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Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert: Norteno Cooking of South Texas [Hardcover]

Melissa Guerra

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Book Description

2 Aug 2006
Explore the authentic flavors of TRUE TEX–MEX cooking "Ideals nourish the spirits, but food sustains the body that houses that spirit. Food keeps the spirit alive. The Wild Horse Desert provided very little for the people that roamed and settled this harsh, hot land. Yet, they survived, and in time, flourished. Their dreams tamed the desert." ––Melissa Guerra

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The Wild Horse Desert is the once–disputed area in southern Texas, just above the Rio Grande, that was part of Mexico before the war of 1846; Guerra′s family has lived there for more than 16 generations, working the land and raising cattle. Much of the dishes Guerra grew up eating were Mexican (though there are some Tex–Mex recipes here as well), and while the term norteño is usually used to refer to northern Mexico, she notes that South Texas is considered part of norteño culture too. Author of a previous cookbook, the companion volume to her PBS series The Texas Provincial Kitchen, Guerra also sells ingredients and equipment for Mexican cooking through an online store and catalog, and her authoritative text reflects both her culinary experience and her love of the region and its food. The recipes are generally simple, but the instructions are thoroughly detailed, and headnotes and boxes provide information on ingredients, traditions, and other topics; the many photographs, some color, add context as well. Strongly recommended. ( Library Journal , March 15, 2006) Guerra, host of the PBS series The Texas Provincial Kitchen and author of a cookbook by that name, provides an overview of Texan border fare. More than 100 recipes are divided by type, such as "Salsa and Chiles," "Rice and Beans" and "Game and Goat," and the anecdotes preceding each recipe lend a warm, conversational tone. The region′s flavorful cuisine is firmly rooted in Mexican tradition, with ingredients like corn tortillas, queso cotija (a common grating cheese), and either tomatoes or salsa appearing in most dishes. Spicy–food lovers will be thrilled, as chile peppers like serrano, ancho and chipotle infuse much of the food with fiery taste. Though some of the recipes may intimidate beginner cooks with their multiple steps and lengthy preparation, many, including Chalupas Compuestas ("Composed" Toasted Tortillas) and Migas con Huevos (Crumbs with Eggs), are simple enough for novices. Bold flavors continue into the desserts chapter, with Pepitoria (Pumpkin Seed Brittle) and Grapefruit Blossom Cake with Browned Butter Frosting. The color and b&w photos evoke the ranch culture the area is known for, and sidebars on regional traditions (e.g., instructions on grinding chiles for salsa, an explanation of local alcoholic beverages) further flesh out this culturally rich topic. (Apr.) ( Publishers Weekly , January 30, 2006)

"Strongly recommended". ( Library Journal , March 15, 2006) "...color and B&W photos evoke the ranch culture the area is known for...sidebars on regional traditions further flesh out this culturally rich topic." ( Publishers Weekly , January 30, 2006)

From the Inside Flap

The Wild Horse Desert country of South Texas is home to a unique culinary culture. Based on northern Mexican or norteño cooking, but influenced by Anglo and German settlers as well as the region′s searing heat and abundant wild game, it is true Tex–Mex cuisine at its purest and most delicious—the food that has sustained generations of ranchers and vaqueros. Melissa Guerra grew up on a Wild Horse Desert ranch that has been her family′s home for eight generations, and she has devoted her career to preserving the region′s distinctive culinary traditions and lore. This extraordinary cookbook gathers together more than 120 authentic recipes, along with stories, sidebars, and photographs that brilliantly evoke the spirit of the Wild Horse Desert, its cooking, and its culture. Inside the book, you′ll find the original versions of favorite Tex–Mex dishes such as Chile con Carne, Fajitas, Enchiladas, Puffy Tacos, Chiles Rellenos, Refried Beans, and Flan, along with cowboy classics like Chicken–Fried Steak with Cream Gravy, and Biscuits. Guerra not only explains how to cook these dishes the authentic way, but accompanies each recipe with a fascinating bit of history or an amusing family anecdote. She also shares some of the local specialties that give the region its unique flavor such as Buttered Quail, Roasted Kid Goat, Beef Stew with Cactus, Speckled Trout Ceviche, and Pumpkin Seed Brittle. Throughout the book, Guerra offers tips and shortcuts (for example, how to add mesquite flavor to a gas or charcoal grill), but she also describes the original, age–old techniques of norteño cooking. You′ll discover how to work with dried chiles, remove the thorns from a prickly pear cactus, create South Texas beef jerky, make your own tortillas, and even grind your own cornmeal! Illustrated with more than seventy–five evocative photos, including eight pages in full color, Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert is the definitive guide to the flavors of South Texas—a book that brings to life the true glories of norteño cooking.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I REMEMBER the way my grandfather would prepare his water cooler for a long day of working cattle. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Cookbook! 20 Nov 2006
By Chase-Work - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a beginning cook that moved from South Texas and love this book! Now I can make all of my favorites in my own kitchen far from home. The background Melissa gives is so interesting and it makes you feel like she is in the kitchen with you almost!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great recipes, easy to read, informative and deep 18 July 2007
By Andrew D. Fraser - Published on Amazon.com
With so many cookbooks, the layout can really turn me off of a book. The first thing that struck me when I flipped open to a random page how it drew me in. Most recipes include a bit of the author's personal history with the dish and many introduce with the "old way" of making the dish as well as present a new way that is less labor intensive. Often she will follow up with a recipe for those who want to try the traditional method.

A very thorough book that explores local ingredients, explains when they were served, what you might find in your supermarket and then clearly describes how to prepare the dish.

I'm a recent transplant to Texas and have had my eyes opened to Mexican and Tex-Mex food. This book introduces Norteno cuisine that is found in many traditional border homes. I couldn't wait to try my hand at these recipes.

Also, if you're someone who likes to read cookbooks for enjoyment, you'll love this one.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, Authentic, and Beautifully done 11 May 2006
By Naomi Manygoats - Published on Amazon.com
Of of the few, rare, authentic looks at some exceptionally wonderful food. The book is beautiful, and enhances the feel for understanding the landscape and people that authentic south Texas ranch cooking comes from. Thank God Melissa is secure enough in tradition that she did not feel the need to throw Mangos in everything to prove she was a creative chef. I have pet goats that were adopted as orphans, and they are very sweet and loving, so I no longer eat Cabrito, but have had it enough in the past to appreciate the recipes.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recipes from the Wild Horse Desert 11 Dec 2006
By elizabeth - Published on Amazon.com
Great cookbook for those that are looking for TRUE South Texas-Northern Mexico cuisine. It is beautifully written and a cookbook you will keep in your library forever.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best 15 Dec 2009
By John D. Gonzales-lusk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I grew up in South Texas down in the brush country around Laredo. These are authentic guides to preparing true Mexican foods, rare to find now days that haven't been loaded down with additional ingredients and preparation methods to satisfy the haute cuisine crowd. If you're looking for true down-home Mexican meals then this cook book is for you!
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