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The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos

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Join Texas food writer Robb Walsh on a grand tour complete with larger-than-life characters, colorful yarns, rare archival photographs, and a savory assortment of crispy, crunchy Tex-Mex foods. From the Mexican pioneers of the sixteenth century, who first brought horses and cattle to Texas, to the Spanish mission era when cumin and garlic were introduced, to the 1890s when Join Texas food writer Robb Walsh on a grand tour complete with larger-than-life characters, colorful yarns, rare archival photographs, and a savory assortment of crispy, crunchy Tex-Mex foods. From the Mexican pioneers of the sixteenth century, who first brought horses and cattle to Texas, to the Spanish mission era when cumin and garlic were introduced, to the 1890s when the Chile Queens of San Antonio sold their peppery stews to gringos like O. Henry and Ambrose Bierce, and through the chili gravy, combination plates, crispy tacos, and frozen margaritas of the twentieth century, all the way to the nuevo fried oyster nachos and vegetarian chorizo of today, here is the history of Tex-Mex in more than 100 recipes and 150 photos. Rolled, folded, and stacked enchiladas, old-fashioned puffy tacos, sizzling fajitas, truck-stop chili, frozen margaritas, Frito™ Pie, and much, much more, are all here in easy-to-follow recipes for home cooks. The Tex-Mex Cookbook will delight chile heads, food history buffs, Mexican food fans, and anybody who has ever woken up in the middle of the night craving cheese enchiladas.


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Join Texas food writer Robb Walsh on a grand tour complete with larger-than-life characters, colorful yarns, rare archival photographs, and a savory assortment of crispy, crunchy Tex-Mex foods. From the Mexican pioneers of the sixteenth century, who first brought horses and cattle to Texas, to the Spanish mission era when cumin and garlic were introduced, to the 1890s when Join Texas food writer Robb Walsh on a grand tour complete with larger-than-life characters, colorful yarns, rare archival photographs, and a savory assortment of crispy, crunchy Tex-Mex foods. From the Mexican pioneers of the sixteenth century, who first brought horses and cattle to Texas, to the Spanish mission era when cumin and garlic were introduced, to the 1890s when the Chile Queens of San Antonio sold their peppery stews to gringos like O. Henry and Ambrose Bierce, and through the chili gravy, combination plates, crispy tacos, and frozen margaritas of the twentieth century, all the way to the nuevo fried oyster nachos and vegetarian chorizo of today, here is the history of Tex-Mex in more than 100 recipes and 150 photos. Rolled, folded, and stacked enchiladas, old-fashioned puffy tacos, sizzling fajitas, truck-stop chili, frozen margaritas, Frito™ Pie, and much, much more, are all here in easy-to-follow recipes for home cooks. The Tex-Mex Cookbook will delight chile heads, food history buffs, Mexican food fans, and anybody who has ever woken up in the middle of the night craving cheese enchiladas.

30 review for The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Jandrok

    Wow, how the years have passed and the times have changed where my reviews are concerned. I originally wrote this one a LONG time ago as a short review for Amazon, trying to adhere to the “shorter is better” concept of reviewing. As time has gone by I have realized that I enjoy fleshing things out a bit more and going into more detail. That and the fact that I write these reviews primarily for my own enjoyment and as a creative outlet of sorts…..well, I can be downright wordy. Some people dig it Wow, how the years have passed and the times have changed where my reviews are concerned. I originally wrote this one a LONG time ago as a short review for Amazon, trying to adhere to the “shorter is better” concept of reviewing. As time has gone by I have realized that I enjoy fleshing things out a bit more and going into more detail. That and the fact that I write these reviews primarily for my own enjoyment and as a creative outlet of sorts…..well, I can be downright wordy. Some people dig it, some don’t. It’s a way for me to track my reading habits and document what I think are important aspects of the books that I care enough about to actually review. I thought back to this review when I recently learned of the closing of a long-time Houston Tex-Mex restaurant named Fiesta Loma Linda. We lived close to that classic joint back when we lived in H-Town and they knew us by name, welcomed us as regulars, and always went out of their way to take care of us. The waitstaff and cooks were tremendous. It was truly a family-run establishment, and it showed. Great Gods and Goddesses, the puffy queso shells were to DIE for. We would visit there whenever we went back to Houston for any reason, sometimes making the trip from Central Texas for no other reason than to dine on the best Tex-Mex known to man. But it’s gone now, after 62 years in business, no explanation given. Shuttered. The end of an era. Fortunately for us we live in South Central Texas, near Austin and San Antonio. This area of the state is basically Mecca for Tex-Mex enthusiasts, and we have many fine eateries across the $$ spectrum to choose from when we want to grub down some enchiladas or tacos. And of course we do some home cooking of the cuisine ourselves. Taco Tuesday IS a real thing here, and we usually pay our respects in proper form. Which brings me to The Tex-Mex Cookbook, written by Robb Walsh. Here is my original review from back in the day: “This book is a must have if you enjoy border cooking. Let's put it this way....if you spend any time at all searching for the perfect cheese enchilada at hole-in-the-wall restaurants, you need this book. If you've ever overstuffed yourself on Chuy's ‘Elvis Presley Memorial Platter’, you have to have this. If the smell of taco seasonings and the sound of sizzling fajitas brings you running, then this book will be your bible. Equal parts cookbook and culinary anthropology, ‘The Tex-Mex Cookbook’ breaks this often misunderstood regional style of cooking down into its component parts. Walsh carefully explains the background history of each dish and then provides easy to follow recipes so that you can try making your favorite treats at home. The material is enhanced by dozens and dozens of archival black and white photographs that act like a window straight into the heart and soul of Tex-Mex cooking. There are also many interesting sidebars that help to illustrate the depth and complexity of this tremendous and authentic cuisine.” Short but sweet, yes. Pretty accurate, too. The book itself really IS more in line with cultural anthropology, as it explains why Tex-Mex is an important regional cuisine. It also makes a clear distinction between Tex-Mex and interior Mexican cooking, which is a totally different style of presentation and taste. And the pictures alone are worth the price of the book. Born of ranch cooking and the need to use cheap and readily available ingredients, Tex-Mex has grown into an industry all to itself. I personally loved the stories of the San Antonio Chili Queens preparing massive cauldrons of steaming hot bowls of red to feed the hungry range hands. Most of the recipes are easy to follow and perfectly adapted to home use, though I have honestly not tried very many of them. I have my OWN recipe for chili, thank you very much. I really bought the book more for the history and the photos, the fact that it’s also a cookbook was just added bonus material for me. There are many restaurants highlighted in the text. One of the big highlights is the profile of Matt’s El Rancho, an Austin landmark that serves some of the tastiest and most authentic Tex-Mex fare anywhere. Understanding border food culture is an important stepping stone to understanding South Central Texas itself. That meeting of Germanic and Czech immigrants and the indigenous migrants who flooded the area looking for opportunity made for a heady mix of cooking and brewing styles, all blended together in delicious harmony. There is no other regional cuisine quite as rich in history and myth as Tex-Mex. As a cultural artifact alone, this book is worth 5 stars. And just so you know…...Fiesta Loma Linda is profiled on pages 140-145, along with the recipe for their divine pecan pralines, which were a complimentary dessert candy provided along with every meal. That recipe is all that I have left of Loma Linda now…..I’ll have to make a bittersweet batch once in a while when we do Taco Tuesdays…...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Neil P

    My copy of The Tex-Mex Cookbook is a splattered mess, a testament to how often I use it. The recipes are as delicious as they are simple. After dinner is underway, read some of the wonderful histories about the dishes and the people who created them that are sprinkled throughout the book. I wish every cookbook was written like this!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Edna Lucia

    Wonderfully illustrated history of Tex-Mex, this book should be required reading for all Texpats abroad.

  4. 5 out of 5

    J

    As a Texan, a cook, and a fan of Tex-Mex food, I found this book to be a great resource. Tex-Mex cuisine is unique, and this book explores the origins of all my favorites dishes. Loved the history, photos, and recipes. This would make a great gift for anyone you know that loves Texas and its favorite Tex-Mex dishes.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kay Deal

    I'm originally a Texas girl and this is a go to Tex-Mex go to cookbook. Try the tortilla recipe - damn, it's good! Bought this book forever ago but I recently bought the digital book version so I have it when I'm on the go.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Great history book, but there was much more history than there were recipes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    A fun history to read, but no recipes I want to try.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Meg Jordan

    I love this cookbook! Unfortunately, my Great Dane puppy chewed it up :(

  9. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    I really like this book, liked reading about the beginning of the Mexican good experience..Recipes are good and easy:))

  10. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    Another cookbook I've bought for my Kindle for ease of use in the kitchen. I love the down home simplicity of the recipes and clear description of ingredients. Mostly though I have enjoyed reading the history of the borderland foods, and the glimpses of people and kitchens. I'm interested in tasty easy food and this book delivered.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dixie Diamond

    Mom and I met up for dinner tonight and Mom promised to give me her charro beans, since she almost never likes beans. Out of curiosity, though, she tasted them first . . . and the proceeded to finish off the whole bowl. She also got an order to take home. I came home and went through all my Texas cookbooks looking for beans and this one looks closest, right down to the jalapeño rings. I think I'll have to try this one instead next time instead of the usual ranch beans. This is a fun read. It's not Mom and I met up for dinner tonight and Mom promised to give me her charro beans, since she almost never likes beans. Out of curiosity, though, she tasted them first . . . and the proceeded to finish off the whole bowl. She also got an order to take home. I came home and went through all my Texas cookbooks looking for beans and this one looks closest, right down to the jalapeño rings. I think I'll have to try this one instead next time instead of the usual ranch beans. This is a fun read. It's not exactly a surprise, at least not to those of us who grew up eating Americanized Mexican and Mexican-ish food: It's make-do food. Use what you have and make it taste as good as possible. I love this for simple comfort food and for starting-point recipes to try out new ideas. * * * * * * * * * * * * * Notes on the tangia (Berber chili, page 48): 1) Cook it covered. It doesn't say to but it clearly needs it. We used a large, flat, Corning dish but a Dutch oven would do really well. 2) Trim the meat well. This will be fatty. Get used to the idea now. 3) We thought it needed more seasoning, but since seasoning is a matter of preference, and it's entirely possible that our spices are too old and have lost some of their punch, I won't count that against it. 4) We failed to budget our time well and only cooked it two hours, but it was still super tender. 5) We splurged on lamb for the test run, but it would be a terrific way to cook cheap, lean, cuts of beef since it stews for hours in its own juices. I could absolutely see myself expanding on the basic idea and adding tomatoes, messing with the spice mix, etc., to make an easy weekend meal. It would probably work in Crock-Pot, too (I don't have one, but isn't slow cooking the whole point?). I ate it over rice. It's quite rich, and I tend to feel like anything that at all resembles either chili or gumbo and doesn't have a starch cooked into it tastes better over rice, but I don't know that that's authentic. I don't really care if it's authentic or not, though, since it tasted so good.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amri

    Cookbook FAIL. There are only a few recipes and even fewer of them inspired me to make them and I'm not a judgy cook. But as a history of Tex-Mex, it's very interesting. He follows interesting trends in Tex-Mex and I've learned that real, true Tex-Mex is kinda mediocre. Everyone says oh, I hate real Mexican food but Tex-Mex? yum. Well, it seems that Tex-Mex is the cheap enchiladas with red sauce and onions. It's chili with ground beef and no beans. I mean, I like this stuff but whatever the "fus Cookbook FAIL. There are only a few recipes and even fewer of them inspired me to make them and I'm not a judgy cook. But as a history of Tex-Mex, it's very interesting. He follows interesting trends in Tex-Mex and I've learned that real, true Tex-Mex is kinda mediocre. Everyone says oh, I hate real Mexican food but Tex-Mex? yum. Well, it seems that Tex-Mex is the cheap enchiladas with red sauce and onions. It's chili with ground beef and no beans. I mean, I like this stuff but whatever the "fusion" is that makes these foods more interesting, have more vegetables, legumes etc is much better. This makes me a white person, doesn't it? Dammit. Also, it turns out the French like Tex-Mex, except they make their enchiladas with gruyere.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lise Petrauskas

    Very delicious and easy recipes stripped to their simplest and most authentic form. The beef and potato tamale filling is so good. Made it for our Christmas tamales last year and it's a keeper. I also particularly love the stacked enchiladas and have made them for Christmas in years past. The from scratch yet easy enchilada sauce especially was a revelation. Once I grew enough pasilla negra chilies to make it homegrown, too. The history and photographs documenting the development of Tex-Mex are Very delicious and easy recipes stripped to their simplest and most authentic form. The beef and potato tamale filling is so good. Made it for our Christmas tamales last year and it's a keeper. I also particularly love the stacked enchiladas and have made them for Christmas in years past. The from scratch yet easy enchilada sauce especially was a revelation. Once I grew enough pasilla negra chilies to make it homegrown, too. The history and photographs documenting the development of Tex-Mex are interesting, with some really good stories of the personalities and practices of the folks who ran and in some cases still run some of the legendary carts and restaurants where real Tex-Mex comes from. This book was brought back to us from Texas as a gift and I have since bought it for my mom.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tig

    The recipes alone are well worth the price of this cookbook. The history behind the recipes, as well as the people and the restaurants, made it even better. I taught a cooking class of 6 students how to make the Original Cheese Enchiladas recipe from this book, along with a few other TexMex recipes, and one of the many positive comments made to me by my students was that eating my TexMex was a religious experience for her. I concur. The first time that I made the Cheese Enchiladas, I thought tha The recipes alone are well worth the price of this cookbook. The history behind the recipes, as well as the people and the restaurants, made it even better. I taught a cooking class of 6 students how to make the Original Cheese Enchiladas recipe from this book, along with a few other TexMex recipes, and one of the many positive comments made to me by my students was that eating my TexMex was a religious experience for her. I concur. The first time that I made the Cheese Enchiladas, I thought that I was going to cry from happiness. I am not able to get real TexMex food where I live, unless I make it myself. I am so happy to have found this cookbook.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Msgold

    The recipes in this book are very economical and delicious. Last night I made the cheese enchiladas with chili gravy...they really tasted great. So far I have also used the recipes for mango salsa, pico de gallo, arroz con pollo, and stewed chicken, and they all came out really well. There is also a recipe for something called fritoque, which is made with old tortilla chips and a can of refried beans. There are also a lot of explanations about how some of the recipes came about. If you are tryin The recipes in this book are very economical and delicious. Last night I made the cheese enchiladas with chili gravy...they really tasted great. So far I have also used the recipes for mango salsa, pico de gallo, arroz con pollo, and stewed chicken, and they all came out really well. There is also a recipe for something called fritoque, which is made with old tortilla chips and a can of refried beans. There are also a lot of explanations about how some of the recipes came about. If you are trying to improve your menu and food budget, this book could really help out in many ways.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Lavishly illustrated with historical photos and accounts, this book is as much fun to read for the cultural history as it is to use for cooking. They also include profiles of key cooks and restaurant managers who helped introduce new dishes along the way like the frozen margarita. The recipes include traditional techniques and modern adjustments for convenience, and are clearly written for any level of cook.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    I've had this cookbook for awhile but never really sat down and looked at it. It gives a wonderful, but brief, history of Tex-Mex food in the United States, the food that most people think of as Mexican but is really a hybrid. Mexican food is like US food, some similar things that are made differently from region to region (think corn bread) and some just served in each region. I found a few recipes in here I really want to try, so far I'd only used the recipe for frijoles refritos.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    It's my favorite kind of cookbook: one that has both recipes AND history. Walsh discusses Tex-Mex from its origins in the 19th century (and earlier), through its disparagement by Diana Kennedy in the 1970s, and on to its expansion throughout the United States and the world -- even, weirdly, into Mexico itself. ¡Viva la Tex-Mex!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aileen

    I like the collection of stories, pictures, and experiences of this book better than the recipes, but I think that I will always appreciate this cookbook as a jumping off point. Right now I'm still so new to Tex-Mex and I'm always very hesitant to experiment around with cooking styles that are unfamiliar to me. I love this gift and will always treasure what it stands for!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    A really unique cookbook that mixes great historical stories in with some great recipes. Just be aware that the majority of these recipes are more complex to make. Relocating to South Texas two years ago and LOVING San Antonio, I was interested in the stories Mr. Walsh included and found them fascinating.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Really awesome recipes and some good historical references about Tex-Mex food and how some stuff originated. I would highly recommend it to any Texan who is unlucky enough to be out there in the big, old world and unable to get some decent Tex-Mex. This book will help you make it yourself!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Try the chocolate flan cake..... you won't regret it. This cake haunted me, calling me to the frig for "just one more slice" till it was gone. If you are trying to lose weight, don't bake this, but if you are a lover of food and say " oh heck" enjoy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marcia Chapman

    This is a fantastic cookbook with lots of history and straightforward recipes. Cowboy beans taste just like restaurants and are easy to make (and healthy). Don't mix your peppers up. My Macho Chile is a bit more macho than I think it's supposed to be!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Macario

    Tried and true Tex-Mex recipes that I have used for a couple of years now at home. Excellent Tamale recipe. This book outlines a lot of historical information as it pertains to Tex Mex cooking and what brought about this style of cooking here and around the world.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    Fascinating look at the history of Tex-Mex cooking in Texas. However, it will make you reevaluate what you think you know about Tex-Mex. I finally decided "oh to hell with it, I'll just eat whatever tastes good to me." Which is really the best way to eat, period.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Orman

    I mainly studied this book for recipes where green chile could be used==lots of it!. I really liked the ones for tamales, West Texas enchiladas, tacos--and those delightful Margarita drinks! Great recipes with many helpful and colorful photos!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ann Contella

    Recipes from some of my favorite Texas restaurants, and loaded with extremely interesting history. Immigrant experience, Chili Queens, cowboys, and much more! I recently moved from Texas to Oregon. This make me miss this yummy cuisine even more than I already did.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Made first recipe from this book this week. Big hit, and mole sauce is REALLY easy!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    Although parts of the history sections were somewhat interesting, I wasn't interested in any of the recipes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    I wasn't sure whether I was buying this for the recipes or the history--in the end, I bought it for both.

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