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Houston Cookbook Author Takes on The Classics

Think you know Houston's iconic dishes? Then you don't know the city's authority on old-school and new school classics.

Perhaps no one in Houston knows a "classic" like Erin Hicks, who in addition to running her interior design business, penned four cookbooks over the past several years, based on favorite cuisine we've come to know and love from Houston restaurants. Hicks, who owned and operated a restaurant in Corpus Christi for eight years in the 90's, is an keen home cook and hostess. We asked her about the notion of a classic and some of her personal favorites.

Q. What made you decide to do a series of classic restaurant recipe cookbooks?

A. The Houston Classic Cookbook series is based on a design and concept from my dear friend and fellow cookbook author, Kit Wohl of New Orleans. Several things led up to it, including food photography I had done in San Francisco and of course, a love of delicious food and the desire to help home cooks achieve these kinds of recipes at home.

Q. What makes a dish stand out as a classic?

A. It has to be tried and true, time-tested, and crowd pleasing. I find there's also typically a comfort food-vibe to a classic dish.

Q. You tested each recipe in your own kitchen for all of the books. Which ones came out as your favorites?

A. Well, it's extremely difficult to name favorites, as I love all of the dishes in my books (or else they wouldn't make the cut!). Having said that, here are a few I've really enjoyed serving ...

Mark's Blueberry Tart (from Houston Classic Desserts) - a buttery graham cracker crust filled with a creamy almond-mascarpone filling, topped with lemony-blueberry compote and blueberry muffin ice cream. So, so good and surprisingly easy to make. Everyone needs to know the joy of making homemade ice cream, too.

Arturo's Crema Catalana (from Houston Classic Desserts) - this is the recipe that got me my first book deal! Think classic creme brulee but served in individual serving spoons - it's the perfect balance of crunch and cream in every heavenly bite!

RDG + Bar Annie's Crab Meat Tostadas (from Houston Classic Mexican Recipes) - lump crab meat, avocado relish and cabbage slaw on fried tortillas - this is one of Chef Robert Del Grande's signature dishes dating back to Cafe Annie days!

Jonathan's the Rub Lobster Roll (from Houston Classic Seafood) - steamed, hand-picked fresh Maine lobster with a touch of celery, mayo and fresh-squeezed lemon on Hawaiian slider buns. It doesn't get any better than a great lobster roll. Chef Jonathan Levine uses only Maine lobster, which are uniquely sweet!

Liberty Kitchen's Deviled Egg Fried Oyster (from Houston Small Plates & Sips) - creamy deviled eggs are topped with a crispy fried oyster and topped with smoky bacon - the flavors and combination of textures of this dish are blow-your-skirt-up good! These are also on the menu at their sister restaurant, BRC and in the event you aren't an oyster fan, you can even get them topped with fried chicken breast. The recipe in my book includes instructions on how to "oven-fry" the oysters - who really wants to deep-fry anything at home?

Q. What's next on the "classic" horizon for you?

A. Houston Soups & Sips - currently in progress! Who doesn't love a great bowl of soup? Super excited about this one. The recipes are diverse and super yummy.