When I was in California last month for the photo shoot for Queso!, there was a copy of The Mac & Cheese Cookbook on hand at the studio. It was also published by Ten Speed and is the same size as mine, so looking through it gave me a good idea of what to expect with my book.
As I was flipping through the pages, oohing and ahhing at all the tempting recipes, my editor mentioned how much she had enjoyed cooking from it. “My favorite is the one with hot dogs and potato chips,” she said.
Curious what that combination would entail, I quickly flipped to that recipe and it was as simple as it sounds—elbow macaroni and sliced hot dogs smothered in a creamy cheddar sauce and topped with potato chips. I made a mental note I would have to make it when I got back home.
Now, as I pondered the dish, I began to think about all the ways I could adapt it. While Texans certainly eat their fair share of potato chips and hot dogs, there are other dogs popular across the state. For instance, bacon-wrapped Mexican hot dogs are common, as are San Antonio crispy dogs, corny dogs, chili-cheese dogs, and hot dog breakfast tacos. There are even places that top their dogs with macaroni and cheese. There was a lot to consider.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
Two-and-a-half years ago after an appearance at the Texas Book Festival, I was visiting with some dear friends in an Austin backyard. We’d been drinking Lone Star and eating queso, and when they asked me what my next book was going to be about, inspired by that good feeling you get in the presence of good friends, cold beverages, and liquid gold, I decided then and there it should be about chile con queso. They all agreed that it was a fine idea.
It took me a few more months to convince my publisher there was enough content to fill an entire book on the subject, but after spending time exploring the history, culture, regional variations, and quirky interpretations of chile con queso, I soon had more than enough material. So, with great fanfare, today I present to you the cover of my next book, Queso! Regional Recipes for the World’s Favorite Chile-Cheese Dip, a full-color hardcover celebration of queso that will be published on September 26.
It’s now available for pre-ordering at these online bookstores:
Barnes & Noble
Now some of you may wonder how this one differs from my first two books. Primarily, it’s a smaller book, in both trim size and length. My publisher, Ten Speed Press, pointed at other single-subject books it has published, such as Fried Chicken and The Mac & Cheese Cookbook, and felt that would be a good model to emulate. It’s an appealing size that feels like a fun gift, yet it’s still substantial enough that I had enough room to share a host of recipes, stories, and lore. This time I also didn’t take the photos. Instead they were done by the extremely talented and fun Aubrie Pick, who’s also worked with Luisa Weiss and Chrissy Teigen, among others.
Finally, the book is a single-subject book, so every recipe has to do with chile con queso in some fashion. Because I like to be inclusive, there’s not only a host of historical recipes, regional variations from both sides of the border, and Tex-Mex classics, but there are also two (!) vegan queso recipes for my non-dairy friends, along with dishes that aren’t dips but still incorporate chile con queso, such as enchiladas, tacos, biscuits, and even an ice cream sundae.
Over the next few months, I will be telling you more about the book and the process that went into making it. I’ll also have some web extras for you. But for now, I’m just happy to finally share with you this adventure I’ve been on the past two years. While I’ve learned more than you can ever imagine about chile con queso, the most important thing is this: queso is a joyful food that brings people together. Indeed, it’s impossible to have a bad time when queso is around.
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
A few years ago, a Texas reader asked me for a carnitas recipe. I shared mine and she said that while they looked good, she was looking for one that used Coca-Cola and milk instead. She explained that she’d had them that way at a local restaurant and they were outstanding. With good intentions, I told her I’d look into it. But I became busy with other projects and sadly forgot about helping her find a recipe as well as the place where she had eaten them.
As is my tradition, each year I like to honor the teams that are playing in the Super Bowl with a timely and fun dish. Since the game is in Houston this year, I figured if I didn’t like either of the teams playing, I would celebrate my hometown. Then the Atlanta Falcons secured a slot in the game. Ordinarily, I’m not a Falcons fan but they did beat Green Bay, a team I was annoyed with since they narrowly edged out the Cowboys. Plus, the Falcons are from the South and I also have a few friends who live there, so deciding to cheer for them was an easy decision.
Now, when I think of Atlanta cuisine, two things immediately come to mind—peaches and Coca-Cola. While peaches are best served in the summer when they’re in season, there are lots of fun things you can do with Coca-Cola any time of year. And while I was pondering recipes, I remembered that carnitas request from long ago. A quick search lead me to a book called Houston Classic Mexican Recipes, which included a Coca-Cola carnitas attributed to Santos—The Taste of Mexico, which is no longer open. While I had no idea if it was the same restaurant that woman had hers, I figured it would be a good starting point in coming up with my own.