Foods and Flavors of San Antonio

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Pelican Publishing

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Although San Antonio is known for many sights and attractions, it is the amazingly unique cuisine that sets the city apart. Considered the Tex-Mex capital of the world, San Antonio is a festive place filled with the lingering aromas of spicy ingredients and a talent for fun. Commencing with a short tour of the city, Chadwick gives an overview of popular attractions in the area, including common festivals and local traditions. With the help of residents, media, and popular Southwestern restaurants, the book provides an impressive compilation of savory recipes with San Antonio inspiration. Whether searching for an authentic Tex-Mex beverage, breakfast, or seafood recipe Foods and Flavors of San Antonio is sure to deliver all the excitement a meal has to offer. Overflowing with zesty seasonings like chili powder, cumin, and cilantro, mouth-watering concoctions such as Chicken Chipotle Enchiladas, Cilantro Shrimp, or Spicy Tamale Pie are hard to resist. Follow the entrée with creative twists on traditional desserts in the form of a Chocolate-Kahlúa Flan or Mexican Brownies. With easy-to-follow instructions, beginner and experienced cooks alike will have no trouble re-creating these appetizing meal ideas. Perfect for any San Antonio native or visitor, this cookbook displays the best of the city's food and fascinating sights.


Gloria Chadwick
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Pelican Publishing
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Of all the large cities in Texas, San Antonio probably has the most spice and the most flavor.  The Mexican influence is strong, and you can easily see it reflected in the architecture, the music, the people, and the food.  San Antonio is known for its Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants, each with their signature dishes and authentic tastes.  Unfortunately this essential flavor is all but missing from Gloria Chadwick's cookbook.  

Chadwick begins her book on San Antonio cooking with an information section about the city itself.  At three and a half pages, it's a brief but interesting introduction to the cultural history and festivity of San Antonio.  It also helps explain why the cooking of this particular Texas city is important, in and of itself.  This is probably the most interesting portion of the cookbook, and the area readers are likely to get the most out of.

The recipes portion of the book begins with appetizers and moves through the traditional sections on soup, salads, sandwiches, chicken, and so on.  But on a first run-through to pick recipes to try, the reader immediately starts to notice something unsettling: the recipes call for quite a lot of processed foods.  Fritos, jarred salsas, corn muffin mixes; you name it, Chadwick calls for it.  And while there may be a group of people in San Antonio that rely on this kind of cooking, it does absolutely nothing to reflect the rich cultural heritage and influence from hundreds of years of settlement by various ethnic groups. 

Despite this disappointment, I thought I would give Ms. Chadwick a chance to prove to me how delicious her recipes could still be.
The first recipe I tried was for Seven-Layer Dip.  Essentially nacho toppings in colorful layers, the dip is popular for parties and get-togethers.  Unfortunately, almost every single ingredient comes out of a can.  First comes refried beans, from a can.  Then guacamole, from a package.  Then sour cream, from a container.  Then you top it with pre-shredded cheese, chopped black olives from a can, red onions, tomatoes, and whatever else appeals to you.  When tasted, the dip is rather bland, lacking any sort of chile or spice that would give it some depth.  In its defense, it is plain enough not to frighten picky eaters, and takes about ten minutes to put together.  However, it is really not any sort of ambassador for the San Antonio food tradition, and I'm sure recent immigrants would be horrified to see "Mex" in any way attached to this dish.

When looking for my next dish, I hurried past the San Antonio Skins (baked potato skins topped with Velveeta cheese product), and finally came upon Cheddar Chicken Burritos.  The recipe was very simple, and the end product was rather bland once again.  The recipe called for dried basil, which I thought was an odd addition, and used dried cilantro, when fresh would have been so much more flavorful and added crispness to the burritos.  I couldn't help but feel something was missing, and the boneless, skinless chicken breasts were almost tasteless.

The last dish I tried was the Chorizo Casserole.  Chorizo is a type of Spanish pork sausage, and can be difficult to find in some areas of the country.  It's probably not a good choice for anyone that doesn't live close to a Latin American community.  The offerings in the local chain grocery can be anywhere from passable to unidentifiable, but luckily there's a Latin grocery near me, so I found some decent chorizo.  The casserole itself is mainly a dish of chorizo, rice, and tomato sauce, cooked in a dish until the rice softens.  It was the third bland dish I made, and all I could think while eating it was what a waste of chorizo it represented.

Overall I was pretty disappointed by this cookbook, mostly due to the fact that the recipes represent a type of quick cooking with processed foods made popular by women's magazines at grocery checkout lines.  With such an abundance of fresh foods and ethnic options in stores nationwide now, there is absolutely no reason to still be cooking with Velveeta, which isn't even cheese.  Add to this the fact that the book has no pictures and doesn't lay flat, it seems like a book to pass up for something with a more authentic variety of dishes and a truer representation of the culinary history of the region.

Seven-Layer Dip
1 16 oz. can refried beans
1 cup guacamole
1 8 oz. container sour cream
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
½ red onion, diced
1 ½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese
½ cup chopped black olives
Tortilla chips

Evenly spread the refried beans over the bottom of a 9x9" glass baking dish.  Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Spread the guacamole over the beans.  Spread the sour cream over the guacamole. Sprinkle the diced tomatoes over the sour cream.  Sprinkle the onion over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle the cheese on top of the onion.  Sprinkle the olives over the cheese.  Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Serves 8

Recipe courtesy "Foods and Flavors of San Antonio, written by Gloria Chadwick, published by Pelican Publishing, 2009.


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