Reading Matt Martinez's Culinary Frontier
is like digging into heaps of the best food you've ever eaten while listening as a kicked-back, sleepy-eyed hombre tells you how his Mexican grandfather fled to the U.S. to escape hanging, then started the first Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin, Texas. Martinez, who spices up his volume with old family photos, talks about feeding the local politicians and famous sports figures who come through town. You want him to keep talking while you keep eating.
Martinez practices true cowboy and prairie cooking. He claims that all dishes can be prepared in a cast-iron skillet. He believes in lard and homemade chorizo, but also cooks lean food. Carne Gasado, an elemental chicken stew, Matt's Jalapeno Coleslaw, and creamy King Ranch Casserole made with sirloin are evidence of his cooking style. Catch the recipes for smoky and hot Chipotle Sauce, unusual Corn Tortilla Quesadillas, and incendiary Prairie Mary Cocktail. If you get to Dallas, the Smoked Baked Potato served at Matt's No Place, one of the four restaurants Martinez has in Texas, is an experience long remembered. Thanks to Culinary Frontier, you can try to duplicate it at home.
From the Publisher
Matt Martinez, Jr., has his paternal grandfather to thank for his culinary success. A soldier in Pancho Villa's army, Delphino Martinez was captured by the Federales, but managed to escape across the Texas border, and eventually open, in 1925, Austin's first Tex-Mex restaurant, called El Original. The Martinez family has been in the restaurant business ever since.
In Matt Martinez'S Culinary Frontier, Matt has gathered all of the recipes that are closest to his heart, for cooking "the way it's been done in the Southwest since the days of the vaqueros and real cowboys, whose cast-iron skillets were used and used and used some more." Here you will find classics for every time of day, from breakfast Huevos Rancheros (as they were served to young Matt in the kitchen by his maternal grandmother) to Matt's Competition Chili (Chili, he claims, originated in San Antonio in the 1900s, and he has the story to prove it.), to Chile Rellenos (Lyndon Johnson's favorite), to Standard South Texas Fried Chicken (which his mother served at Matt's El Rancho from the day it opened in 1952) to Early Texas Chicken Fried Steak. And for each recipe there's a story, of Matt, his family, or of the dish itself. Not only are Matt's recipes easy and delicious, they are authentic and untouched by modern trends. As Matt says, "Dancing with the one that brung us has always been a rule of thumb in Texas. Staying close to what you hold dear, to what makes your little ol' heart pitter-patter, is what this cookbook is all about."