Two ranch women share creative cowboy cooking in this new cookbook designed for foodies of all backgrounds.
“You will find a wide range of recipes and ideas in this collection. Everything from simple, to more complex, and some very basic recipes that you can tailor to your tastes and preferences. I would like to encourage you to step outside that box or corral and try something new. Don’t be afraid to experiment, to try new flavors and techniques. ”Deanna McCall, from Cowboy Cuisine: Beyond Biscuits & Beans
Anyone connected to the cowboy culture scene will recognize Deanna Dickinson McCall‘s name. An award-winning author and cowboy poet, she has shared her humbling ranch stories and poetry in four books, and regularly performs at cowboy poetry gatherings. She and her husband, Dave, live on a remote ranch in New Mexico, where restaurants aren’t nearby, yet the couple likes to eat good food. This inspired her and her friend and fellow New Mexico ranch wife and cook, Gay Gardella, to compile some of their favorite recipes into a cookbook that is sure to spice up any meal and turn it into cowboy cuisine.
In the introduction, Gardella shares a statement that resonated with her and is relative to the purpose of the cookbook.
” ‘Time can’t be saved; it can only be spent.’ The unstated admonishment is for us to spend it wisely. We think the time you spend with the two of you or a crew of you…family and friends around a dinner table…is time well spent,” she shares.
“In this cookbook-labor-of-love, our goal is to share with and encourage you to look at the opportunity to cook and share some good food with those you love. Like our kitchens, we hope your kitchen is now or will become , the hub of coming together to eat, talk, bond, and build memories.”
On most ranches, a typical day starts with breakfast, and that’s where McCall and Gardella begin their book. They include 13 “Ride and Shine Breakfast” recipes, including grab-and-go muffins that can be stuffed into saddlebags, hearty casseroles and quiches, and Southwestern favorites like huevos rancheros and New Mexico-style eggs benedict.
From there, they offer a roundup of easy-to-prepare appetizers, soups and salads, sides and main dishes that people might not think about as ranch-style cuisine. How about starting with a Rustic Clam Chowder or Minestrone, and then trying a new take on beef bolognese or chicken marsala, or Asian-style ribs with rice pilaf? For dessert, consider a flourless chocolate cake, Berry Sopapilla Cheesecake or the Nanner Puddin’ recipe passed down from McCall’s grandmother. All of their recipes use high-quality staple ingredients found in the pantry and garden for a five-star meal at a fraction of a restaurant’s costs.
“So-called ‘ranch cooking’ varies widely according to regions, and often includes many ethnic dishes,” writes McCall in the cookbook. “I will say that ranch or cowboy cooking is best described as ‘food cooked on a ranch.’ I don’t believe it need to be put in the alley or sorted more than that.”
When the McCall got married she says she could bake, but not cook.
“The day after we got married my breakfast was chili, eggs and a piece of vinegar pie,” she recalls, laughing. “I was a typical tomboy and didn’t have a clue how to cook, but I liked sweets so I learned to bake. I’d have dishes [in restaurants] and never dreamed I could make them.”
Living on remote ranches in the West on a tight budget and without electricity, McCall not only learned how to cook, but to also use ingredients she had on hand and experiment with recipes.
“I always laugh because we eat such a broad range of foods here, everything from Italian to Oriental and American,” she says. “Once you get some assurance cooking then you see what you can do and then try something else.”
The cookbook dishes out more than 75 recipes to suit anyone’s tastes. They can be served up at a branding or casual event or at a fancy dinner party. While the women feature hearty recipes, they are also mindful about using healthy, whole ingredients and avoiding processed foods. Be sure to read the short introductions before each recipe, as they offer insight into the dishes and also windows into the women’s kitchens and lives.