Jon Bonnell: Fine Texas Cuisine

Jon Bonnell asks a good question in the introduction of Jon Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine (Gibbs Smith 2010): What is Fine Texas Cuisine?

I am passionate about fine cuisine, and I’m passionate about Texas heritage and Texas ingredients. (p. 11)

He runs a Fort Worth restaurant by the same name and this cookbook is largely a restaurant cookbook – dishes scaled down a bit for a home cook, who know something about the basics of cooking.

Texas is big and thankfully full of wild game and interesting ingredients. Fine Texas Cuisine is all about exotic meats from appetizers like Venison Carpaccio with Green Peppercorn Dressing (p. 14). The venison is first rubbed, then seared, and finally sliced and served with arugula. The Buffalo-Style Frog Legs with Gorgonzola Dipping Sauce (p. 18) substitute frog legs for chicken wings and elk meat gets substituted for carne asada in Rocky Mountain Elk Tacos (p. 30). The recipe calls for 5 pounds of elk meat and serves 12 to 14. It is a serious undertaking and though the head notes suggest making homemade corn tacos, it doesn’t include enough instructions on how to prepare them. The tacos are served on Green Chile Cheese Grits – and in the serviceable photo by B. J. Lacasse, the tacos are standing up, held by the grits. Presumably the grits don’t stick to the bottom of the tacos, and guest can eat them separately.

Beyond the appetizers, there is a whole chapter on wild game. Jon writes about being a teenage hunter and coming up with recipes for his family and guests. Clearly he is in the same school as fellow hunter Charlie Palmer and his New American Cuisine, favoring bold flavors and local ingredients. From Elk Tenderloin with Yellow Tomato Sauce (p. 118) to Rack of Wild Boar with Pomegranate Rum Sauce (p 124) these are hardy, winter dishes for very hungry folk.

Fine Texas Cuisine is a book to have on hand when that certain friend, who likes to hunt, sends over a dozen quail or a side of venison before arriving for dinner.

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