The Pioneer Woman Enchants Us With Tales of the Prairie

Celebrity Interviews, Chefs, Cooking, Recipes By Aug 25, 2011

It may be difficult for food bloggers to fight back pangs of jealousy when it comes to Ree Drummond.

She’s the blogger that dubs herself The Pioneer Woman, the city-gal-turned-rancher’s-wife (and mother of four) that gets more than 20 million page views a month. Those are big numbers in the blogosphere, enough to make her a best-selling cookbook author. Enough to snag a new TV Food Network show that debuts August 27.

Ree Drummond – host, serves and eats Egg in the Hole with her husband Ladd Drummond and their children Alex, Paige, Bryce and Todd during episode 2 as seen on Food Network’s Pioneer Woman Season 1.

The entire show is shot on-location at her ranch in Oklahoma, where she offers viewers step-by-step instructions on how to whip up her down country, family meals.

She was in her ranch kitchen last week when I spoke with her by telephone. I wanted to find out more about the “accidental” pioneer woman, the gal who lived a city life until she fell in love with a cowboy and moved to the prairie. To delve into how a U.S.C. graduate with a degree in gerontology turned herself into such a funny-yet-poignant writer, as well as a top-notch photographer and accomplished cook. Here’s a taste:

C.T. Many readers, especially those who have read you for several years, feel that they know you. What do you think, do they really know you?

R.D. I think so, but a lot of people might say that you don’t know people that you read online. But I have been doing that blog for five years, and it would be difficult for regular readers not to have a strong since of who I am. I’m a homebody. I’ve gone on book tours, but I am happiest in my dingy, faded yoga pants at home. My lack of ambition sometimes surprises people.

C.T. What will they see on the TV show that might surprise them?

R.D. I think they might be surprised at how much my family works. In almost every episode the kids comes in wearing dirty clothes (daughters, Alex, 13, and Paige, 11, plus sons, Bryce, 8, and Todd, 6). Ranch kids do chores. They are indispensible; they saddle their own horses and hall hay. Our oldest daughter is now driving a tractor and cutting hay. We will mourn when then go off to college. But they will rejoice.

C.T. Anything about the setting that might be an eye-opener for viewers?

R.D. They might be surprised at how beautiful Oklahoma is, and I’m not paid to say that by the Chamber of Commerce. It’s just the openness and wildness of the prairie. Whenever visitors come to the ranch they can’t believe how open it is and how clear the views are … the expanse, with no neighbors, just unadulterated prairies, except of course for the cow manure. You aren’t sure what century you are in, just as long as you don’t look down and see my flip-flops.

C.T. You have a wonderful talent for storytelling. Did you know when you started writing the blog that you had the ability to make it seem effortless?

R.D. No I didn’t. I never considered myself a writer when I started writing. I had no plan when I started. But I immediately took to the daily journal type of blogging format. I told the stories that I had simmering around in my head, funny things from my childhood and embarrassing things from high school. And then, after a while, it became more effortless.

C.T. You attended U.S.C.? I understand that you started with a major in journalism, but switched to gerontology? Tell me about that.

R.D. My dad wasn’t thrilled when I changed (laughter). I graduated in gerontology and worked in the facility where I did my internship. It is a nonprofit that advocates for the elderly, to hook seniors up with social services.

C.T. You grew up in Oklahoma. I read that you wanted to get out as soon as you could and live in a big city. Did you enjoy living in Los Angeles?

R.D.  In L.A. you could want for nothing. If you needed it, you could get it. And I loved the whole Hollywood component. Every time I walked down Sunset Boulevard I just couldn’t believe it.

C.T. Tell me about your Food Network Show?

R.D. Every now and then readers ask me to do a cooking show. I didn’t see what I would bring to the show. I’m a home cook, not an edgy chef. But when they said that the ranch would be incorporated into the show, it opened up new possibilities. Just a few months ago I decided, why not? I thought, well, it will be a fun adventure and (we’ll) see how it goes. It wasn’t a John and Kate show with endless camera crews; the filming was temporary and took place in just a two week period. We have our same life out here.

Ree Drummond – host, prepares Penne Alla Vodka and offers a taste to her husband Ladd Drummond during episode 4 as seen on Food Network’s Pioneer Woman Season 1.

C.T. What are some dishes that we can look forward to seeing?

R.D. It’s a mix of down-home country foods, chicken fried steak and how to make a perfect pot roast. Oh, it is easy to go wrong and make a bad pot roast, but just as easy to make a really good one. I love the Fig and Prosciutto Pizza. Oh, cowboys would never touch it with a ten-foot pole; it’s a girly pizza.

C.T. What do you love about cooking?

R.D. I love eating, so cooking is a means to an end for me. I’m not crafty, not interested in sewing. I always opted to take cooking classes in high school. My mom was a really good cook. I was a vegetarian when I lived in L.A., so the things I cooked in California were salads and vegetarian pasta dishes. Then I met my husband and cooking was more about re-fueling.

C.T. You call your husband your Marlboro man. What dishes does this fourth-generation rancher enjoy the most?

R.D. Yes, I call him my Marlboro man, but he doesn’t smoke. As for food, a cowboy that has been working since 5 AM loves dishes like chicken fried steak, or steak and smashed potatoes and corn casserole. Or hearty Italian dishes, like Chicken Parmesan. It has to have enough protein to make a dent (laughter).

C.T. If I was coming to dinner, what might you cook for me?

R.D. First, I’d ask you what kind of food you like. Maybe pasta with Portobello mushrooms in a garlic cream sauce with whiskey and wine. When I was making it the first time, I ran out of wine and thought it needed more booze. So I added whiskey. It’s delicious. And some Blackberry Cobbler.

Yeeeeeee-haw! “The Pioneer Woman” series premieres on the Food Network, Saturday, August 27 at 11:30 AM. To read Ree Drummond’s blog, go to

Ree Drummond – Host prepares mashed potatoes, chicken fried steak and marinated tomato salad during episode 1 as seen on Food Network’s Pioneer Woman Season 1.
Ree Drummond – host, prepares Fig and Prosciutto Pizza with Arugula during episode 4 as seen on Food Network’s Pioneer Woman Season 1.

Ree’s Chicken Fried Steak
Yield: 6 servings
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 pounds cube steak (tenderized round steak that’s been extra tenderized)
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil, for frying
1 tablespoon butter, for frying
1/4 cup grease from the steaks
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 to 4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1. Begin with setting up an assembly line of dishes for the meat: milk mixed with 2 eggs in one; flour mixed with spices in one; meat in one; then have one clean plate at the end to receive the breaded meat.
2. Work one piece of meat at a time. Season both sides with seasoned salt and pepper, then place it in the flour mixture. Turn to coat. Place the meat in the milk-egg mixture, turning to coat. Finally, place it back in the flour and turn to coat (dry mixture, then wet, then dry mixture). Place the breaded meat on the clean plate, then repeat with remaining meat.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter. Drop in a few sprinkles of
flour to make sure it’s sufficiently hot. When the butter sizzles immediately, you know
it’s ready. (It should not brown right away, though; if it does, the fire’s too hot.) Cook meat, three pieces at a time, until edges start to look golden brown for around 2 minutes
each side. Remove the steaks to a paper towel-lined plate and keep them warm. Repeat
until all meat is cooked.
4. After all the meat is fried, pour off the grease into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup of the grease back to the pan and allow it to heat up. When the grease is hot, sprinkle 1/3 cup flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix the flour with the grease, creating a golden-brown paste. Add more flour if it looks overly greasy; add a little more grease if it becomes too pasty or clumpy. Keep cooking until the roux reaches a deep golden brown color.
5. Pour in 3 cups milk, whisking constantly. Add salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, whisking, until the gravy is smooth and thick. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick. Be sure to taste to make sure gravy is sufficiently seasoned.
6. Serve the meat next to a big side of mashed potatoes. Pour gravy over the whole shebang!
Nutrition information (per serving): 300 calories, 62 percent of calories from fat, 20.6 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 8.7 g carbohydrates, 20 g protein, 896 mg sodium, 0.2 g fiber
Source: Ree Drummond

Fig-Prosciutto Pizza with Arugula
Yield: 6 servings
Pizza Crust:
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Scant 1/4 cup olive oil (a little less than 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 – 8 tablespoons fig spread or jam
Kosher salt to taste
12 ounces, fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
6 ounces, thinly sliced prosciutto
1 bunch washed and rinsed arugula
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup shaved Parmesan
1. Sprinkle yeast over 3/4 cup warm (not lukewarm) water in a bowl.
2. In a mixer, add the flour and salt; with the mixer running on low speed (with paddle
attachment), drizzle in the olive oil and keep going until it’s mixed through. Next, pour
in the yeast-water mixture and mix until just combined.
3. Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, tip the dough in and form
into a ball. Toss to coat the dough ball in olive oil; cover the bowl tightly with
plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for at least an hour, or up to 3 or 4 days.
4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Arrange oven rack in the lowest position. Roll out the pizza dough as thinly as possible and place it on a large baking sheet. Drizzle it lightly with olive oil and sprinkle it lightly with kosher salt. Spread the fig spread (or jam) all over the surface of the dough. Place slices of mozzarella all over the surface of the pizza crust. Sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake the pizza for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly.
5. Remove it from the oven and immediately drape prosciutto slices over the hot pizza. Sprinkle generously with arugula and Parmesan shavings. Cut into wedges or squares; serve immediately.
Nutrition information (per serving): 310 calories, 40 percent of calories from fat,  14g fat,  5 g saturated fat, 28 mg cholesterol, 40 g carbohydrates, 6.5 g protein, 735 mg sodium, 2.5 g fiber
Source: Ree Drummond

Ree’s Pasta with Whiskey, Wine, and Mushrooms
Yield: 6 servings
24 ounces, thickly sliced fresh mushrooms, baby Portobello mushrooms preferred
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, peeled, sliced
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup whiskey (such as Jack Daniels)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces mostaccioli, cooked al dente (tender but with a little bit), drained but reserve some of the cooking water
Cook’s notes: Mostaccioli is shaped like penne, but it is smooth rather than ridged.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place mushrooms in large ovenproof skillet or roasting pan and drizzle mushrooms with a little olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, heat additional olive oil along with the butter over medium heat. Throw in the sliced onions and saute for a couple of minutes, or until beginning to turn translucent. Pour in wine and whiskey and allow to bubble for a minute or two. Pour in broth and allow the liquid to reduce for a couple of minutes. Stir in cream and reduce heat to low. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and simmer until sauce thickens.
3. Toss in cooked pasta, using a little hot pasta water if sauce needs a little thinning. Taste for seasonings and add immediately.
Nutrition information (per serving): 350 calories, 48 percent of calories from fat, 19 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 95 mg cholesterol, 41 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 660 mg sodium, 3 g fiber
Source: Ree Drummond

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