If you've searched for local restaurant advice online, you've likely read the work of food writer Paula Forbes. As the founding editor of Eater Austin, Forbes has been following local restaurant trends since arriving in 2006. She's also a cookbook reviewer and collector, turning the pages of over 1,000 of them. So it was only a matter of time before she produced her own, and last spring, The Austin Cookbook was born, offering recipes and stories behind Austin's most iconic foods.
Colorful pages exuding Austin's vibe are filled with Robert Strickland photos of local murals, neon signs, and of course, mouthwatering star dishes. "I wanted the book to feel like the Austin I was familiar with – scrappy backyard parties and bright colors and youth and energy and movement," said Forbes. Shiny pages were chosen to help images pop and recipes were crafted using a friendly, non-recipe-bot voice. Flipping the pages looks and sounds like home.
Nine chapters cover Austin's main food groups including barbecue, Tex-Mex, tacos, and new classics, with recipes from popular restaurants exposed right there on the page. Local traditions and controversies are unpacked: Should chili be made with or without beans? Mysteries are solved: Is Austin's ubiquitous green salsa made of avocados? (It is not.) And pantry-prepping orders are given: Stock chili powder, cumin, pecans, and tequila. Always.
From home you'll be able to re-create JuiceLand's Wundershowzen smoothie, the Broken Spoke's chicken-fried steak with cream gravy, Dai Due's wild boar carnitas, and fresh lime margaritas from Fonda San Miguel, while also consuming a dose of history behind each.
Forbes suggests starting with the huevos rancheros sauce from Joe's Bakery. "It's one of those staple recipes that you can use for so many more things than just putting over eggs." And if you're a carnivore, she says you should try to make barbecue at least once. Chapter one ensures it's an approachable endeavor, if you have a smoker.
"I know what it's like to miss the food that's here," she said based on her experience away from Austin. This book was made for anyone to feel more at home, wherever they are.
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