Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cowboy Cook Shack Creations

What do you do when you only have a few Bratwurst and a household of hungry people? You improvise, yo the best Ranch "Cook Shack" tradition.

In the old West a ranch's "cook shack" was a world intertwined with, yet separate from, the life of the cowboy. Ruled over by an obstinate master cook, one of the few permanent members of the outfit, he wielded a lot more power than the migratory cooks who filled in on the cattle roundups and out on the trail. The master cook often slept in his domain, the cook shack, rather than in the bunkhouse with the rest of the men. He was noted for demanding proper respect for his role in their lives. He was not above reinforcing that respect with the broad end of a skillet. Why so much power? For the men, he provided one of those single important elements, along with sleep, that a cowboy needed to remain fit for a life both moving and hard.

Food.Good food, and lots of it. A ranch with a cook who wasn't a decent cook, had a hard time keeping good men, and that was not good business in the old West.
I don't keep a kitchen full of expensive, gourmet foods though I'm serious about my coffee and homemade bread. There's meat in the freezer, lots of venison, a few game birds sometimes. Veggies from the garden, apples, cheese, milk, and yogurt from the farm down the road, the staples of rice, beans, canned tomatoes and grain, and a nice collection of seasonings. I've not been known to refuse succor to a Pringle or a Rice Crispy treat, but I have little junk food in the house. I'd prefer to whip something up from scratch, be it cookies or dessert, with real ingredients, no chemicals.

So here was the situation. Supper time the other weekend. More people than Bratwurst. What would the Chuck Wagon Ninja do?

click on photos to enlarge, trust me on this.
Chuck Wagon Pasta. With the Bratwurst, a creamy sauce laced with tomatoes, chilies, jalapeno, and spice. Fresh veggies and good old "wagon wheel" pasta. Topped with some fresh grated Smoked Cheddar. A meal from "what's left in the fridge" and on the table in 15 minutes. The Ranch Hands were pleased.


  1. I am impressed with the coffee station! I too take my coffee very seriously. Old school Kitchen Aid grinder with new school KA maker.

    The Brats look great! Now I am hungry again!

  2. I really believe that chocolate is at the very top, the peak, of the food pyramid. 'Nuff said.



    I think it's time for dinner...

  4. As one of the guinea pigs for too many of my Mom's failed experiments (she's a retired Home Ec teacher) I need to learn to be more trusting. This actually sounds really good.

    You should be more careful of the angles in your photos. Your 3rd rule reads as "A hot bra" when obstructed by the knife block. Interesting. :-)

  5. Oh, and the Kitchen Aid concrete mixer defiantly says that you are all of that and a bag of chips!

    Love it!

  6. Yum! This looks like a must try for sure!!

  7. That looks pretty good. Some of the best meals I ever had was when one had to make do. Mom was an expert at feeding ten with enough food for 5.

  8. You can pry my coffee mill from my jittery over-stimulated hands if you want it, but it'll be a heck of a chase first!

    As for the pasta: Never read Brigid's blog hungry. Then again you can't tell me photos like that won't make you hungry!


  9. I'm reading this as I'm eating my low sodium oatmeal, and thinking "What's wrong with this picture?". Very nice indeed!

    Cheers from MD's Eastern Shore

  10. Looks rather tasty. When I have a package of brats, I stretch it with a big pot of spaghetti, some melted butter (or olive oil and Parmesean

  11. This is one that I will definitely do. I'm salivating already.
    Truly you are a Renaissance woman.

  12. I have got to start cookin! I can almost smell the homecookin walkin in here.


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