Well I’ll be gosh darned!  I’ve just learned Texas is not the largest state.  Alaska is.  Sure it’s the largest in the lower 48 but we need to include Alaska even though we’d rather not and let it drift into the ocean with Sarah Palin.  Besides, the flag looks prettier with 50 stars.  Then again, Texas gave us The Bushes George and it is right on the Gulf of Mexico.

Even so, we’ve hit a mother lode.  Much larger than Alaska in terms of culinary treasures and, dare we say, brainpower.  In between oil rigs and cattle and sagebrush and air conditioners, Texas is rife with flavor.  Its vast open space and diverse terrain has five areas with distinct culinary tradition.  The Northeast (1) has been influenced by the Old South.  East and Southeast (2) take cues from Creole and Cajun cooking, Central Texas (3), known also as Hill Country, draws from original Anglo and German settlers (it’s true, we’ve been there)  who may or may not be responsible for plying their wiener schnitzel skills at creating a true Texan staple, CFS, or Chicken Fried Steak.  South Texas (4) gives us border recipes and the beloved Tex-Mex cuisine while West Texas (5) sticks to ranch basics of meat and BBQ.  Texas politics can be a bit too red for some so with closed minds come closed recipes that stick to the rules.  Still delicious but sorta stuck in tradition.  Austin, however, is a beacon of blue light not to mention a breath of fresh air.  If you’ve ever heard of South By Southwest (SXSW), the annual music festival, then you’ve heard of Austin by association.  They get a little crazy in Austin.  A little bit wilder.  A little bit looser.  A bit more creative.  And it shows in their kitchens. 

Any compendium of American cooking will dedicate an entire chapter to Lone Star cooking.  Sometimes several.  Most US bookstores devote large sections to nothing but Texan cuisine.  And, in some cases, home libraries include an entire shelf (or shelves) of Texan cookbooks although we would categorically deny this if asked.  Truth be told, ours is in such disarray that we’ve no idea at this point what we have or don’t have.  Call it plausible deniability... 

We’ve found ourselves in a bit of a tizzy this month with Valentine’s Day amongst all the Texas possibility.  Relax, people.  No matter what the dish or when it gets served Texan recipes, like its people, are full of warmth and flavour.  So we decided this menu would be perfect for Valentine’s Day too.         

TONSIL PAINT

Sangrita Caliente

Just What the Dr. (Pepper) Ordered

Side Saddle

Fish Shack Punch

Ruby Margarita

Suffering Baptist (how could we not?)

Will Roger’s Cooler

Totem Pole

Texas Tea

DOUBLE C R GRUB

CFS = Chicken-Fried Steak

King Ranch Chicken

Expat Hominy w/ Achiote

Gorditas w/ Piccadillo

Tomatillo Braised Short Ribs

Pork Tacos

Chalupas w/ Blue Corn tortilla and UK Fava Beans (we had to toss in a bone)

Mrs. Lambert’s Stacked Enchiladas

Uncle Earl’s Texas Chili

Texas Turkey Meat Loaf

Goat Cheese Sliders

Stuffed Jalapenos w/ our homemade Chorizo

Black Bean Dip

Mexican Corn

Mamacita’s Macaroni con Queso

Fried Tomatoes w/ Crab Relish

Caliente Chocolate Cake