If you’ve spent more time in the kitchen over the past year, you’re not alone. The pandemic effectively broke a fast food habit for many of us who found ourselves commuting from room to room instead of to the office. Cooking at home is a less expensive, healthier option than eating out, but there’s no denying that it can be a lot of work.
Whether you’re a beginner or looking to try something new, Oklahoma native Ree Drummond has you covered. Accustomed to cooking for a herd of hungry cowboys, the Food Network’s famous Pioneer Woman specializes in family-style meals that are easy and delicious.
Who is The Pioneer Woman?
Ending up on an Oklahoma cattle ranch west of the tiny town of Pawhuska was the last thing Drummond ever expected. Born and raised just a few miles away in Bartlesville, she grew up dreaming of life in the big city.
Drummond went to LA, attended USC, and planned to go to law school in Chicago. But on a visit home, she met a handsome cowboy and fell madly in love. They were married in 1996. She and Pawhuska would never be the same.
In 2006 Drummond began blogging about her life with her husband, Ladd Drummond, who runs the 430,000-acre ranch that has been in his family for generations. She shared her recipes and thoughts online as she raised their four children and developed a huge fan base. According to Biography, book deals followed, leading to her first television appearance in 2010 on Throwdown! With Bobby Flay, where she won a cooking contest against him. In 2011, she got her own cooking show on the Food Network.
Pawhuska, with a population of just 3,500, became a popular tourist destination when she opened a restaurant and hotel there. Despite finding fame and fortune, Drummond is still an unpretentious country girl at heart. “Oklahoma gives me strength,” she said, “and it’s just where my soul belongs.”
Ree Drummond shares her recipes for two cowboy favorites
Spend some time in the Sooner state, and you’re sure to encounter two southwestern classics, Chicken-fried Steak and Biscuits and Gravy. Creamy, white gravy with plenty of ground black pepper is key to both dishes. It may seem a little strange to folks up north but out on the prairie, it’s a hands-down favorite.
Drummond uses cube steak seasoned with salt and pepper for a tasty supper that will, as she says, stick to your ribs. She coats the steaks with seasoned flour then fries them in vegetable oil and a little butter to create that crispy coating we usually associate with fried chicken. After draining most of the oil from the pan she whisks in a little of the seasoned flour, adds whole milk, salt, and pepper, simmering the mixture to just the right consistency. Serve the steaks smothered in gravy with a side of mashed potatoes and a crispy green salad. “You cannot have chicken fried steak without gravy,” she says in her video. “It’s written in a law somewhere.”
Drummond’s recipe for a mouthwatering sausage gravy served over preferably, homemade buttermilk biscuits, is very similar, but a tube of quality breakfast sausage is what gives this dish its spicy pizazz. You can either break up the sausage, brown it and mix it into the gravy or serve fried sausage patties on the side. Don’t forget the salt. “Without salt, the gravy is doomed to mediocrity,” says Drummond on her website, The Pioneer Woman. “Taste it after you add the salt; if it makes your heart sing and your knees go weak, it’s just right.”
Now split some freshly baked biscuits in half and drown them in all that rich, creamy goodness. Buttermilk biscuits from scratch can be a little tricky at first. Combine the milk and self-rising flour with a light touch to prevent too much gluten from forming, or they will be tough instead of light and flaky. Fortunately, you can find the complete instructions for Self-Rising Biscuits on Drummond’s website, or, if you prefer, you can use biscuits from a can.
Ree Drummond’s best time-saving kitchen hack
Canned biscuits are quick and easy, but the amount of time it takes to prep vegetables for dinner might tempt you to give up and order a pizza. Let’s face it, all that peeling and chopping before you can even get started is a pain.
Drummond shared her solution in an article for People. She said: “When you bring produce home, clean and prep everything before you put it in the refrigerator. This is simple but revolutionary: In the middle of a recipe, you can just reach into your fridge and grab already-peeled carrots or already-cleaned mushrooms and quarter them.”
In an article on her website titled, “How to Prep Veggies for the Week” Drummond recommends prepping once or twice a week, depending on what kind of vegetables you have.
Soft vegetables like tomatoes only last about three days after they’re chopped, while harder ones like carrots and broccoli can last a week. Store your chopped veggies in air-tight containers and refrigerate until needed.
Make sure the ones you wash, like lettuce, are dry before you put them in the fridge. Extra moisture can make them spoil faster.
Drummond washes most of her chopped vegetables right before cooking them. “Having prepared vegetables at your fingertips will cut your dinner preparation time in half, and may even inspire you to include more vegetables in your meals,” says Drummond. “Salads for everyone!”
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