Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's Christmas In Pioneer Woman Land

Pioneer Woman with Ree Drummond


Pioneer Woman has been off my radar for a while. Maybe she left the ranch and moved to the city. She might be living in a condo with wall to wall carpeting and a doorman, for all I know. The kids could be enrolled in ka-rah-TAY and an afterschool art appreciation course to teach them the difference between Giacometti and Grandma Moses.

So I checked out her Christmas spectacular and, no, she’s still on the ranch doing all those pioneering things she likes to do. No Rockettes for her family, just wrangling the cattle…(I wonder if Ladd is going to give the kids a day off on Christmas or if he needs to teach them that on a ranch there ARE no days off. Maybe Ree will add a little festive nutmeg to their 5 am chicory and coffee before they’re sent off onto the plains.)

Ree starts with cinnamon rolls, which she makes with her girls (I guess no male types are allowed to have anything to do with cinnamon buns) and her best friend Hyacinth. They deliver them “around town” wrapped in what looks like bandannas and a big bow. THAT’S a really good idea to use bandannas…except wouldn’t they get all sticky and gooey? Cellophane is probably the right choice for baked goods.

Ree makes the dough by mixing together a quart of whole milk (if someone ever asked for skim milk on the ranch, would he or she be taken back to the toolshed?), a cup of vegetable oil (safflower is always my choice for a tasteless oil for baking) and a cup of sugar heated to just below the boil. She cools it to lukewarm and then sprinkles in 2 packages of yeast and follows that with 8 cups of flour.  

COOKING ALERT! We’re only two minutes in and I have to take a huge exception to how Ree is proceeding:

No matter WHAT the recipe says, I always PROOF my yeast before combining it with loads of flour. In this case, I would heat ½ cup of the milk and 2 teaspoons of the sugar separately and sprinkle the yeast over THAT. I would wait to see if I got a nice bubble out of it and then I’d stir the proofed mixture into the rest of the lukewarm milk, sugar and oil mixture with all that flour. 

If you have a bum packet of yeast, do you really want to start all over with another huge amount of flour and all the other stuff? Definitely not.

Ree covers the bowl with a cloth (a homey-looking cloth, of course) and leaves it in a warm place for an hour.  Now this is interesting, she stirs an additional cup of flour with some baking powder and baking soda into the dough. She says the dough can be used then or refrigerated for up to 3 days.  

Here’s an entertaining site I just found by an opinionated pastry chef (the best kind), who believes that baking powder has no place in cinnamon rolls.  And here is a Q and A about why you might want to add extra leaveners to yeast doughs.

Ree probably never even thought about those added ingredients. It might be just an old family recipe that she is used to using. One benefit of the baking soda and powder is that they would help the dough to rise nicely if the yeast was handled a bit casually.

Ree rolls each half of the dough into 30 inch long pieces.  She drizzles over a cup of butter, saying “If you think you’ve added enough butter, just go ahead and add a little more.”  She smears the butter into the dough with her hands, which is fine EXCEPT that she immediately touches a measuring cup to get one cup of sugar without washing her hands.

Again, with sugar this time, she says to add more than you think you would need. Then she sprinkles over “an eighth of a cup” of cinnamon. That’s 2 tablespoons for those of you who don’t have that size measuring cup -BECAUSE THEY DON’T EXIST!

Another thing - why has she not mixed the sugar and cinnamon together? The only reason I can think of is because she was quite liberal with the sugar, sprinkling it over the edges of the dough AND the work surface, while the much more costly cinnamon stayed mostly ON the dough and wasn’t scattered all over the kitchen.

Ree rolls up the dough really tightly using what she calls “a typewriter maneuver”.  I guess she means that her fingers are constantly moving as she works her way across the dough, rolling it up. She pinches it closed and  places it seam-side down on the work surface. She cuts half inch wide slices and puts them in foil cake pans – about 7 to 9 in each pan. She covers them and lets them rise for 20 minutes.

Oh, listen to what Ree just said. The boys are out with Ladd feeding the mustangs, because, even though it’s Christmas, “The work on the ranch still has to be done.”  I knew it! (Are the child labor laws in Texas or Oklahoma, or wherever she is, particularly lax?)

Ree bakes the cinnamon rolls at 375°F for 15 minutes. She has some nonsensical exchange with her friend, Hyacinth, about bringing the rolls to the “Tulsans” one year and how they “never told us”. Told them WHAT? What is she talking about? Oh, they BOTH took cinnamon rolls SEPARATELY to the “Tulsans” and the people receiving the rolls didn’t mention that they had already gotten them from the other person. That was not worth the paragraph it took to explain that. Plus Ree’s monotone delivery made that less than a riveting story.

Ree makes the frosting next. I guess it’s so thick and sweet, she doesn’t even bother to call it a glaze. She mixes powdered sugar, strong coffee (GREAT for the kids), butter and milk together. She adds maple extract. As soon as the rolls come out, she ices them. They do look fabulous.

Ladd comes in with the kids and they take the rolls to deliver them to folks. Oh, I see, she wrapped the whole foil pan in the bandanna, but I sure hope she covered it with foil or something.

Ree stays behind to clean up (yeah, I’m sure SHE’S really doing that!) and start dinner and she’ll meet up with the others at the town Christmas parade.

Ree takes an ENORMOUS slab of beef from the fridge and cuts it in half, so it cooks more evenly. She sears both pieces while she gets a peppercorn crust ready. She crushes tricolored peppercorns and mixes them with a lot of Kosher salt, chopped garlic and fresh rosemary and thyme. She refrigerates the meat and the salt mix.

Ree tells us that Ladd’s father spends 5 days making fudge every Christmas and Ree is serving that as her dessert.

She moves on to the burgundy mushrooms. She adds tons of button mushrooms to a stock pot with 2 sticks of butter, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, a bottle of burgundy wine and boiling water, chicken AND beef bouillon cubes. Ick. Then dill seeds and garlic go in. She simmers it covered for 6 hours! Then she simmers it uncovered for 3 hours. I’m sorry, I can’t believe that it’s worth all that cooking energy for a pot of mushrooms. Wouldn’t that be a perfect crock pot recipe?

That recipe does not appeal to me at all. It’s probably so salty from the bouillon cubes and Worcestershire sauce and I can imagine that the dill seeds make it kind of bitter.

Next up is the Pawhuska Parade of Lights. That looks like a pretty major parade. Ree leaves early to start dinner. (I was wondering how she could be at the parade at all. The cook usually has to miss all the fun stuff.)

Ree takes the slabs of dead beef out of the fridge. (Sorry, but they are!) She rubs them with oil and applies the salt and pepper crust. I think it’s a shame she used so much salt in the crust, because now all those lovely peppercorns and fresh herbs will be inedible. (I’m not against salt crusts in general. A whole fish cooked under a wall of salt is one of the greatest things around. But you can’t eat the crust.) She cooks them at 500°F for 20 minutes and then she turns down the heat to 300°F for about 25 or 30 more minutes.

Santa (wearing plaid?) comes by, which must mean the end of the parade. Ree is just getting started on the Brussels sprouts, which she says her children love so much that they can’t imagine a holiday dinner without them. How odd. OH, SHE GOT ME!!! She says she’s just kidding and that she’s making them, because SHE loves them. She halves them and sprinkles them with olive oil and salt and roasts them at 375°F for 20 to 25 minutes.

Ree shows us her already made “Duchess Potatoes”. She boiled diced potatoes and then dried them out in the oven. (Frankly, they look really waterlogged and bit overcooked and mealy. If she kept them in bigger pieces and used Ina’s trick of finishing the cooking by letting them sit for 10 minutes in a covered colander after being drained, she wouldn’t have to do that additional step of drying them out.)

Ree puts them through a food mill and then adds egg yolks (many), butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cream. She pipes the mixture into peaked scalloped piles (that doesn’t sound good, but they looked fine) on a baking sheet with a large star tip. She refrigerates them until ready to use. She dabs them with an egg wash and cooks them at 375°F for 20 minutes.

Oh, I guess that wasn’t Santa in the plaid shirt. He’s just going by now and it’s time for the rest of the family to come home.

Ree takes out the prime rib, covers the pieces with foil and lets them rest.

The  party’s in full swing. For a sauce for the meat, Ree adds whiskey (off the heat)  to already caramelized onions. She pours in beef broth and lets it reduce. Then she adds a cup of cream, salt, pepper and a little butter and it’s done.

Ree adds a syrup of sugar and balsamic vinegar to the Brussels sprouts with dried cranberries. Dinner is served and people appear to be eating that salty crust. Ree makes a toast to the Brussels sprouts. No one else joins in. Awkward.

Then it’s time for dirty Santa. That sounds awful. I hope he keeps his pants on. Oh, it’s like a present exchange…where you can steal from each other. Those folks on the range are so droll. I still think the kids could benefit from some martial arts instruction along with a little art history.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Well, I don't think Ree herself will be doing much work on the ranch...

I have made her cinnamon roll recipes (although I didn't add coffee and maple to the frosting, but just stuck with vanilla) and they are pretty good. The recipe makes a ton of them. I had two big trays of them.

That mushroom recipe did seem to be a lot of time and effort for just some cooked mushrooms. I would just saute, add some wine, and be done with ith.

She is infamous for her love of too much salt in a dish, so I'm not surprised by your comments. She's as bad with salt as she is with butter.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue, I agree about proofing the yeast. (Certainly the smart thing to do if you're using older yeast.) But you wouldn't have to start over with all the ingredients if it didn't work. I have rescued dough by adding more yeast after I found it didn't rise. And it doesn't taste yeastier -- one thing I learned from my time working in industrial foods is that we don't perceive flavor linearly. In other words, adding twice as much salt doesn't make something taste twice as salty, especially once you reach a certain threshold. With all the yeast already in the dough, adding even twice as much won't make it taste too yeasty.

My main objection to these rolls is that she uses oil instead of butter! I could understand if it was to make the kosher, but otherwise it seems like a huge waste of effort.

Sue said...

Hey Rach,
Well, isn't it a lot of work just BEING Pioneer Woman? That's good to know that you liked her Cinnamon Rolls.

I like your idea of a mushroom recipe much more than hers.

The salt was way over the top... but so was the amount the meat.

What an excellent point! Of course, you can do that. But I wouldn't worry about it tasting too yeasty, I WOULD worry about the fact that you have to go back in the kitchen, start mixing up stuff again, stir the new yeast into the already made dough (which is always kind of a messy job) and wait another hour to make up for the first hour when it should have rising in the first place. What a pain! That's why I just don't get when recipes have you adding un-proofed yeast. It makes no sense!

Sue said...

Good point about the oil too!

Abandoned By Wolves said...

I find PW fairly amusing - her recipes are nothing special as far as I can tell (well,they are pretty "substantial" and don't skimp on the butter and salt, as you noted) - I can do better just by going with FN's "Great Easy Meals" - but she waxes so enthusiastic she should be doing time shares or Amway.

I still don't bake much (nor do I plan to), but that bit about proofing your yeast is good to know.

Muchas gracias for another fine post.

Unknown said...

My biggest problem is with calling yourself an accidental country girl when you grew up in Oklahoma. She uses a lot of shortcuts. Since this is a working ranch, who is cooking for the hands?