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Texas Cowboy Cooking

by Tom Perini, with Paschal Fowlkes

Comanche Moon Pub, 192 pp., $24.95

Abilene native Tom Perini was a rancher and cowboy cook for many years before he opened the destination Perini's Steakhouse on his ranch in Buffalo Gap. Based on recipes from the trail, the restaurant, his grandmother, and family friends, this is a quintessential collection of cowboy cooking gone a bit upscale: The fundamental roots are quite in evidence, but they've been enhanced by a creative sensibility and some ingredients not available on the chuck wagon. The combination works, and the recipes are well presented and satisfying. Perini's method for preparing classic chicken-fried steak in a skillet using rib eye or strip, for instance, is a sure-fire winner. I also find the comforting, homestyle desserts particularly appealing, from sopapillas to Texas gingerbread to sweet potato-pecan pie. Not only are the recipes' headnotes chatty and informative, but the author's extensive narrative provides history and context for all aspects of cowboy cooking. Why were biscuits and bread so important on the trail? Why was son-of-a-gun stew the first meal made after an animal was killed? (Answer: It includes the parts that would spoil first – the organ meats.) In addition to Bob Moorhouse's many rich photos illustrating the dishes and portraying modern ranch life, there are also loads of historic black-and-white pictures of cowboys in action, life on the trail, chuck wagons, and trail-cooking scenarios.

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