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Cooking the Cowboy Way: Recipes Inspired by Campfires, Chuck Wagons, and Ranch Kitchens

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  • Posted January 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Overview of Ranch, Campfire and Chuck Wagon Cooking

    When I received 'Cooking The Cowboy Way' for review, I immediately thought back to the Santa Maria-style barbecues of my California childhood. I was excited to see what recipes were included. Campfire, chuck wagon, and ranch cooking is a very distinctive way of cooking and one that I love. There's nothing quite like the experience, and the flavors, of cooking bacon and eggs, or a steak over an open campfire. The book is a wonderful compendium of this style of cooking. Chef, restaurant owner, and author Grady Spears explores this way of cooking by highlighting working ranches, and their food and recipes across North America. Each chapter is devoted to a different ranch in such states as Texas, Arizona, Missouri, Florida and Alberta, Canada. He includes cooking secrets, photos and stories about the cowboy way of life. While I was reading through it, it made me want to pack up my cast iron pan, and my camping gear, grab my horse, and hit the open road. I have everything but the horse. Maybe car camping is in the near future instead.

    I cooked several recipes from the book and they were all a huge success. The recipes were well-written, easy to follow and pleased several friends that came over to eat them to the point that they asked for the recipes for themselves. The 'Porterhouse Steaks with Wildcatter Steak Rub' from the Wildcatter Ranch in Graham, Texas were heavenly -- the rub is a definite keeper. The salt pork and the jalapeño pepper gave the pinto beans in 'Tom's Ranch Beans' from the Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap, Texas a full-flavored kick. A sprinkle of chili powder on the 'Golden Corn Bread Muffins' from Rancho de la Osa in Sasabe, Arizona provided a welcome boost; and the 'Autumn Pear Crisp' also from the Perini Ranch was the hit of the meal. The food and flavors in 'Cooking The Cowboy Way' are simple, big and satisfying. This is not haute cuisine nor should it be. This type of cooking came about because of a need to feed large numbers of hungry men; it had to be easy to prepare as well as filling. It also had to be cooked for the most part out of doors which adds another layer to the cooking and eating experience. To me food always tastes different, better, when cooked outside. The wood fire, the fresh air, the grilling meat are intoxicating. I was a little uncertain when I saw several recipes that listed things like garlic and onion powder, granulated beef base, canned goods, and commercial condiments but then I realized it's a different style of cooking, that it's not, as I mentioned, high cuisine, and that some of these ingredients make sense for these recipes. From what I experienced with the recipes I made they had no bearing whatsoever on the taste of the food. I definitely plan to cook more out of this book while checking my food snobbery at the kitchen door. 'Cooking The Cowboy Way' is a book worthy of everyone's cookbook shelves.

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    Posted May 14, 2010

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    Posted April 27, 2010

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