While categorized as a cookbook THE TEXAS COWBOY KITCHEN is so much more than that - it's a visual history of the Old West thanks to a series of marvelous full-page photos by famed cowboy photographer, Erwin E. Smith; it's an informative, smile provoking collection of commentary about cowboys, their lives and the famed Chisholm Trail; and a selection of over 100 mouth-watering recipes that have withstood the test of time and culinary fads.
Beginning with Starters, those tempting appetite teasers that introduce a meal, the recipes are clear, concise, brimming with preparation hints and substitution suggestions. I could make a full meal of Grady's starters - my favorite being Barbecued Quail Tamales with Avocado Cream.
Of course, early cowboys didn't enjoy the munificence of multicourse meals, but we do. Thus, there is a section titled Soups, Salads, and Sides ripe with everything good from Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus to Corn-Tomato Bisque to Bread Salad with Oven-Dried Tomatoes and Cheeses (easy, quick, and a perfect way to use day-old bread).
A special chapter holds favorite recipes from Texas chefs (not to be believed are the West Texas Brownies). Of course, cowboys loved their meat as much as we do, so we find dishes such as Calf's Liver with Sage-Buttermilk Onion Rings (the secret to the thin, crunchy crusted onion rings is club soda!) and Pat's Lamb Chops with Orange-Fig-Pecan Relish. Not to worry, fish isn't overlooked - try the Plank-Roasted Red Snapper with Citrus-Ancho Glaze.
Biscuits with a capital B! Believe someone said that a cowboy's trail breakfast consisted of biscuit and beans, his lunch consisted of biscuits and beans, his dinner was biscuits, beans, and beef. Buttermilk and Nut-Mash Biscuits are the best - serve with jelly if you wish but they're more than tasty by themselves.
Of course, the concluding chapter features sweets. For me, nothing could top Grandma Spears's Dr. Pepper Cake - rich, moist, and ever so delicious.
And, when we're out for the evening nothing can beat dinner at Grady's Restaurant in Fort Worth where the welcome is warm, the menu palate pleasing, the portions Texas size, and the wait staff attentive. For a Starter don't miss the Red Chile Quail Tostada with a Roasted Corn Relish and Salsa Verde. And, if you think you've had the best Chicken Fried Steak, you really haven't until you've tasted Grady's Rahr Beer Battered 3M Chicken Fried Steak with Green Onion Mashers!
- Gail Cooke