If you want real Tex-Mex, this is the real deal. Forget about Old El Paso.
After I received this book, I cooked from it for 6 weeks straight. Every recipe turned out beautiful, the measurements are accurate, cooking times and temperatures correct, the spice balance just right for me, and everything is incredibly flavorful.
What I also like are the food-related stories from Lisa's life and family which you can read in the intros to almost every recipe. It helps me make a connection with a culture and gives a personal note and warmth.
These are the things I've cooked from it so far:
1) Fish Tacos - I used swordfish, which worked just peachy in this recipe.
2) Breakfast Tacos - I like to toast the tortillas straight over a gas flame; I love the slightly charred taste they get this way but they need monitoring, as I found there are about 2 seconds between slightly charred and hopelessly burned!
3) One Hour Texas Chili - This dish freezes beautifully.
4) Cheese Enchiladas - I didn't have the meat handy so I made a meatless version - twice - and I didn't miss the meat a single bit.
5) Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas - I made the traditional version Lisa describes in the recipe intro, and I looooooved it just as it came.
6) Chile con queso
7) Soft Cheese Tacos
8) Jalapeno-Buttermilk Dressing
9) Cabbage and Radish Slaw
10) Austin-style Black Beans
11) Jalapeno Pinto Beans
12) Frijoles a la charra
13) Frijoles borrachos
14) Breakfast Sausage
15) Red Chile Rice
16) Green Chile Rice
17) Elote en vaso
I have very unfortunately not gotten around to baking anything from this book yet, but I'm hellbent to make the peach cobbler this summer.
Some ingredients will not be readily available. Here's my workarounds:
1) Longhorn Cheddar: I replace this with Red Leicester - it's mild, it's orange, and it melts beautifully; it's the closest thing overall to Longhorn that I can find around here.
2) Monterey Jack: I get it where I live, but for those who are not this lucky, a mild (strength 2) gouda makes an okay substitute.
3) Tortilla chips: Pan-fried corn tortillas (even if they come from a packet) in my opinion win hands down over bagged tortilla chips.
4) Melbury & Appleton's for Ro-Tel (by mailorder).
5) Cool Chile and Mexgrocer for chipotle en adobo and dried chilies, masa, and tomatillos (by mailorder).
Which brings me to a topic which is close to my heart. I would like to ask you guys and girls that - with two exceptions - you never ever ever ever ever replace the chiles in a recipe with any other type. The dish won't taste the same and even the texture won't be the same. Tex-Mex, like Mexican food, is a case where the type of chile can make or break a dish at the blink of an eye. Call me a purist, call me a food snob even but I believe that, the first couple of times you prepare a dish, you should stick closely to a traditional recipe. This will not only be a good way of testing the quality of a cookbook, but also give you a good feeling of the flavors of a region. (The exceptions are jalapenos, which can be replaced with Fresno (they are similar in flavor and supposedly slightly hotter, though the ones you find in our British supermarkets are a tamed version), and if you find really hot fresh bird's eye you could use them to replace serranos.)
Diana Kennedy is the high priestess of Mexican cooking for me and always will be, and Lisa Fain is now my Tex-Mex Queen. It's an amazing cuisine, and Lisa has done a great job to promote it with this book. I am already looking forward to her next book, which she just announced on her blog (google homesick texan - there are plenty more recipes on there, too).