TEXAS READS: 'Perini Ranch Steakhouse'

Perini Ranch Steakhouse: Stories and Recipes for Real Texas Food by by Lisa and Tom Perini with Cheryl Alters Jamison, photos by Wyatt McSpadden ($34.95 hardcover)

Prepare to be blown away by the new Perini cookbook. I certainly was.

Perini Ranch Steakhouse: Stories and Recipes for Real Texas Food ($34.95 hardcover) by Lisa and Tom Perini, partnering with veteran award-winning cookbook author Cheryl Alters Jamison and acclaimed food photographer Wyatt McSpadden, simply sets a new standard for cookbooks. It’s that good.

Not that the old Perini cookbook, Texas Cowboy Cooking, was bad. It was great. When Carlton Stowers and I wrote 101 Essential Texas Books a few years ago, we listed it first in the section on cookbooks, commenting, “If you had to limit your collection of Texas cookbooks to just one book, this would be the one to keep.”

But now, after 20 years, the Perinis decided it was time to retire Texas Cowboy Cooking and bring out a brand new book, filled with many of the same recipes but also some new ones as well as new stories and dozens of exquisite, mouth-watering photos.

I managed to get a sneak peek of the new cookbook — not the actual book but a digital copy of it — and, oh my, it is absolutely stunning.

Perini Ranch Steakhouse includes about 100 recipes, the stories behind them and 25 sidebar stories, collected in seven sections: The Cocktail Hour; Salads; Beef; Pork, Bison, Lamb, Chicken, Seafood; Side Dishes; Biscuits and Bread; and, of course, Desserts.

Readers will find most of their Perini favorites in the new book, along with the new recipes and new stories, including “Our Most Memorable Catering Job” — at the White House on Sept. 11, 2001.

In the book’s introduction, Tom Perini outlines the history of the steakhouse, about 15 miles south of Abilene, noting that in the early years he had to borrow money from his mother to make payroll.

But then came a review in the New York Times naming the Perini beef tenderloin as the year’s best holiday mail-order gift, and other good things soon followed. Perini Ranch Steakhouse flourished as a destination restaurant.

Perini’s became a favorite catering venue for Gov. George W. Bush and continued into Bush’s presidency, which is how they happened to be at the White House on 9-11. They were there to cater the president’s Congressional Picnic, but when airplanes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the picnic was canceled and the food was sent over to the firefighters and other first responders.

That’s no doubt the best story in the book (page 85), but there are plenty of others. And, as good as the stories are, they take a back seat to the recipes themselves, enhanced by wonderful photos and a handsome, inviting design.

Once again the Perinis have produced a keeper, a book that could be a Texas favorite for the next 20 years.

Glenn Dromgoole writes about Texas books and authors. Contact him at g.dromgoole@suddenlink.net.

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