I get a lot of cooking questions like, “What makes a really good crispy fried hash browns?” Now there ain’t no telling how many bags of taters I fried up before I figured it out… but I did figure it out. Continue reading Crispy Hash Brown How-To
I love breakfast any time of day, but I guarantee you back in Ol’ Cookie’s day going down the trail was a whole lot different to what we have today. Fellers back in the 1880’s didn’t eat very well.
A typical breakfast for them consisted of: coffee, biscuits, maybe a little salt pork and even beans. In fact that was the most prevalent meal throughout the day. A common misconception is that cowboys ate a lot of beef while working. Their job was to push the cattle up for sale to the northern railheads- not eat the profits. So unless a cow fell dead on the trail they weren’t eating much beef.
Compared to breakfast served back in the Old West days, when we’re cooking for cowboys it is much heartier. We serve up a mixture of bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuits, pancakes, breakfast casseroles… even cinnamon rolls! A cowboy will burn a lot of calories during the day so it’s important we feed them well so they have energy to last.
While the menu for cooking for cowboys is quite a bit different than that in the 1800’s, the methods and schedule is still somewhat the same.
We use cast iron just like Cookie did whether it’s baking bread in a Dutch oven or frying up some meat in a skillet. Oftentimes, we’re also using the same type of transportation. We’ll hook the wagon up to a team of horses/mules and move to the next camp to cook. Now we’re not going up the trail as in the past, but moving within a certain ranch to work all its pastures.
Mornings come early. A lot of times in the spring it’s getting light by 6 am but I’ve been on some ranches that would want breakfast at 4:30 am! That means getting up 2:45. Luckily those cowboys ain’t getting up quite that early, but they’ll go to pouring into camp about 30 minutes before time to eat breakfast.
While there are a few changes from then to now our responsibility as ranch cooks is still the same – that’s to feed cowboys, feed them well and always welcome them into our camp.
We put this video together of our ranch cooking- we hope you enjoy!
For a long time I thought tortillas were difficult to make. I sure loved the homemade flavor but I didn’t think it was worth all the effort. Well, Shan sure set me straight when she came up with this recipe.
These tortillas are easy to make and have simple ingredients (with one secret ingredient that sure makes them good- bacon grease).
Now you don’t have an excuse to buy those old packaged ones anymore. Double the recipe, refrigerate the extra for later use. Y’all enjoy!
Watch the How To Video:
PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES
TOTAL TIME: 35 MINUTES
MAKES 12 – 14 tortillas
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup shortening or lard
¼ cup bacon grease, cooled
1 cup hot water
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder.Cut in the shortening and bacon grease until crumbly.Add the hot water and stir until combined. With you hands, work the dough into a ball. You can add a bit more water, if needed.Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough about 2 minutes, adding more flour if needed to take away the stickiness.Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.Turn the dough back out onto the floured surface and turn to lightly flour the outside. Pinch the dough off into pieces slightly larger than a golf ball (for about a 12-inch sized tortilla). Work the dough into balls and then press down lightly to form a round roughly the size of your palm. Place the round back onto the floured surface. Repeat with the remaining dough.With a rolling pin, roll each round out into an extremely thin circle. Repeat with the remaining rounds.Place the tortillas onto a large greased skillet over medium-high heat. As the tortilla begins to bubble flip it. As it cooks slightly pat down to pop some of the bubbles. Cook just until light brown circles appear.Wrap in a towel and place in a warm oven until you have finished cooking all of the tortillas and are ready to serve. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I’ve heard a lot of folks say, “I like cast iron, but you sure can’t cook an omelette or an egg in one.” Now that sure isn’t true. Good, seasoned cast iron can cook anything in it and we’re going to tell you the trick.
I like to use my 8-inch cast iron skillet for one omelette, but you can use any size. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet and melt over medium heat.
In a small bowl add 2 eggs or what I like to callhen fruitorcackleberries.
Now, a trick is to add 1 tablespoon of cold water per egg. What that does is steam the eggs as they cook which will prevent them from sticking on your skillet.
Stir that up with a little salt and pepper and pour it into your preheated skillet.
Beforehand, I’ll brown up a little bacon and chop it. I also like to add diced green onion, bell peppers or whatever y’all like in your omelette. Sprinkle your mixture on top of the eggs.
The edges of the eggs will start to separate from the skillet and firm up a little, they will also begin to loosen from the skillet – this is when you’ll want to flip one side over. This will be around the 2 minute point.
Once you’ve flipped it, let that cook another minute or so, until the eggs are set.
I’m not a fancy chef, and I’ve told you you can’t get full on fancy – but you can cook a mighty mean cackleberry omelette in a piece of cast iron if it’s well seasoned. The water, I think is what makes the eggs light and fluffy to me.
Let us show you exactly how we work this trick…Watch the How-To Video:
Get your cast iron skillet smooth and well-seasoned with ourFREE GUIDE HERE
Life, like gravy, just takes a little stirring to get it all smoothed out.
Growing up I learned to cook from the best- Mama, aunts, uncles, old ranch cooks, etc. One thing they taught me was they never used a recipe. Cooking was all about sight, touch, smell and taste. I learned to measure with a dab, a pinch and a little bit more. Now for some folks, including my wife, this is tricky.
White gravy was always one of those dishes that never had a recipe. I never measured the amounts- it just called for milk, grease, flour, salt and pepper… and you just stir until it’s right. Well, Shannon finally told me I had to come up with a measurable recipe for gravy. Yes dear.
Now I ain’t making no promises that you won’t have to alter this a little. Gravy can be a temperamental little bugger. But never give up on a batch of gravy, because it can always be brought back to life. Just do it like Mama, with love, and it’ll all work out.
Watch the step by step video….
1⁄2 cup bacon, sausage, or other meat grease
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 to 2 cups milk, warmed
Salt and black pepper
1. Heat the grease over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet.
2. Sift in the flour and let it come to a boil for around 2 minutes, stirring and mashing down constantly with a flat spatula.
3. Slowly stir in 1 cup of the milk and bring back to a light boil. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and reaches the desired consistency, about 2 minutes. You can add more milk or water (best if warm) to thin the gravy, if necessary.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
TIP: A lot of times on ranches I use canned milk, which gives a very rich flavor, but sometimes I add a little water to thin it. You can also use heavy cream for a richer taste.
We’re so honored that our cookbook,A Taste of Cowboy, was just named on “Amazon’s Top 100 Cookbooks for a Lifetime of Cooking.”
When Shannon and I put together this cookbook, it was a culmination (and that’s a big word for me), of over 25 years cooking whether it was with Mama in the kitchen or at the chuck wagon for cowboys.
As we were putting this cookbook together we knew we had to include a lot of comfort recipes that are easy to make with uncomplicated but bold flavors. But we wanted this to be more than just recipes. the biggest feedback we get from folks is that the thing they most enjoy are the stories and the pictures Shannon has taken from the ranches we’ve cooked for over the years. Even if you never cook a recipe out of this book, you’ll still get something out of it. We’ve had folks just set it on their coffee table.
We’d love for y’all to check it out and share it with your friends and family. It is available at major bookstores and if you’d like a signed copy you can also get one from our website.
Thank y’all for making this adventure so special for us. Keep the fire hot! Kent
Shan and I are pretty excited about fall. For one, that means cooler weather and that sure makes a difference when you’re standing by our ol’ wood stove Bertha. Fall also means pumpkins. Now I sure ain’t the type to cut them up into shapes or carvings, but I do like to eat them especially in the pie form.
Well Shan came up with these Pumpkin Pie Pancakes with some leftover pumpkin and it’s the best of both worlds: dessert and breakfast.Hope y’all have a safe fall! And holler when you get those pancakes fixed!
I get a lot of questions about biscuit making. Do you mash them like a cathead biscuit or do you use a biscuit cutter? But I always get the question, “If you twist the cutter while cutting out the biscuit will it hurt the dough.”
Well I got a tip from a guy that explains this.
When you twist the dough while cutting out the biscuit it can seal the outside edge of the dough and prevent the dough from rising.
So, if you’re having trouble getting your biscuits to rise, you might try this easy trick the next time you’re making a batch! Don’t twist the cutter simply cut the biscuit out with one downward cut.
Sourdough was always a staple on a chuck wagon, and we still use it today on our wagon. The problem I found with traditional sourdough is that it is pretty high maintenance. You have to feed it, stir it, read it a bedtime story. You can’t even go on vacation without making sure someone can babysit the dog and the starter.
I altered my grandmother’s recipe for sourdough starter to make it easier and low maintenance. This starter recipe you don’t have to constantly feed and it’s ready in just 12 to 24 hours! Since it’s so quick to make, I usually keep it a week and a time and throw it out. Or just make it for one recipe and throw it out and make another only when you need it. You don’t have to keep this starter constantly going.
I recommend using a 1 to 1 1/2 gallon crock jar. If you don’t have a crock jar, you can also use the ceramic insert from a CrockPot. Don’t use metal! Check antique stores, Ebay or type in “crock jar” in google for search result.
4 cups warm water1 package dry yeast5 tablespoons sugar4 cups flour1 Russet potato, peeled and quartered
Add the water and yeast to a crock jar that is at least 1 ½ gallons. You can also use the ceramic insert from a crock pot if you don’t have a jar. Just don’t store in metal!
Mix in the sugar and flour. The consistency should be just slightly thinner than pancake batter. Adjust your water or flour if needed to reach desired consistency.
Drop in the potato. Cover with a cup towel. Stir about 6 hours in. The starter is ready to use in 12 hours, but I like to let it set-up 24 hours for a more sour/tart flavor.
Before using the starter, be sure to whisk. Use as a replacement for milk or buttermilk in recipes.
Only recharge the starter when you take 3 cups out of it.
Replace with:1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups warm water and 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk and it’s ready to use again or cover and let set another 6 -12 hours for a more sour/tart flavor.
Try this sourdough starter in our sourdough biscuit recipeHERE.
Check out the Video
Ingredients1 ( 1⁄4-ounce) package rapid-rise yeast3 cups Sourdough Starter ( see below)4 to 5 tablespoons sugar1⁄3 cup vegetable oil2 1⁄2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt2 1⁄2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan or 12-inch cast iron skillet.
2. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the starter. Whisk in 4 tablespoons of the sugar and let sit for 1 minute.
3. Whisk in the oil, baking powder, and salt. At this point, taste the starter. If it is too tart, add a little more sugar, to taste. Remember, the first time you use the starter, it will be the sourest.
4. Slowly begin stirring in the flour until it makes a soft dough and is no longer sticky. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to about inch thick.
5. Cut out about 16 rounds with a biscuit cutter and place on the baking pan or skillet close together.
6. Cover the biscuits with a buttered piece of wax paper and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until nearly doubled in size.
7. Uncover the biscuits and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter and serve warm.
4 cups warm water1 ( 1⁄4-ounce) package rapid-rise yeast5 tablespoons sugar4 cups all-purpose flour
1 russet potato, peeled and quartered
1. Add the warm water to a crock jar that holds at least 1 gallons. This will prevent the starter from frothing over while it’s setting up.
2. Whisk in the yeast and sugar and let sit for 1 minute.
3. Slowly whisk in the our. Drop the potato pieces into the bottom of the crock jar. Cover with a tea towel and let sit on the counter for at least 12 hours, stirring halfway through. You can let the starter sit longer for a more sour flavor.
4. Before using the starter in a recipe, whisk it briskly until smooth.
TIP: The starter will be sourest with its first use, so you may want to add a little more sugar to the first recipe you use it in. I typically keep this starter for a week at a time, stirring at least once a day. However, you can keep it as long as the potato stays intact. I prefer to use a russet potato because it holds up the best, but you can use any potato you have on hand. Always cover the starter with a towel and never refrigerate it.
To recharge the starter:
After 3 cups have been taken out, replace with 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups water, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk and cover. The starter can be used again immediately or let set for another 12 hours for a more sour flavor.