Turnip Greens & Tortillas: A Mexican Chef Spices Up the Southern Kitchen

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In his first cookbook, Hernandez, executive chef of the Taqueria del Sol restaurants, delivers a fun and adventurous mash-up of his influences--he was born in Mexico, raised in the American South, and developed a love of New Orleans cuisine. The common denominator here is heat, especially in the form of various peppers. For breakfast, there is a spicy Cajun hash with andouille sausage. For a hearty soup, there is posole, in which pounds of pork butt and four cups of hominy are flavored with the puree of 30 dried chiles. For dessert--ancho-chile pralines. Hernandez enjoys teasing a bland food with a spicy kick, thus presenting meatloaf with tomato-habanero gravy, mac and cheese with feta and jalapeños, and buttermilk fried chicken with green-chile-horseradish sauce. But tacos are the soul of the book, and these are simple yet complex, with 20 different varieties. There are Americanized versions such as the cheeseburger taco, as well as traditional carnitas tacos and regionalized offerings such as a Nashville hot chicken taco. Puckett, the former food editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, renders Hernandez's stories in tight, captivating prose, and photographer Mosier showcases, for example, a small island of creamy grits surrounded by pink shrimp in a bowl of tomato and jalapeño puree. This is an outstanding cookbook of innovative recipes.