published Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

At home on the range: 'Pioneer Woman' is giving first live cooking demo at She expo

Ree Drummond, author of “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier,” is coming to Chattanooga this weekend.
Ree Drummond, author of “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier,” is coming to Chattanooga this weekend.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

• What: She: An Expo for Women.

• When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday; Ree Drummond will be doing a cooking presentation on Saturday at 4 p.m.

• Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1150 Carter St.

• Tickets: $12 adult two-day admission online in advance, $15 at the door; $7 ages 5-12 online or at the door

• Information: timesfreepressevents.com/she.

Fancy Mac And Cheese

16 ounces white button or cremini mushrooms, quartered

Olive oil, for drizzling

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

8 slices thick-cut bacon

2 yellow onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

5 tablespoons butter, plus more for buttering pan

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1/2 cup grated fontina cheese

4 ounces goat cheese

1 1/2 pounds macaroni

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup half-and-half

2 eggs, beaten

4 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Drizzle mushrooms with olive oil, then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Roast mushrooms in the oven until deep gold brown, about 20-25 minutes. Set aside.

Turn oven heat down to 350 degrees for baking casserole later.

Fry bacon until chewy but not yet crisp. Chop up the bacon into bite-size bits. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, saute the onions in 1 tablespoon butter, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Cook the macaroni until just under-cooked. Set aside.

Make the sauce by melting remaining 4 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour, whisking to combine. Let the roux cook a minute or so, whisking constantly. Pour in milk, whisking constantly. Cook white sauce for 3 to 5 minutes, or until thick and bubbly.

Add the half-and-half, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Spoon some of the hot sauce into the beaten eggs to temper them, stirring with a fork to incorporate the mixture without cooking the eggs. Pour the tempered eggs into the white sauce, stirring constantly as you add them.

Add the grated Parmesan, Gruyere and fontina cheeses, then add goat cheese. Stir until the cheeses melt. Add the cooked macaroni and stir to coat. Splash in a little milk or hot water if needed for thinning.

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Lay on half the onions, half the macaroni, half the mushrooms, half the Gorgonzola, half the bacon. Repeat the layers ending in bacon. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and hot. Serves 12.

More than 8 million fans tune into Ree Drummond’s cooking show on Food Network each month, according to Nielsen stats, but visitors to Saturday’s She: An Expo for Women will witness a “first” for the television chef.

The Pioneer Woman will lead her first cooking demonstration in front of a live audience.

“I don’t go around doing these things,” Drummond says in a telephone interview from her home in Oklahoma. “I’m not nervous. I just hope I don’t say anything stupid. I love cooking and talking about cooking, and I’ve done a lot of speaking at book signings.”

Drummond will take the She stage at 4 p.m. Saturday; while HGTV’s Property Brothers — Jonathan and Drew Scott — are Sunday afternoon’s headliners at the expo sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Sure to be on hand for Drummond’s live debut is her mother, Gerre Schwert, who lives on Signal Mountain. Schwert was named National Mother of the Year in May, an award presented annually since 1935 by American Mothers Inc., an advocacy group.

“The Pioneer Woman,” which is both her TV show and her blog, is based on Drummond’s family life with husband Ladd Drummond, whom she calls Marlboro Man, and their children on their Oklahoma ranch. TV episodes feature food she makes for a variety of family occasions ranging from a pasta bar for her daughter’s 16th birthday to breakfast after a kids’ sleepover to chicken-and-gravy paninis when they celebrated the creation of her guy’s new man cave.

She also has published four cookbooks and is working on her fifth, with a working title of “Dinner Time” and an anticipated release in fall 2015.

In her cooking, she uses ingredients commonly kept in kitchen pantries to create dishes that won’t intimidate home cooks, cheerfully talking viewers through their preparation with step-by-step directions.

“She seems like somebody you would just like to have a cup of coffee with — very down-to-earth and sweet,” says Hixson fan Gail Tade on the Times Free Press’ Facebook page.

Drummond says a fundamental tip she shares with her audiences is “keeping staples on hand,” including onions, canned tomato products, potatoes and beans.

“I learned the hard way that you can’t cook if you don’t have the staples,” she says. “I try to think of things to make over the next few nights so, if I’m dicing an onion, I’ll dice three or four and save what’s left over. If you’re going to make a mess and dice onions and cry, you might as well do it all at once.”

For example, she says, she’ll grill “a whole bunch of chicken breasts” at one time, then use them in meals throughout the week. A “big pot of beans” might be served as beans and cornbread the first night, then reappear in burritos or nachos on other nights that week.

“Chicken Parmesan is a family favorite. I also make a Bolognese sauce for rigatoni. I make it with big, thick pasta that’s easy to eat. My family doesn’t like long noodles because they’re hard to eat — my family’s weird,” she jokes.

She also serves them a lot of Tex-Mex dishes, including chicken with a tequila-lime sauce, tacos and quesadillas.

“They love that kind of food— hearty but spicy,” she describes.

So do her fans.

When the Times Free Press asked readers to name their favorite Pioneer Woman recipes, beefy dishes with a bite led the way.

“I absolutely love her bacon-wrapped jalapeno peppers from her first book; second fave is the Marlboro Man sandwich,” says Lisa Morelli of Rossville.

“I made her patty melts — best hamburger ever,” states Becky Von Stein of Ooltewah.

“So many favorites …. maple-bacon scones, eggs in hash-brown nests, drip beef sandwich,” lists Rosemary Palmer, founder of Not Just Paper and Paint, a blog on do-it-yourself projects, food and crafts.

Roasted chicken, raspberry lemonade, broccoli cheese soup, cinnamon buns and iced coffee were other reader picks, dishes that Drummond sums up as “things they remember eating as kids that I’ve put a spin on.”

Following are several of Drummond’s favorite recipes and those of her fans from “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier” (William Morrow, $29.99).

  • photo
    Chicken Parmesan is one of the recipes from Ree Drummond’s “Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier.”
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Chicken Parmesan

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to uniform thickness

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup wine (red or white)

Three 14.5-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 pound thin linguine or other pasta, cooked al dente

Mix flour, salt and pepper on a large plate. Season the flattened chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper, then dredge them in the flour mixture. Set them aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter in the olive oil until sizzling. Fry the chicken breasts until nice and golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and keep warm.

Without cleaning the skillet, add the onion and garlic and saute for 2 minutes, or until the onion starts to brown. Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan, getting all the flavorful bits off the bottom. Allow the wine to cook down until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the sugar, then add salt and pepper to taste. Stir, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes so the flavors can meld.

Add the chopped parsley and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Stir to combine. Carefully lay the chicken breasts on top of the sauce and completely cover them with the remaining 1 cup grated Parmesan. Cover the skillet and simmer until the cheese is melted and the chicken is heated through, about 5 minutes.

Place the cooked pasta in pasta bowls or on plates, then cover it with sauce. Lay a chicken breast on top of each serving and sprinkle with more parsley. Serves 6.

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos

20 whole fresh jalapenos, 2-3 inches in size

2 cubes cream cheese, softened

1 pound bacon, sliced into thirds

If you have them, slip on latex gloves for the pepper prep. Cut jalapenos in half, length-wise. With a spoon, remove the seeds and white membrane (the source of the heat). Spread softened cream cheese into each jalapeno half. Wrap jalapeno with bacon piece (1/3 slice). Secure by sticking toothpick through the middle.

Bake on a pan with a rack in a 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Don’t let bacon shrink so much that it squeezes the jalapenos. If, after 20 minutes, the bacon doesn’t look brown enough, turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes to finish it off. These are best when the jalapeno still has a bit of bite to it.

Serve immediately preferably, but they’ll also taste good at room temperature. Serves 10.

Drip Beef

One 3-t0-4-pound chuck roast

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 cups beef broth

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

1 jar pepperoncinis

10 t0 12 buttered, toasted deli rolls

2 yellow onions

Season the roast with salt and pepper. Melt the butter and canola oil in a heavy pot over high heat. Sear both sides of the roast until very browned, about 5 minutes in all.

Pour in the beef broth and 1 cup water. Add the rosemary. Pour in the pepperoncinis with juice. Now over the pot and simmer four to five hours or until the meat is tender and falling apart. Remove the roast from the pot.

Using two forks, shred the meat completely. Then return the meat to the cooking liquid. Keep warm.

Just before serving, slice and sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon butter until light golden brown.

Slice wedges out of the top of the deli rolls. Heap a generous portion of meat onto the roll, then spoon some of the cooking liquid over the meat. Top with a few peppers from the pot and add plenty of caramelized onions.

Top the sandwiches with the wedges of roll and serve. Yields 10-12 servings.

Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry

3/4 cups butter, softened

3 whole lemons

4 sprigs rosemary

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees (400 degrees convection bake.)

Zest two of the lemons. Strip leaves off one of the rosemary sprigs and chop finely.

In a bowl, combine softened butter, lemon zest, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste.

Line a baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil and lay the patted-dry chicken on the foil, breast side up.

Use your fingers to smear the butter mixture all over the chicken, under the skin and inside the cavity. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze juice of one lemon all over the chicken. Place the six lemon halves and three remaining rosemary leaves into the cavity of the bird.

Place the chicken into the oven and roast for 1 hour, 15 minutes or until done. Skin should be deep golden brown and juices should be sizzling. Serves four.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

Contact Shawn Ryan at sryan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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