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At home on the range

Published Aug. 27, 2005

The Texas Cowboy Kitchen is an oversize cookbook that will pose a question for cooks: Do they put it to work in the kitchen or display it on the coffee table?

The Texas Cowboy Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, $34.95), is full of archival cowboy photography from the Erwin E. Smith Collection at the Amon Carter Museum in Forth Worth, Texas. It also has new mouth-watering food photography by Ralph Lauer.

Grady Spears, who wrote the book with June Naylor, is an author and a cowboy cook-restaurateur. His previous books include A Cowboy in the Kitchen (1998), Cowboy Cocktails (2000) and The Great Steak Book (2000).

Spears opened the Nutt House Restaurant in Granbury, Texas, in 2002, and the Chisholm Club in Fort Worth later that year. Recently, he has opened the Burning Pear restaurant in Sugarland, Texas.

His latest book has some basic cowboy recipes, including chicken and dumplings and Blue Ribbon cornbread, and new recipes from some of Texas's innovative chefs.

In general, the dishes are not difficult to prepare. The recipes were, however, adjusted to use less salt and pepper than the originals. Be your own judge.

Chicken Thighs Paella

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 chicken thighs (if the thighs are small, use 8)

Salt and pepper to taste

cup diced onion

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 serrano chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

2 cups texmati rice (see note)

2 pinches saffron threads

2 cups chopped tomatoes

3 cups water

6 bay leaves

{ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

4 lemon wedges for garnish

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and sear 4 to 6 minutes or until golden brown. Add the onion, garlic and serrano chilies, and cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until the onion is clear. Add the rice and saute 2 minutes or until rice starts turning light brown.

Add the remaining ingredients. When the mixture starts to boil, reduce to low and cook for 14 to 17 minutes or until the rice is tender. Serve hot, and garnish with the lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Tasting note: Texmati rice is an aromatic rice that's a cross between American long-grain and basmati.

Justin's Chicken and Dumplings

10 cups chicken stock

6 chicken thighs

6 chicken legs

5 cups flour

3 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

{ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups heavy cream

4 ribs celery, diced

1 large onion diced

6 large carrots, diced

6 sprigs fresh thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the stock in a large, heavy pot, and cook thighs and legs over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until very tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool, reserving stock in its pot. Remove chicken, and discard skin. Pick chicken from the bones, and set meat aside.

To make dumplings, combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl, and mix well. Add heavy cream, stirring just until dough is thick and sticky. Turn onto a floured work surface, and knead dough until you can roll it out to a thickness of one-sixteenth inch.

Add the celery, onion, carrots, and thyme to stock, and reheat over medium heat just until boiling. Cut dough into dumplings that measure 1 by 1 inch. Add dumplings to boiling stock, cover, simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. Add chicken meat and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Tasting note: This hearty recipe has become a favorite at Spears' Nutt House. Kids love it, too.