The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook
A few stories from 'The Austin Chronicle' Hot Sauce Festival
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Aug. 27, 2010
'The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook'by Robb Walsh
Clarkson Potter, 256 pp., $18.99 (paper)
Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival originator Robb Walsh released his 10th title this summer, just in time for grilling season. Many of his previous books are related to the foods of Texas in one fashion or another, cementing Walsh's reputation as an expert on foods Texana. This latest work combines the author's Tex-Mex and barbecue obsessions. Like many of his previous titles, Tex-Mex Grill is part well-researched historical reference, part cultural anthropology, and part solid cookbook. Walsh's easy, flowing narrative invites you in, while the history educates and the food satiates. By the time you cook your way through this book, you'll be ready to run your own taco truck like a true taquero.
Vintage photographs blend effortlessly with modern images to reinforce the prose. Walsh's sidebars are a fascinating treasure trove of information, running the gamut from "5 Cool Mariachi Requests" and "The Invention of the Margarita" to "Bean Burgers From Sil's Snack Shack in San Antonio" and "La Caja China: The Cuban Pig Roaster." Every recipe begins with an informative and personal preface that sets the stage for the dish, and the 85-plus recipes are simple enough to follow so that even the most kitchen-challenged can excel.
To test a meal based on the book, we settled on Atomic Deer Turds, jalapeños stuffed with cheese wrapped in venison sausage, from the tailgaters section. They were perfect with an ice-cold beer. We made some excellent tacos using Walsh's non-trompo version of puerco al pastor and shredded lamb prepared according to the barbacoa al borrego recipe. All came out as promised with flavors that would make any abuela proud. Extra kudos to Walsh for recommending Monterrey's Casta beer and the genuine pit-cooked barbacoa at Vera's Backyard Bar-B-Que in Brownsville. For Walsh fans, this book simply reinforces what you already know: The guy knows Texas food and makes you enjoy the hell out of reading about it and cooking from the book. Not a fan yet? Then Walsh's new book is a great place to start.