Learn how to make food fit for a cowboy in your own home — or chuck wagon — kitchen.
Editor’s Note: From our April feature on cowboy cook Kent Rollins, the following recipes are excerpted and adapted from Faith, Family & the Feast: Recipes to Feed Your Crew from the Grill, Garden, and Iron Skillet.
Makes 2 servings
We’ve had more than 1 million views of this on our YouTube channel, because it’s such a great way to cook a steak. Instead of using the grill, we dig a hole in the ground and build a fire in it. We cook the steak directly on those coals, which gives a better sear to the meat and locks in moisture and flavor. We finish that all in a horseradish and white-wine sauce for a little extra bite of flavor. Since you’ve got the fire hot, go ahead and add corn and a bell pepper to serve alongside the steak.
2 ears sweet corn, in the husks
Juice of 1 lime
2 (14-ounce) rib-eye steaks
Salt and black pepper
1 bell pepper (green, red, yellow, or orange)
¾ stick butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon prepared horseradish
¼ cup white wine, plus more if desired (we like Hatch Green Chile Wine)
1. Dig a hole in the ground about 2 feet long by 10 inches wide by 10 inches deep. Fill the hole with hardwood or hardwood lump charcoal. Light the coals and let them burn down until they are nearly all white. Be sure to fan the coals well before cooking, which will remove any loose ash.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cover the corn with water. Let soak for 20 minutes.
3. Generously rub lime juice on one side of the steaks. Season with salt and pepper to taste and rub in well. Flip over and repeat on the other side. Cover and let sit for about 15 minutes.
4. Set the corn, bell pepper, and steaks directly on the coals. Cook the vegetables, turning occasionally, until the pepper is charred and the corn softens, 8 to 10 minutes for the corn and 4 to 5 minutes for the pepper. Cook the steaks for about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
5. Meanwhile, place the butter, garlic, and horseradish in a large cast-iron skillet. Set on the coals and cook, stirring frequently, until the butter has melted and just slightly browned. Stir in the white wine. Place the steaks in the skillet and cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side. For more flavor, you can add a splash more of the wine while cooking, if desired.
6. Let the steaks rest for a few minutes before cutting. Drizzle the wine sauce over the steaks and serve immediately with the corn and bell pepper.
Tip: Fanning the coals before cooking will remove most of the ash. However, if a little still clings to the steaks, brush it off and serve.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes
Mama’s Cheesy Squash Bake
Makes about 6 servings
This was on our table many a Sunday after church in the summertime. Mama always knew how to take a few simple ingredients and make them into a homemade masterpiece. Tender squash is blended with mozzarella and cheddar cheeses and topped with a crushed-cracker crust.
¾ stick butter, melted
5 medium yellow squash, sliced ¼-inch thick (about 6 cups)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
Salt and black pepper
2 large eggs
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 sleeve saltine or Ritz crackers, crumbled
½ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or 9-by-13-inch casserole dish.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and onion, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and drain the squash and onion well (important!) in a colander. Transfer to a large bowl.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, mayonnaise, milk, and cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.
5. Lightly stir the egg and cheese mixture into the squash mixture. Scrape the cheesy squash into the prepared skillet or casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the crumbled crackers, followed by the Parmesan cheese. Evenly pour the remaining 3 tablespoons butter on top.
6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the casserole sets up and is lightly browned on top. Serve hot.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Prize-Winning Cowboy Chili
Makes 6 to 8 servings
So, here’s the funny thing — we’ve never actually won any prizes ourselves with this recipe. However, we’ve gotten a ton of emails from folks who tell us they used this recipe at their local chili cook-off and won! You can use any type of meat, whether it’s ground beef or even wild game. A perfect blend of chili powder, cumin, and oregano gives it a classic chili flavor, and the chipotle chiles take it to blue ribbon status! Beans or no beans is always the question. I do love a bean, and we add kidney beans for more heartiness, but that’s your call.
2 pounds ground beef or chuck, cut into bite-sized chunks
Salt and black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 (10-ounce) cans Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (16-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
3 or 4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
1/3 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika or smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and chopped green onions for serving
1. In a large pot or 12-inch Dutch oven, brown the meat over medium-high heat, breaking up the chopped beef or turning the cubes of chuck, 8 to 10 minutes. As the meat begins to brown, season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the onion and continue cooking until the meat has fully browned and the onion is tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the excess grease.
2. Stir in the Ro-Tel tomatoes and chiles, 1 Ro-Tel can of water, the tomato sauce, kidney beans, and chipotle chiles to taste. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt and the remaining seasonings.
3. Cover and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes, to let the flavors blend. Serve warm, topped with cheese, sour cream, and green onions, if desired.
Cast-Iron Tip: Acidic foods, such as tomatoes or barbecue sauces, are harsh on cast iron, but you can cook them in it. Just be sure to clean it well and re-season it after every use.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Makes about 8 servings
This dessert is the Holy Grail of Southern desserts and can be found at nearly every reunion, potluck, or family get-together. My favorite part of this pudding is the creamy, thick texture. You can get creative in the number of layers and types of dishes to serve this in.
1½ cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 (5-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
6 or 7 large ripe bananas
1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafers
1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream and sugar until stiff. Cover and refrigerate.
2. In a large bowl, beat the milk, pudding mix, and condensed milk until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, mash 1 banana with a fork until smooth. Beat into the pudding mixture. Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, or until it reaches a thick pudding consistency.
4. Meanwhile, thinly slice the remaining bananas.
5. Arrange half the vanilla wafers in an even layer in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
6. Fold half the whipped cream into the pudding mixture. Evenly spoon the pudding mixture over the wafers; then layer with the sliced bananas and remaining whipped cream. Crush the remaining wafers and sprinkle them on top. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until you are ready to serve.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Recipes are excerpted and adapted from Faith, Family & the Feast: Recipes to Feed Your Crew from the Grill, Garden, and Iron Skillet © 2020 by Kent and Shannon Rollins. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Photography: Images courtesy Kent and Shannon Rollins
From our April 2020 issue.