Crisp and tender chicken-fried steak. Beef-laden chili. Enchiladas smothered in yellow cheese. They are the staples we were raised on, the food we demand on weekends and for birthdays, the meals we crave when we travel far from home. But admit it: When’s the last time you grilled the perfect ribeye? Do you have a clue how to smoke a brisket? We asked experts to share their tips and recipes for ten of our state’s most iconic dishes, so that not only can you eat like a Texan, you can cook like one too.
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With research by Debbie Epping, Caroline Fabacher, Stephanie Kuo, Layne Lynch, and Stefania Malacrida
As a Texan, you know a certain image and skill set are expected of you: You own at least one pair of cowboy boots. You have attended a Willie Nelson concert, and you’ve hiked to the South Rim in Big Bend National Park. You know what a Hughes drill bit is. You’ve cried during both Lonesome Dove the miniseries and the book. And you know where to find the best barbecue, chicken-fried steak, and enchiladas for miles around.
But hold on a minute. To be a Texan in good standing, it’s not enough to know where to eat our state’s most cherished foods; it’s essential that you know how to cook them. These dishes are at the heart of our collective identity, after all. Our forebears brought them from the Deep South, Mexico, and the western range, to name the three largest of our nation-state’s varied culinary origins. And even if you’re not entirely sure how to adjust a smoker or use a tortilla press, you realize that an authentic, home-cooked Texas meal demands you learn. Now.
So to help you out, we drew up a list of the dishes we deem indispensable to the Texas repertoire. Then we called on the best cooks in our acquaintance and asked if they would share their knowledge. The result is a compendium of not only ten of our state’s most iconic dishes but the best versions of them known to man.
Do try these at home, friends. You will be a better Texan for it.
The Main Course
Smoked Brisket, by Patricia Sharpe
Cheese Enchiladas, by Katharyn Rodemann
Bacon-wrapped Dove, by Patricia Sharpe
Fried Catfish, by Patricia Sharpe
Grilled Ribeye, by June Naylor
Chili, by Katharyn Rodeman
Fried Chicken, by June Naylor
Migas, by June Naylor
Pork Tamales, by Katharyn Rodemann
Chicken-fried Steak, by June Naylor
On the Side
A Big Splash, by Patricia Sharpe
The biggest blue catfish ever caught in Texas.
Tools of the Trade
Cooking like a Texan requires its own special gear.
The Way We Ate Then, by Patricia Sharpe
Texas has always been a place of contrasts, particularly when it comes to food.
My Last Meal
We asked a few famous Texans what their last Texas meal would be.
Mama Grande’s Rice, by Sylvia Casares
In my grandmother’s kitchen, she always had a pot of beans cooking, a stack of tortillas made with White Wings flour, and rice.
For the Love (or Hate) of Chili
No other dish provokes such depth of feeling.
The word on Texas food.
Chew on This
Fun food factoids.