Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Off The Shelf: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Have you seen The Pioneer Woman Cooks yet? Written by Ree Drummond, this cookbook is the first published by the widely popular author of The Pioneer Woman blog. My order for this book at the library sat in line for quite some time as everyone was eager to see what was inside.

And now that I've had a chance to thoroughly look through the book, I'm trying to figure out just what I think. Here's my verdict: this is a great cookbook, full of mouth-watering pictures and solid recipes that will most likely work for the masses, as well as being the perfect souvenir for those who follow the Pioneer Woman's blog, but it's not for everyone.

If you love Southern, down-home comfort food, made from scratch this is a great book to peruse. If you are all about tons of fresh vegetables, lots of wholegrains and little refined sugar, you won't find much inspiration here.

Ree begins her book by introducing her family, their ranch and how she got started as the Pioneer Woman blogger. For anyone interested in country life, the book is fun just to flip through and enjoy the pictures and commentary of what they do on the ranch.

I did find the overall layout of the book to be just a bit too "scrap-bookey" for my taste. Color is everywhere, and of course there are gobs of pictures for each recipe, which may come in handy for those needing step-by-step instructions. The front cover of the book gives a good idea of the kind of layout inside the pages.

There are five chapters spread over 250 pages:

Starters: with recipes like BBQ Jalapeno Poppers, Guacamole, PW's Potato skins, and Hot Artichoke Dip

In the Morning: think Cinnamon rolls, Egg-in-the-Hole, PW's Breakfast Burritos, and French Breakfast Puffs

Dinner (Lunch): some samples are Simple, Perfect Chili, Onion Strings, Pulled Pork, Macaroni and Cheese, Cowboy Calzone, and Chicken Potpie

Supper (Dinner): with recipes such as Chicken-Fried Steak, Meatloaf, Fried Chicken, Homemade Ranch with Iceberg Lettuce, and Comfort Meatballs

Sweets: who isn't tempted by Patsy's Blackberry Cobbler, Flat Apple Pie, Chocolate Sheet Cake, Oatmeal Crispies, or Red Velvet Cake

It was hard for me to choose a recipe to try, as many of the recipes are not things I prefer to put on my table (as much as my mouth waters at their mention). I finally settled on Basic Breakfast Potatoes. The recipe was easy to follow and came out just fine.

(The Pioneer Woman Cooks)
Print this recipe

4 to 5 red or other potatoes
1 large onion, cut into large, rough dice
vegetable oil for frying
bacon fat (optional)
black pepper

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in a 375F oven for 45 minutes, or until fork-tender.

Place the hot potatoes on a cutting board and dice them into 1-inch-ish pieces.

Heat a skillet over medium-low to medium heat. Next, put a little vegetable oil in the pan. A tablespoon is good. Scrape the pan you used to make bacon earlier this morning. You all made bacon this morning...right?

Then, because I usually straddle the fence between ridiculousness and utter foolishness, I add a tablespoon of bacon fat to the skillet. 'Cause it tastes goooooood, that's why.

Go ahead and make peace with yourself, then add the onion. Saute until it starts to turn brown.

Next, throw in the cooked, diced potatoes. Now, sometimes I'll remove the onions first and wait to add them back in when the potatoes are brown. But I happen to like the onions to get all dark and burny, so I'm going to leave them.

Salt and pepper the potatoes, then stir them around, then slightly press/pack them in the skillet. Cook without stirring for several minutes. You want to make sure the pan is hot enough to crisp the potatoes, but not hot enough to char the poor dears.

NOTE: Sometimes, to make an interesting crust, I'll sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of flour over the top of the potatoes while the underside is cooking. That way, when you flip them they'll get a little crispy. In addition, a nice coating of paprika can give the potatoes a great depth of color.

After several minutes, use a spatula to flip the potatoes over to the other side. Be sure to thoroughly salt and pepper the potatoes. Because no matter how you slice it, potatoes must have seasoning. Lots and lots of seasoning.

Enjoy them! Spoon them into your breakfast burritos or place a fried egg on top...or serve them alongside eggs Benedict if you're feeling especially saucy.

Makes 8 servings.

Now it's your turn to check out The Pioneer Woman Cooks and let me know what you think!