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Cowboy Cuisine



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"The West wasn't won on salad."
~ North Dakota Beef Council

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La Belle Cuisine


Cowboy Cuisine

Ranch-Style Cooking with a Twist

by Pableaux Johnson
MSN Home Advisor

"A big thick char-grilled T-bone, a pile of hot mashed potatoes, and an
ice- cold Lone Star Beer—that's my idea of West Texas cowboy cuisine."

Cowboy in the Kitchen:
Recipes from Reata and
Texas West of the Pecos

by Grady Spears, 1999, Ten Speed Press

"Even though Chef Grady Spears didn't grow up on a West Texas cattle ranch,
he's played a significant role in updating cowboy cuisine and bringing it to food
lovers outside the Lone Star state.
Spears' cooking goes beyond the simple beefsteak to dishes like stacked pheasant enchiladas in salsa verde, braised cabbage with chile pasilla and port wine, and buttermilk pies spiked with rum-soaked raisins.
As the owner and head cook at his Reata restaurant in the remote western town
of Alpine, Spears developed a new twist to ranch-style cooking traditions and successfully exported his innovations to the Texas cattle city of Fort Worth
and the toney town of Beverly Hills. But despite his distinctly urban migration,
Spears' food keeps strong roots in the living cowboy culture of the Trans-Pecos borderlands.
Spears' 1999 book A Cowboy in the Kitchen (10 Speed Press) presents both his popular Reata recipes, adapted for the home kitchen, and an informative take
on ranch life and cuisine. Spears co-authored with noted Texas food writer
Robb Walsh, who fills the storied history of cooking on the range, all the way
from cowboy coffee to the finer points of roasting goats.
Here are a few of the pillars of cowboy cooking according to Spears, with a few
of his own twists thrown in.
Though most people expect big slabs of meat to be at the core of the cowboy cuisine, thick steaks are traditionally more of a "going to town" meal than an everyday
menu item. Beef, though plentiful, fresh, and on the hoof, only appeared in steak form during special occasions for most cowboys working West Texas ranches."

Grilled Strip Steak

Makes 4 servings

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
4 strip steaks (about 14 ounces each)
4 teaspoons Reata Grill Blend:
(1 teaspoon kosher salt, 3/4 teaspoon
powdered chile pasilla, 1/2 teaspoon each of
dried granulated garlic, sugar, ground cumin,
coarsely ground black pepper, ground thyme)

4 slices herbed butter

Prepare the grill. Mix the Worcestershire and olive oil in a shallow pan.
Soak the steaks in this mixture while the grill is heating. Remove the
steaks from the marinade and season with the Reata Grill Blend.
When the grill feels hot to a hand held 5 inches from the fire, it is ready
to use. Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 5 minutes on each side
for medium. Top each steak with a cold slice of herbed butter (seasoned
with chopped fresh cilantro) and serve immediately.


"Much of cowboy cooking is based on the tradition of the traveling chuck
wagon, a kitchen on wheels, used to feed far-flung ranch hands, and
campfire Dutch oven cooking.
The versatile cast-iron pots known as Dutch ovens were the range cook's
best friend, since they could be used for nearly every kind of cookery
(including sourdough baking). Cooks would ladle hot coals on the lids
of these heavy pots for even heat and two-sided cooking.
Tangy sourdough rolls and biscuits baked in a coal-covered Dutch
oven became standard starches and gravy soppers. The ever-present
pinto bean, prized for its durability and nutrition, was often given a
more direct Dutch oven treatment. Beans cooked long and slow over
an open fire formed a core of cowboys' everyday fare."

Ranch Beans

4 cups dried pinto beans
4 cups minced yellow onions, plus 1-1/2 cups diced
1/2 cup pure chili powder
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced red bell peppers
2 cups diced green bell peppers

Wash the beans and sort through them to remove any foreign particles or broken beans. In a stockpot, cover the beans with cold water by 6 inches
and soak them for 6 hours or overnight. Be sure the beans remain covered with water during the soaking process. Drain the beans and return them to
the same pan. Cover them with fresh water by 1-1/2 inches. Add the minced onions, chili powder, salt, and cilantro. Stir to blend. Bring the beans to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the beans are tender, about 2-1/2 hours. From time to time, check and stir the beans, add-ing water if needed. Near the end of the cooking time, the liquid should be almost absorbed. Close to serving time, heat the olive oil in a large sauté
pan. When the oil is very hot, add the diced onions and peppers and cook them quickly, about 6 minutes, stirring and tossing, until crisp but tender.
Stir this mixture into the beans. Serve at once.


" The political and culinary borders between Texas and Mexico tend to get blurry
in the Trans-Pecos ranchlands, and cowboy cooking shows a fair amount of exchange between the two countries. Many of the cooks (cocineros in Spanish) working on the huge ranches of Texas came from nearby Chihuahua, Mexico,
and Tex-Mex flavors have nearly always spiced up the food of the cowboys.
This gooey appetizer is thick with cheese, chiles, and chili-heavy Mexican
sausage. It's a simple way to sample the influence of the cocineros."

Chorizo Con Queso

1 tablespoon corn oil
1/2 pound chorizo (Mexican chili sausage)
1/2 cup minced onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/3 cup roasted poblano chile, diced
1/3 cup chicken stock
3 cups grated mild cheddar cheese

Warm the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook it for 2 minutes, or until the fat begins to melt. Add the onions and
garlic. Cook until the chorizo is well browned. Drain off the grease. Add
the tomatoes, poblano chile, and chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a
simmer and slowly add the cheese, blending it with a spoon. As each batch
of cheese melts, add more, cooking over low heat. When all the cheese has melted and the mixture comes together, it is ready to serve with warm
tortillas or crispy chips. Keep warm while serving.

Featured Archive Recipes:
Barbecued Texas Beef Brisket
Bodacious Porterhouse Steaks with
Sexy Barbecue Sauce

Chili con Carne Colorado
Run for the Border Beans

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