Ree Drummond's festive cookbook dresses up her home-style recipes for the holidays.
Reese Witherspoon has been rumored to be playing her in a film. Her blog, The Pioneer Woman, has millions of followers and has been named Web-log of the Year three times. She has her own TV show on the Food Network and three top-selling cookbooks. She’s also married to her very own Marlboro Man.
Somehow Ree Drummond manages to do it all — running her multimedia empire, feeding a ranch’s worth of cowhands, and home-schooling four children — from her homestead in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Which is in large part why the wisecracking, life-sharing, photograph-taking, pot roast-cooking blogger has developed such a dedicated following of home cooks all trying to have their blackberry cobbler and eat it, too.
Drummond’s latest cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2013), takes her cowboy- and cowgirl-friendly dishes and gussies them up for seasonal celebrations, from New Year’s to Christmas Day. Black-eyed pea salsa and pepper-packed skillet corn bread kick off the year with a strong serving of luck. Chocolate-strawberry cake lets Papa know just how sweet he is. Watermelon sangria counters the Roman candle heat of Independence Day. Brandy-kissed mulled apple cider keeps Jack Frost from nipping too much at your nose. And cowboy-shaped Christmas cookies decorated with royal icing will charm Santa.
We talked with Drummond about her tips for planning the perfect holiday meals, the dishes that are worthy of celebrating any time of year, and what will be on her yuletide table.
Cowboys & Indians: What makes a dish cowboy-friendly?
Ree Drummond: Usually, it’s what makes a dish un-friendly to cowboys that I have to pay attention to. I probably would never serve a cowboy pasta primavera because there’s no meat in it. I’d never add fresh ginger to anything I’d serve a cowboy; it’s too strong a flavor and not familiar enough. Kale probably would not be universally welcomed by a roomful of cowboys. And I doubt they’d get too excited about anything having to do with goat cheese. Cowboys love hot, hearty, abundant, familiar, comforting, filling, and — in the case of our crew — slightly spicy food. Stick to those things and you’re good to go!
C&I: Do you adhere to any additional rules for holiday meals?
Drummond: Whether it’s Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July, I look for dishes that can largely be made ahead of time, with just a little last-minute throwing together, and dishes that can be made in large quantities. People who come to my house are ready to eat! Planning ahead is the key to holiday happiness. Start a week out by making your grocery list, and then count backward from the day to plan what can be made/prepped ahead of time. You should do the least amount of cooking on the actual day as humanly possible. It’ll make your day so much more enjoyable.
C&I: What does The Pioneer Woman serve at Christmas?
Drummond: When I think about food to make at Christmastime, I always lean toward slightly elegant food that still has a comfort food angle but that looks really gorgeous on a table all laid out together. Prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts with cranberries, golden brown Yorkshire pudding ... those all say Christmas to me!
Mulled apple cider accomplishes several things: First of all, it fills the house with that distinctive Christmas smell. It’s like you’re burning a candle when you’re making it! Second, it’s nice and warm, which is handy this time of year. But most importantly, it’s totally
delicious — especially if you spike it with a little brandy!
The marshmallow pops are one of my favorite treats to make because they’re simple and require no baking or cooking. Plus, you can pop them in your mouth as a treat or use them to stir into hot chocolate or even coffee! And the possibilities for decorating are endless.
C&I: What are your top three dishes that could work for almost any holiday?
Drummond: Oh, that’s a tough one. I’d have to say prime rib or beef tenderloin, as that can cover a lot of holiday ground. Twice-baked potatoes, too — they’d go with a casual Christmas Eve dinner or a Fourth of July picnic. And finally, probably pecan pie. It’s not necessarily associated with summertime holidays, but it’s both my and my husband’s favorite pie. So it’s a safe choice!
C&I: What’s next for The Pioneer Woman?
Drummond: Really, just more of the same! I love blogging, writing cookbooks, and shooting the cooking show. I’ve got four children who are busy with school, soccer, and football, and my husband has a full-time job running our ranch. We’re renovating an old building in our town of Pawhuska and will be working on a deli. So I think I’d better not take on much more than that!
From the November/December 2014 issue.