A restaurant cookbook is so much more than a collection of recipes. It’s a portrait of a community hub, of specific cuisines and cultures, and of the people whose life’s work is feeding others. It also makes for great escapism, especially during the pandemic, allowing the reader to visit a favorite spot even if its dining room is still closed.
Here are some excellent Texas cookbooks, from a Tex-Mex legend to a ranch steakhouse and beyond. In addition to an overview of each book, we’ve picked a recipe for a different course so that you can create a special dining-room inspired meal at home.
Start with a Hibiscus Margarita from the new Cooking in Marfa: Welcome, We’ve Been Expecting You, by Virginia Lebermann and Rocky Barnette, the wife-and-husband proprietors of Marfa’s Capri restaurant. Other recipes include agave-focused cocktails and desert-inspired dishes like yucca-blossom tempura, rabbit braised in prickly pear wine, and mesquite-bean ice cream.
Indulge in Kimchi Queso, from The Peached Tortilla: Modern Asian Comfort Food From Tokyo to Texas by Eric Silverstein. Asian influences meet Southern cuisine at his Austin restaurant, which can be described in one word: fun. Remember fun? Remind yourself with pad thai tacos, banana Nutella spring rolls, or a wasabi Bloody Mary.
For a salad that won’t wilt in the Texas heat, try the Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad from Perini Ranch Steakhouse: Stories and Recipes for Real Texas Food. Lisa and Tom Perini’s James Beard Award–winning restaurant in tiny Buffalo Gap, outside Abilene, is lauded for its dressed-up comfort food. So it’s no surprise that the dishes in this book are a balm.
Although Sylvia Casares, a Brownsville native, has spent her life perfecting enchiladas at Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen, in Houston, The Enchilada Queen Cookbook: Enchiladas, Fajitas, Tamales, and More Classic Recipes From Texas-Mexico Border Kitchens offers other great family dinner choices as well, including her Rio Grande Valley Arroz con Pollo.
End the meal with Vinegar Pie from Houston chef Chris Shepherd’s first cookbook, Cook Like a Local: Flavors That Can Change How You Cook and See the World. Adapted from an old Appalachian recipe, this treat was the most popular dessert at Shepherd’s now-closed Underbelly.
This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Tome to Table.” Subscribe today.