Photography: O RO Ranch Wagon Cook Rick Ferguson heating up lunch and coffee for the crew over hot coals/Kathy McCraine

This trio of Dutch oven recipes will have you rustling up cow country cooking in no time.

The February/March Western Gourmet feature turns its eye and taste buds to Kathy McCraine’s Orejana Outfit: Arizona’s Historic O RO Ranch 1993 2013 in which the photographer documents the lives of the cowboys of the O RO Ranch and the chuck wagon cooks charged with feeding the cowhands. “They have a wagon. They don’t have very good roads. So everything is worked horseback. It’s like stepping back a hundred years.”

McCraine says part of what made O RO special during her visits is that the ranch took on “really good hands,” and that included the cooks. “Some of them were really interesting and some of them were really outlaws.” Take Lenny McNab, for example, McCraine’s favorite wagon cook subject. The classically trained chef had no cowboy cooking background when he came to work the chuck wagon on the O RO in 2006. From head to toe, “he was a real character,” the photographer recalls. McCraine captures McNab in just that way — dressed in what he imagined to be authentic cookie’s garb: a bowler hat, overalls, boots, and a sly grin.

Orejana Outfit isn’t the first time McCraine has spotlighted chuck wagon cooks rustling up grub for hardworking cowboys. She is also the author of Cow Country Cooking: Recipes and Tales From Northern Arizona’s Historic Ranches. Below the photographer shares a few recipes from the book, including one from her favorite cookie: Lenny McNab.

O RO Wagon Beef

This was one of Lenny McNab’s favorite ways to cook beef at the O RO wagon, in a Dutch oven over coals.

6 or 7 pounds hindquarter beef
Water, to cover
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
Tabasco sauce
3 tablespoons garlic salt

Cut beef in large chunks, about the size of a fist. Get the coals hot, put the beef in a Dutch oven, and add water to cover. Cover with lid. Put coals on top and underneath the oven, and let that sit for about 3 hours. Take the beef out, and let it cool down. To the water add salt and pepper, tomato paste, vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, a liberal amount of Tabasco sauce, and garlic salt. Chop the beef, and put it back in the sauce. Allow it to cook another hour.

Photography: (Left to Right) Ferguson with a batch of homemade biscuits ready to go in the Dutch oven, June 1993; Lenny McNab was arguably the best wagon cook the O RO had/Kathy McCraine

Guadalupe Chili Pie

From Rick Ferguson, O RO Ranch Wagon Cook

2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon margarine
1 15-ounce can chili beans
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 6-ounce packages corn bread mix
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk

Brown the beef and onions in margarine in an open Dutch oven. Add beans, chili powder, salt, and tomato sauce. Cover oven and cook 15 minutes over fire. Mix the corn bread as directed with the eggs and milk. Add to top of the beef mixture. Place lid on oven, place coals on top and bottom, and cook 20 – 30 minutes until corn bread is browned.

Photography: Kathy McCraine

Dutch Oven Potatoes

From Mike Oden, Oden Cattle Company, Williams, Arizona

¾ pound bacon, cut in ½-inch pieces
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Approximately 4 cups shredded 4-cheese Mexican blend (Monterey Jack, cheddar, queso quesadilla, and asadero)

In a medium-size Dutch oven, fry the bacon until crisp over hot coals. Dump potatoes into the bacon and bacon grease and stir, adding salt and pepper to taste. Let coals cook down to medium heat, cover the oven, put coals on top, and cook for about 1 hour, or until fork tender. Time may vary. Uncover, stir in cheese, and leave on heat until melted.

Recipes edited and reprinted with permission from Cow Country Cooking: Recipes and Tales From Northern Arizona’s Historic Ranches by Kathy McCraine (Kathy McCraine/Toppan Printing, 2010).

For more on the O R O Ranch, read our February/March 2018 Western Gourmet feature.

From the February/March 2018 issue.

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