Cooking on the ranch
Ree Drumond, or “Pioneer Woman,” as she is known by many, started blogging in 2006, creating the award winning website www.thepioneerwoman.com. It is there she shares about her life on a working cattle ranch, which includes many of the recipes she makes for her friends and family.
The author is not professionally trained, but that does not deter the large following she has. Readers seem to appreciate her step-by-step instructions, sense of humor, and laid back style.
This bright and colorful hardcover book reflects the author’s personality. It is more than 200 pages long and is composed of five chapters: starters, in the morning, dinner, supper, and sweets. The first ten 10 pages are dedicated to introducing the reader to her life. Here she shares the story of how she became a ranch wife. She includes photos of her children and husband. The author also shares photographs and a description of some of her favorite kitchen wares and seasonings that she relies on in her kitchen.
Drummond is a story teller, and for each recipe she has a tale to share with us. Whether it is her Great-grandmother’s coffee cake, her struggle to come up with the perfect pot roast, or a friend’s recipe, she tells us the story behind the dish. And, while the book is mainly about ranch style cooking, she also offers such other recipes as potato leek pizza and crème brulee.
Many complain about how there are too few photographs in cookbooks these days. That is not the case in this cookbook. In fact every page has at least one photograph on it if not ten! Besides, the food photography there are many scenes taken from the ranch. Some may wonder why this type of photography is included in a cookbook. Not me. As an urban dweller, I find the rainbows, wildflowers, and horses refreshing.
Beginning cooks will appreciate that each recipe has step-by-step instructions and small photographs to go along with each and every step. I personally like to see a photograph of the finished dish and find the smaller ones unnecessary. Others who are new to the kitchen will probably appreciate these how-to visuals. The author also includes a large photograph of what the completed dish should look like.
Drummond is trying to reach the beginning cook, and those who no longer find any joy in cooking or who have just given up. Although the step-by-step instructions are fairly easy to follow, I suggest reading the whole recipe first, because the type lay-out can be confusing. One page might have the steps going in a horizontal direction, while the next page regarding the same recipe might follow a vertical direction. This can be confusing, if you are not paying close attention to the numbers on the steps. I made a number of recipes from the cookbook, and found a few favorites.
The Spicy Pulled Pork was delicious and very easy to assemble. You make a spice mixture, rub it all over the pork shoulder, add some water to your Dutch oven, and cook it for about six hours. The meat had a great flavor and was not too spicy for our tastes. It was so tender, it just fell apart. The day I made it we served it on tortillas with guacamole, as the author suggested. The recipe calls for a 5-7 pound piece of meat, so I had plenty for additional meals. I sent some with my husband to the office for lunch. We froze the rest and used it for barbeque sandwiches. I made this on a Saturday when I was home to take care of it, but having the extra meat during the week was really nice. This was so good that I will be making it for friends coming to dinner this week.
I had to try Drummond’s chocolate sheet cake, and I am glad that I did. I didn’t know how this recipe would go over with my family. Neither my husband nor my daughter are huge fans of cake. They loved it! The cake was moist and had a very good chocolate flavor. I omitted the pecans from the icing, because my children don’t care for nuts. The icing also had a good chocolate flavor and was not overly sweet. It complimented the cake nicely. She also suggests making the cake into cupcakes. Next time I will do that and add the pecans to half of the icing for the adults. I think they will add a nice contrast to the moist, rich cake.
The only recipe that didn’t go over well was the prune cake. I didn’t let anyone know that there were prunes in the recipe, but my children didn’t care for the pieces of “fruit.” The cake is very dense, sweet, and has a nice holiday spice flavor. Due to these factors, I would serve it for tea or dessert, but not breakfast.
As Drummond says, the recipes in her book are simple to prepare and use widely available ingredients. It is not fancy gourmet cooking, but simple country cooking, which is not low-cal, but tastes good.
Ree Drummond takes any sort of intimidation out of cooking, plus she has a great sense of humor. The Pioneer Woman Cooks would be a great cookbook for the beginning cook. Those that find cooking a chore will enjoy her stories and beautiful photos. If you love meat and potatoes this cookbook is definitely for you.
Spicy Pulled Pork
One 5- to- 7- pound pork shoulder
1 whole onion, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ cup brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 to 2 tablespoons salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
2. This is a pork shoulder roast. Make friends with it, because it is a fabulously versatile piece of meat. Go ahead and give it a rinse. I’ll wait.
3. In a food processor, combine the onion, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar. Pulse until totally combined.
4. Pour the mixture over the pork. Rub it into every nook and cranny of the meat, tucking it under folds and in crevices. Let no stone go unturned.
5. Place the pork into a roasting pan or Dutch oven and add 2 cups of water. Cover tightly and roast for 6 to 7 hours, turning once every hour.
6. Check to make sure it’s fork-tender. Increase the heat to 425F and roast uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the skin gets crispy. Remove from the oven and allow the pork to rest for 15 minutes.
7. Shred the meat, using two pull it apart. Place the shredded meat on a large planter line with lime wedges.
8. Pour the pan juices over the shredded meat. This ensures that the meat stays extra tender.
9. Serve with warm tortillas.