justify a spot on my shelf these days."

                                                                          I certainly agree with that, too. But I find it hard to part with some that I 'think' I might find nirvana from one of these days.

                                                                          Many books in the past that I have parted with, I did scan a recipe or two-three-four-etc. and then sent it on to a library.

                                                                          Before the days of the computer, I had notebooks of xeroxed copies in large notebooks. What a filing problem it also came to be. Eventually, these xeroxed recipes were scanned and are now in my computer.

                                                                          Luckily I have lots of GB's.

                                                                          1. re: Rella

                                                                            Oh, yeah, I have plenty of books that are more or less untested that I'm hanging onto because I'm not sure whether or not there are 5-6 good recipes in there. I have a hard time getting rid of those, too. But, the ones where I've cooked from them and have only found one or two great recipes and I feel ho-hum about 5 or 6 others I've tried, I'll probably get rid of those.

                                                                            LulusMom you crack me up.


                                                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                            My bookshelves completely agree with you.

                                                                2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                  I'm sorry to hear that HT didn't work out better for you. Oddly enough, I find myself losing interest in this book lately too, although I think I've had a slightly better success rate. I agree that most of the recipes seem to have some issues though.

                                                                  As far as other book suggestions, Robb Walsh's Tex-Mex Cookbook is good if you want the history of the food, but I rarely feel inspired to make the recipes. They tend to be more basic or there to show you how the food has evolved. Texas Home Cooking has a lot more recipes, but I've found it hard to get excited by any of them.

                                                                  One book I think you might like is Stop and Smell the Rosemary by the Junior League of Houston (indexed on EYB). It's not Tex-Mex specific (no taco or enchilada recipes, although there are several salsas), but does have a lot of nice recipes and the influence of Mexican food is there. I haven't made HT's Jalapeno Buttermilk Dressing, but I love the cilantro jalapeno dressing recipe from this book, although it may have too much mayo for you (1 cup mayo, 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1 bunch chopped cilantro, 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 3 chopped scallions, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1/2 - 2 jalapenos, 2 tbsp worcestershire, 1 tsp paprika, salt, and pepper).

                                                                  Maybe other people will have some better suggestions.

                                                                  1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                    Yes, I have "Tex-Mex" too, and it's a joy to read the stories. The recipes are simple, but maybe quite authentic?
                                                                    Regarding "Homesick...", I've been introduced to actual peppers (as opposed to chili powder) and Pastoral Tacos (had never heard of 'em -- love 'em now) Very glad to have discovered entomatadas, like enchiladas only delightfully different.
                                                                    Also glad to know how eeezy it is to make chorizo, in a pan in my kitchen!.
                                                                    So, I'm not so experienced with the ingredients, which makes it valuable to me. I've surely found enough to *not* toss the whole Texan. (I haven't yet made the Dr. Pepper Peanut Brittle :) !!
                                                                    OT -- do we really have to call it post mortem ? "post libro" maybe would be more appetizing? Haha-- I tried translating "Cookbook of the Month" into Latin -- it came back "Cookbook Mensis." Not so appetizing either.

                                                                    1. re: blue room

                                                                      LOL, BR.
                                                                      Try one of these...
                                                                      Libro di cucina del Mese = Italian
                                                                      Livre de cuisine du mois = French
                                                                      Libro de cocina del Mes = Spanish

                                                                  2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                    The only recipe I've made so far this month is a mayo-chipotlle concoction slathered on chicken pieces and roasted. It really didn't speak Tex-Mex to me but it was pretty good. I got it from the blog so I don't know if it's in the book or accurate.

                                                                    The one and only time I was in Texas (on a two week business trip - in JULY - for goodness sakes) it was so hot no one I was with even Thought of eating so I got very little experience with Tex-Mex food. At The Mansion in Turtle Creek we feasted on cold seafood salad and ice cold sparkling wine... how inappropriate.

                                                                    One of the people who represented the company I managed at the time had a huge catered Texas barbeque for us Northern Yankees. As as I recall it was a large slab of meat with a watery red sauce that had no flavor. Thank goodness her great room was air conditioned. This experience had me thinking as I read LF's recipe that there'd be very little that would please me. I was right. Guess I'll just stop now, while I'm ahead. Gosh, and there's 2 1/2 weeks to go....

                                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                                      Oh but the Mansion in Turtle Creek is one very special place! But their catering manager did love seafood that had to be jetted in daily.

                                                                      Your catered meal doesn't sound like a great representation of Tex-Mex though. While living in Texas, I did enjoy Texas style BBQ but once I found real Mexican food, I generally avoided Tex-Mex which I found to be mostly lots of cheap cheese with insipid cooked sauces. I will say that some of my best meals in Texas were in friend's mother's homes, not restaurants.

                                                                      1. re: smtucker

                                                                        Thanks, SMT... pitiful wasn't it. I'm Very partial to Mexican food, Tex-Mex not so much, I'm afraid. But, you're right. That was not a very good first experience.

                                                                    2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                      Thanks for starting what I've been hesitant to do. I too am leaving this book behind early. Mostly because I have a lot to do this week (my last week at my current job), and then I'll be traveling for the rest of the month. But also because I feel like I've already made everything I want to make from this book. I mentioned at the start of this month that it was an odd book for me to cook from, because I already make a lot of this stuff. The thing is, the recipes that most appeal to me out of the book are for things I already know how to make, and have been making for almost as long as this author has been alive. And not surprisingly, I tend to like my version a lot better than the author's.

                                                                      That's not to say that there are not some solid recipes in this book. I liked the seafood cocktail quite a bit, even though it was different than mine, it was different enough that it will stay with me as a different dish altogether. Recipes for salsas, I invariably like my own better. Ditto enchiladas. I wasn't going to do chile. I like mine, and I could tell I wouldn't like hers as much. I also wasn't going to do do "small apartment" versions of things that call for a grill or smoker. No oven-baked brisket for me. Sorry, just no need (or desire) to go there. But for all of these, if you didn't already know how to make the dish, you could do worse than to follow her recipe. We enjoyed the meatloaf (which is, unbelievably, a new dish for me), but I suspect that those of you who already have a great meatloaf in your repertoire (probably most of you) will like your own better.

                                                                      I have a whole collection of Texas cookbooks I've accumulated over the years. This one just doesn't stand up to most of the others. It's prettier than most, but the beauty contest is the only one it places in (and even there not first place - see Texas, The Beautiful Cookbook).

                                                                      I think a lot of the hype for this book was generated in the blogosphere. Bloggers promote each others books. It's an I-scratch-your-back... relationship. I don't follow the author's blog, but I do follow some blogs, and many of them promoted this book. Increasingly, I am wary of this. I do think there are bloggers out there who are excellent cooks, but in general, success in blogging tends to go to those who are skilled in photography and/or writing, and of course social networking and self-promotion help too.

                                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                                        Good post Mel. I put this in the "flavor of the month club." Pioneer Woman is in that club as well. They are decent enough home cooks who have invested a huge number of hours to developing a following. Many of "their" recipes are actually modified versions of more experienced chefs and cookbook authors.

                                                                        1. re: smtucker

                                                                          I think a lot of bloggers think poaching other people's recipes is fine as long as they give credit. And I see that Lisa Fain does write a long personal essay introducing each recipe, which is accompanied by some lovely photos. That level of writing and photography is a lot more work than it seems, and I guess it's enough to develop a blog following. But, I'd rather just go back to the original source rather than have someone like Lisa Fain filter the recipes for me. I'm already aware of Diane Kennedy, thank you very much.

                                                                          But this blogging culture of "I'll link to you if you'll link to me" and "I'll comment on your posts if you comment on mine, " or even lazier, "I'll like your posts if you like mine" to generate a faux following really irritates me. I maintain a very focused (non-food) blog and I get all kinds of bloggers who will "like" every post of mine --even the ones that are nothing more than a link to a relevant news story-- for a week or two hoping I'll come to their (not quite on-topic) blogs and return the "liking" favor. Or just to generate traffic to their site.

                                                                          I've actually even felt guilted into adding them onto my "blogroll" (bah, I don't even like that expression) after which they stop "liking" and commenting on my posts, apparently having achieved their objective of gaining another faux follower. It's really phony and superficial and I hate it. I've deleted all of those types from my blog roll and don't link to anyone unless I think their content is genuinely of use to my small cadre of very focused readers.

                                                                          Now, I know there are bloggers out there who do genuinely create their own content and deserve their huge followings, but it's hard sometimes to separate the pretenders from the real deal. For instance, Andrea Nguyen's blog is the real deal. Is SmittenKitchen's blog the real deal? I've heard a lot about it but never even looked at it. Pioneer Woman I avoid like the plague because her whole premise seems phony to me based on what is known about her actual lifestyle.

                                                                          Also, I don't have a lot of time to chase disparate voices all over the internet. I'd rather come to a place like chowhound where there are many voices in a central, concentrated place. And who contribute something when they have something of value to say, rather than churning out regular content (even if it's not their own) so they can maintain their faux followings.


                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                            Smitten Kitchen is barely adapting other people's recipes too. All she has is wonderful food photography and very good writing. She's bringing a cookbook out by the way, promising all new, original material.

                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              It isn't possible to know the politics, ethics, or motives of the cookbook authors; I can only know what I think of the food in front of me!
                                                                              That said, I like your posts the best, DQ ;-)

                                                                              1. re: blue room

                                                                                I like yours, too. :). You're right though, at the end of the day, I suppose all that matters is great food. If someone introduces you to a recipe, even if it isn't their own, it is a valuable service to cooking hounds like us!


                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  I'm *almost* sure every recipe I've done from David Lebovitz came from someone else. Alice Medrich cookies, etc. He credits them, of course. But for some non-explainable reason he has more stature in my eyes than others who do the same. Maybe it is a question of style, rather than skill, when swiping supper schemes.

                                                                                  1. re: blue room

                                                                                    Good point. However, the thing about Lebovitz is that he adds incredible value when he remakes a recipe. He almost always tweaks it and makes it better or illuminates some part of the process and/or ingredients. He is an expert in his own right, with a reputation that preceded blogging. (Much in the same way Andrea Nguyen is, I think.)


                                                                                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    I think that's the biggest value I've gotten from bloggers. Before I found CH's homecooking, they introduced me to recipes and cookbook authors that I never would've found before. The pictures and helpful instructions also make it a lot easier if you didn't grow up in a household that cooks (or even if you did but never paid attention I suppose). As I've gotten more comfortable with cooking, I use blogs less (and CH more) and am more frustrated by some of the bloggers, but I do appreciate the gateway that they gave me.

                                                                                    1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                                      Interesting! I found CH first, so perhaps that's why I don't have a whole lot of interest in home cooking bloggers. Honestly, I find the step by step photos that Pioneer Woman posts to be excrutiatingly boring to follow. I just need a couple of key shots and well-edited, descriptive directions.


                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        Oh I can't handle the amount of photos she posts, but the Smitten Kitchen ones have reassured me I was headed in the right direction when I first started trying some of the recipes. I don't understand how PW has such a following, but to each their own.

                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          TDQ, like you, I find all those step-by-step pictures to be overkill. In most blogs, whether they are showing step-by-step or just too many pictures of the final product, I feel like the blogger is in love with their own photos and doesn't get the value of editing. Less can be more! One picture of the final product is enough for me, I only want to see technique pictures if the technique actually needs illustrating.

                                                                                          One blog I love: The Tipsy Baker. She rarely posts recipes at all. The premise is cooking from cookbooks and reviewing them, although the blog often strays from the original concept. She is a professional writer. The writing is witty without any of the flowery "see how I can write" crap that is on many blogs where the blogger is trying to prove what a great writer they are. The photography is unapologetically awful. Nothing is staged or "styled". Everything is not beautiful. And there is none of this BS raving about other blogs, other bloggers books, products that are paying for promotion. I think it's the most honest blog I've seen.

                                                                                          1. re: MelMM


                                                                                            Fun blog! I've actually heard about her book. I'm intrigued now! Thank you!


                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                              I enjoyed her book a lot (tipsy baker). I'm thinking of making my own cheese thanks to her (my husband rolled his eyes though).

                                                                            2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                              Well, I was definitely enamored with this book when I first got it and thought it a good read. Also, I've never been a fan of Tex-Mex, but knew that might be a prejudiice I should re-examine. So I was glad it was selected as a COTM as I knew I'd finally actually try some of the recipes. And I have tried a few though I haven't yet reported as I've been traveling. What I found was that I was more attracted to condiments, relishes, etc., but found it difficult to get inspired by the recipes for mains or sides. I just knew I wouldn't like the Sour Cream Enchiladas as much as a couple of similar enchiladas dishes already in my repertoire (and we didn't).

                                                                              You, bc, have given HT more than the olld college try, and I trust your assessment. I may try another couple of recipes once I get home, but my sense too is that I'll be moving on.

                                                                              That said, even when the cookbook doen't deliver as I'd hoped, I never regret cooking from COTM. I learn so much from these experiences.

                                                                            3. This from wikipedia, it describes very well what I expected from Tex-Mex:
                                                                              "Some ingredients are common in Mexican cuisine, but other ingredients not typically used in Mexico are often added. Tex-Mex cuisine is characterized by its heavy use of melted cheese, meat (particularly beef and pork), beans, and spices, in addition to Mexican-style tortillas. Texas-style chili con carne, chili con queso, nachos, and fajitas are all Tex-Mex inventions. Moreover, Tex-Mex has imported flavors from other spicy cuisines, such as the use of cumin (common in Indian cuisine, but used in only a few central Mexican recipes).

                                                                              1. I'm doing my end review now because we're leaving on vacation this weekend and I won't have much of an opportunity to cook for the rest of the month. I have to admit that I lost interest a bit in this book in the middle of the month, but looking back on this book, overall, it's a success. I also still have quite a few recipes that I'd like to return to when time permits.

                                                                                The recipes that will be joining my regular rotation are:
                                                                                Watermelon Salsa - it was incredibly refreshing, different, and good (omit the cumin)
                                                                                Breakfast sausage - this satisfies a childhood craving
                                                                                Chorizo Empanadas - I've only received raves when I've served them. I think they will become a party staple for me.
                                                                                Mexican Red Chorizo - I had no idea chorizo was so easy to make. I don't think I'll go back to storebought.
                                                                                Houston-style flour tortillas

                                                                                Other recipes tried that were good:
                                                                                Salsa Fuego
                                                                                Black Bean Dip
                                                                                Queso Cookies
                                                                                Chorizo-stuffed Jalapenos
                                                                                Pasilla Tomatillo Braised Short Ribs
                                                                                Dr. Pepper Ribs (I reduced the rub a bit and used the slow cooker)
                                                                                Jalapneo Mustard Roast Chicken - this was my first time spatchcocking and it worked great
                                                                                Pasilla Garlic Shrimp

                                                                                These are also recipes I've used in the past from her blog that I haven't had time to compare to the book, but enjoyed:
                                                                                Chile con queso - I still can't believe none of the Mexican restaurants in Montreal serve queso
                                                                                Chicken-fried steak
                                                                                Cornbread - my go-to recipe
                                                                                Corn tortillas
                                                                                San Antonio-style flour tortillas
                                                                                Apple cheese scones with jalapenos

                                                                                I'd also like to highly recommend the pasilla enchiladas with ground beef on her blog.

                                                                                I did have one failure, the tomato cobbler, but all in all, I think this was an excellent success ratio.

                                                                                It saddens me that this book doesn't seem to have worked for many people. I readily admit that many of the recipes have shortcomings (and I'm a bit biased towards the cuisine), but I can't think of a better source for Tex-Mex food (although if someone has one, I'd love to know). I'm also grateful to COTM this month for the biscuit discussion. I never would've tried her method, but I was encouraged by others' success and I want to try it with my usual recipe when I have a bit more time.

                                                                                1. As the month ends, I only did about a dozen from "Homesick.." There are several dishes in this book that I knew would be good, like enchiladas and breakfast sausage and the chorizo empanadas, foods that are familiar with familiar ingredients. So I enjoyed discovering the Pastoral Tacos, and Strawberry Spoonbread -- I'm still talking about that. Also the Entomatadas -- that clean tomato and cilantro taste is different from the usual (great) chile-on-cheese, I'm glad I found it.
                                                                                  I loved the Sweet Potato Biscuits with Chorizo Cream Gravy, learned to (it's a snap) make chorizo at home. Sopapillas! Nothing better. I don't have the background to bristle at cumin in the food -- it seems natural to me, a Tex-Mex flavor. But I saw completely by accident that her 'family files' grapefruit poundcake is almost identical to a lemon poundcake in Epicurious -- that's not right, in a published cookbook. The cake is excellent, though! I suppose both families could have had the same recipe for years, but it looks bad.
                                                                                  I was grateful to finally buy and use actual chiles, not chili powder.
                                                                                  As others said, the Tomato Cobbler wasn't a success.
                                                                                  I still want to make the Tortilla Soup that Breadcrumbs loved. I am in awe of the salsas and spiced fruits and sauces that some here made. Glad I bought the book, will continue to cook from it.