Maria's Taco Xpress

Maria Corbalan and Ruth Carter

Reviewed by Virginia B. Wood, Fri., May 20, 2011

The Recipes Behind the Restaurants

Maria's Crazy Kitchen – Recipes From Maria Corbalan and Austin's Famous Taco Xpress

by Maria Corbalan and Ruth Carter
Self-published, 25 pp., $29.95

This recipe collection from one of Austin's best loved taquerias is not only useful as a cookbook, it is a genuine piece of local folk art, lovingly handcrafted by authors Maria Corbalan and Ruth Carter. The recycled cardboard covers are hand-painted and decoup­aged, punched and filled with folded pages of recipes, and hand-bound with festive, zebra-striped ribbons. According to Corbalan, the assembly of each book takes more than an hour, but it is a labor of love. Facing each recipe is an inspirational quotation from everyone from Oscar Wilde to Deepak Chopra, and the inside back cover is decorated with photos of the authors, as well as Food Network celebrity fans of the restaurant, Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri. The authors commit 20% of the proceeds from the book to animal rescue activities.

So, what about the recipes? Many of Taco Xpress' most popular dishes are included: the simple, refreshing melon aguas frescas that were featured in Southern Living – check; the signature tacos al pastor – right here; the spicy house guacamole – of course; the tangy chimichurri from Maria's native Argen­tina – you've got it. Both the migas tacos that enchanted Ray and the pollo guisado that Fieri requested for one of his books are presented, as well. There's a fool-proof, flaky empanada dough that's not exactly traditional Mexican (no lard), but it makes an excellent crust for turnovers, fried pies, and quiches. I'm looking forward to trying the broiled pineapple and the coconut sorbet someday soon. The recipes here are simple and approachable, very much like the delightfully funky South Austin eatery where they originated. This little gem is a very worthwhile memento of Taco Xpress – obviously handmade and heartfelt.

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