Friday, December 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Cookbooks—BBQ and the Basics

Pots ’n Pens is a blog devoted to cooking, writing, and posting great recipes for all of you out there in cyberland. So, of course, I always feel a bit awkward when my turn to post a recipe comes around.


See, I’m not really a recipe guy—at least not a follow-the-recipe guy. For the most part, I cook by taste, sight, and smell, which is all fine and dandy until someone asks for a recipe and I’m left hemming and hawing about whether I can help. This often leads to a mad dash around the kitchen pantomiming from memory the meal I cooked and guessing at exact amounts to write down. If I have time—as I always take for Pots ’n Pens recipes—I cook a reasonable facsimile and do some actual record-keeping.

Nonetheless, don’t take this to mean that I don’t use and respect recipes. There are two circumstances that especially bring out the recipe hunter in me, and they just happen to be represented by two very different cookbooks.

1. When I just want something gooooooood, I open up Barbecue, Biscuits, and Beans: Chuck Wagon Cooking. For good old Texas-style comfort food, there is nothing like this book. But don’t assume that this is a fried-food only book, because it’s not. While plenty of heart-clogging favorites are here, these recipes include the classy (Dutch Oven Game Hens), the simple (Butternut Squash Soup), and even those odd green things they call vegetables (the Cornbread Salad is beautiful and delicious).

By at least a two-to-one margin, this is the cookbook I use the most. But with favorites like too-tender-to-believe brisket, green chile hominy, and the richest, most bliss-inducing peach cobbler in the universe—the secret involves whiskey—this is one cookbook that will leave you wishing for a chuck wagon of your very own.

(Bright Sky Press’s Barbecue, Biscuits, and Beans was written by Bill Cauble and Cliff Teinert [he’s family!], both masters of chuck wagon cooking and promoters of this heritage. Included in their resumes is cooking for numerous dignitaries and several presidents, taking care of appetites at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, and catering our family reunion.)

2. When I’m not sure how to start, how long to cook something, or just need a refresher, I swear by my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. The majority of you are likely familiar with this classic. (Mine is the 1981 version, but the 15th edition is the latest.) It has a ton of solid recipes and tips, and it covers 90 percent of what the average household would ever want to eat. For me, it’s a resource when I forget just how long to cook a pork roast or soft-boiled eggs. Most of all, I appreciate the selecting, preserving, and cooking advice and techniques for common (and some uncommon) foods. I use this book as the basic foundation of temperatures and measurements that allows me to expand and experiment without worrying about going too far into weirdsville.

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook and Barbecue, Biscuits, and Beans: Chuck Wagon Cooking are available at and at other fine retail outlets.


  1. Yep, can't beat Better Homes & Garden's cookbook for the basics!

  2. Wow that BBQ cookbook sounds awesome. I think I might buy it for the cornbread salad recipe alone.