Yahoo Food’s Cookbook of the Week: A Taste of Cowboy: Ranch Recipes and Tales from the Trail by Kent Rollins with Shannon Keller Rollins (Rux Martin). Rollins has been cooking for cattle ranchers across New Mexico, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma out of his 1876 Studebaker chuck wagon for two decades; this book is a compilation of stories and recipes he’s gained over that time.
Noteworthy: “I’ve cooked in every condition known to mankind except an earthquake,” Rollins writes in the book’s introduction. That includes high-competition conditions: Rollins beat chef Bobby Flay in a chicken-fried steak episode of the Food Network’s Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. The winning, time-honored family recipe is in the A Taste of Cowboy.
The Team: Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon Catering owner Kent Rollins, who now caters for birthday parties and bar mitzvahs across the country as well as cowboys on true working ranches. His wife, Shannon, runs Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon Cooking School based in Hollis, Okla., with Kent and also took the photographs for this book.
The Cuisine: “Cowboy cooking is made from ingredients you’ll already have on hand such as potatoes, cheese, canned beans, and onions,” Rollins writes. Many of the recipes in this book involve canned ingredients because when he’s out on the wagon for five weeks at a time, Rollins doesn’t have access to fresh fruit and vegetables. He wrote this book in part to prove that canned food items can taste good. Otherwise, this food is simple and straightforward — it’s food that comes from the kitchens of Rollins’s mother and aunt that he tweaked to be cooked on his Dutch oven, Bertha, with the few tools his chuck wagon can hold.
Who Should Buy It: Those who love Texas cuisine. Those who are interested in the cowboy lifestyle — Rollins shares stories from the trail throughout the book — and who are intrigued by the challenges of cooking outdoors. “I’ve had to chop ice to make coffee water, been in dirt storms so bad I had to light a lantern in the middle of the day, and been in rain so heavy I had to cook below the undercarriage of the wagon,” Rollins writes.
Must-Make Recipes: Green Pepper Frito Pie, Rollins’s take on the classic Texas rodeo snack made of chili meat poured into a small bag of Frito chips; Cowboy Sushi, which Rollins makes “cowboy style” with thin steaks; Dilly Bread, made with dill seed and cottage cheese; Chicken-Fried Steak, of course.
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