Ree Drummond's second cookbook is less love story and life on the ranch, and more comfort cooking and classic recipes. Accompanied by her signature step-by-step photos, recipes are full-fat, full-flavor and full-on family cooking. There's a reason Drummond's popular blog, The Pioneer Woman, gets an estimated 20 million page views per month. Her style of cooking is how the majority of Americans cook and eat. As Drummond herself describes on her new TV show on the Food Network, her food is "simple, yet scrumptious," and her recipes are "approved by cowboys and hungry kids."
In The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier, Drummond cut back on the stories about her "frontier" and her husband, nicknamed "Marlboro Man," and instead just features the food. There are comfort food classics like sloppy joes and beef stew, kid-friendly pasta dishes and pizzas, and party-ready appetizers such sliders, fried mozzarella, chicken wings, and stuffed mushrooms. It's not all meat and cream however, there's also pan-fried kale, roasted cauliflower, watermelon granita and other sides, salads and soups.
Drummond knows what moms, kids and cowboys want: Mexican food, chicken breast or ground beef, cheese, noodles, and pizza. And in this book, there is a lot of each. But Drummond doesn't take a lot of shortcuts, there's a simple pizza dough recipe, with various topping options, an all-butter pie crust recipe, and only a couple recipes with prepared packaged food. Drummond has her critics, but spending time with this book only makes me hungry.
The step-by-step photography style is a Pioneer Woman signature. I love recipes accompanied by photos or illustrations, but they better show something you've never seen before. Drummond misses this opportunity on a few occasions. For example, there are 13 photos for making eggs benedict, but no photos of poaching the eggs. There's a photo of cracking the egg on the side of the pot and a photo of a toasted English muffin, but no photo of what a white swirly mess your poaching egg may look like the first time you try it. I'm not just picking on P-Dub though, Michael Ruhlman similarly irked me in Ruhlman's Twenty. He suggests trussing a chicken before roasting it and has photos of a beautifully trussed bird. How it got to that point was not illustrated however.
Interspersed among the recipes are valuable kitchen tips and techniques like soaking onions in vinegar to remove their bite, how to cut an avocado, and using a bouquet garni. I wish this book included an introduction with cooking tips or sidebars with kitchen wisdom, but instead it jumps right into the recipes. This cookbook is probably too basic for most experienced home cooks, but would be a great book for newlyweds, kids heading off to college or even bachelors that don't do much cooking, but do a lot of eating.
Meet Ree Drummond on Tuesday April 24 at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park at 6 p.m. Seating the night of the event is first come first served, and no purchase is required to hear Ree speak. Signing line tickets however are given out with your purchase of the book. If you purchased the book (or any of her other books) elsewhere, just show your copy to a cashier to get a signing line ticket.