Austin is getting a love letter in cookbook form with the publication of The Austin Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from Deep in the Heart of Texas from food writer Paula Forbes through Abrams Books. The book, full of recipes from local restaurants, publishes on Tuesday, March 20, and it’s available via preorder right now. Eater got to preview the book, look below.
Forbes, who was the founding editor of Eater Austin, sees the book as a representation of Austin. It was also a good excuse for her to move back after leaving the city for New York. “It ended up being this very almost-romantic way to move back to the city,” she said. “For the first six months, I was just eating every single day at all the classic Austin restaurants, re-falling in love with the city.”
What fascinated Forbes about Austin’s food culture is “the intersection of deep food traditions, like barbecue, Tex-Mex, and tacos, with the new stuff that comes in,” she said. Although people in Austin aren’t usually happy about change, it helps shake things up, especially when it comes to food. “You get these clashes of the tradition with new ideas and people coming from new areas,” she said. “That’s where really good, interesting food happens,” much like Austin.
Found throughout the book are all those foods that make Austin: the requisite barbecue and tacos, drinks, sweets, to classic regional dishes. Then there are what Forbes considers the “new Austin classics,” like Uchi’s uchiviche, Barley Swine’s pig skin noodles, and the Cadillac bar pie (notably not one of Via 313’s Detroit-style pizzas). She even included a few of her own personal recipes, like the green chile queso and enchiladas.
Selected restaurants were able to pick the recipes that they felt best represented their establishments, but there were certain dishes Forbes knew she had to include, like Broken Spoke’s chicken fried steak.
Yes, there are breakfast tacos, which are found in the breakfast section. “Breakfast tacos are arguably one of the most famous dishes in Austin,” Forbes said, “and I wanted to highlight them and give them their own introduction.”
In the book, Forbes explained the importance of each of the food categories, digging into smoked meat techniques to corn and flour tortilla preferences (she admitted that New York doesn’t have good flour tortilla options), explaining what Tex-Mex really is, and the real secret behind Joe’s Bakery’s famous bacon.
The hardest thing when it came to the book for Forbes was making sure everyone was happy with the result, “trying to make sure that everyone felt like they saw an Austin that they recognized,” she explained, especially considering how much and how quickly the city has changed recently.
The one restaurant she couldn’t get a recipe from was Trudy’s. “[They] told me they have never given out a recipe in the whatever years they have been in business,” Forbes said. “All their recipes are secrets.”
Forbes hopes that people come away with different things from the book. She wants out-of-towners to see that “there’s a much deeper, broader food scene here,” beyond breakfast tacos and barbecue. For former Austinites, she hopes it brings a little bit of home wherever they are. For current Austin residents, she wishes they “recognize their city and feel like the story that they’re part of is being told,” through the recipes.