Real Roundup Grub For Spring Rodeo Fans



Rodeo's roots stem from competition between real cowboys determined to show who had the best skills around.

So, how about recipes for some real cowboy grub?

The late Ray Lee managed the Doll Baby Ranch for 10 years for its owner, Ed Fitzgerald. Ray, his wife, Freda, and their two sons, were on the ranch from 1964 to 1974.

It was a working ranch, running between 200 and 250 head of cattle, Freda said.

"Twenty or so would work roundup, so, I'd cook for them at the main ranch," she said.

The myths about beans being a mainstay of a working cowboy are true, that is one of the dishes she fixed for the men helping with roundups in the spring and fall.

She also fixed chile stew -- recipe she learned from her mother, Toots Gist.

Another frequent dish was a recipe using rabbit, something readily found on the range. Talking about it, Freda said if rabbit isn't too handy today, chicken could be used as well.

She also shared a roll recipe which she still uses today, plus a special potato dish, a family favorite for green beans and something her youngest son, Patrick, calls "Shotgun Salad."

The potatoes, green beans and salad were recipes she concocted or came across in later years and prepared for her family, but not the roundup crew.

Real Cowboy Beans

2 pounds, dry pinto beans

Water to cover

Bacon ends or ham hock

Lots of garlic, powder or fresh, minced


Sort and wash beans, soaking is not necessary. Put in pot with water to cover, along with bacon ends or ham hock and garlic.

Cook about four hours, adding water as needed.

"I was taught never to put salt in until almost the end or until the beans are almost done. I was told it kept the beans hard if it was put in too early," Freda said.

Toots' Chile Stew

1 large onion

A little oil to sauté

Plenty of garlic, powder or fresh, minced

3 cans stewed tomatoes

1 small can diced green chiles

Slice onion very thin and cook with garlic until slightly soft. Add stewed tomatoes and chiles and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Freda said she frequently fed the cowboys these two dishes, along with corn bread.

Roundup Rabbit

1 cut up rabbit (or chicken)

Seasoned salt and pepper


Small amount of oil

1/2 bottle real sherry (not cooking sherry)

Soy sauce

Season meat with salt and pepper and roll in flour. Brown in oil, then place in glass baking dish. Cover with wine, then liberally sprinkle with soy sauce. Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until no more pink shows on the meat.

"This is a really good dish. I usually served it with mashed potatoes and gravy and a vegetable," Freda said.

Freda Lee's Rolls

2 packages dry yeast

1 cup warm water

2 cups warm buttermilk

2 eggs

4 tablespoons oil

4 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

6 to 7 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in water, add buttermilk, eggs, oil, sugar, baking powder, salt and soda. Blend well, then add enough flour to get a workable, non-sticky, dough.

Turn dough onto floured board and knead slightly. Pat out and cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter.

"I just used an old Eagle Brand condensed milk can with the ends cut out. That size makes about 18 rolls," Freda said.

Spray baking pan with oil and put roll rounds in pan, cover and let rise at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, just until light brown on top.

Special Potatoes

8 to 10 potatoes

Seasoned salt and pepper

Green onions

2 cans, undiluted cream of mushroom soup

1 pint sour cream

Lots of chopped garlic

3 to 4 crisply cooked bacon strips, crumbled

Mild, grated cheddar cheese

Peel potatoes and slice medium thick, spray a baking pan with cooking oil and make a layer of potatoes in pan and season with salt and pepper.

Chop enough green onions to cover potatoes.

In a bowl, mix undiluted soup, sour cream, garlic and bacon and spread over potatoes and onions.

Liberally sprinkle with cheese and bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Green Beans

1/2 onion, chopped

2 slices of bacon, diced

2 cans green beans

2 small cans tomato sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook onion and bacon until bacon is done and onion is soft.

Drain beans and add to bacon and onion with tomato sauce, season to taste. Simmer on medium low heat for about 15 minutes.

"That's it and they're really good," Freda said.

Shotgun Salad

1 large can of cherry pie filling

1 large can of crushed pineapple, drained

1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk

1 large tub of whipped topping

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Mix the ingredients and chill for a couple of hours before serving.

"I found this recipe in a Mormon cookbook. I don't want to take credit for anything I didn't come up with," Freda said.

Life on the Doll Baby Ranch offered few amenities. The Lees didn't have a telephone, a television, or even a cooler.

"Ray would pull the truck up to the house and we'd listen to ball games on the radio," she said.

But life on the ranch was a lot of fun, too.

"The kids were really happy there."

She said her boys would be outside playing and fighting all day and she didn't ever worry about them. At night, they'd come in and go to bed and talk about all their adventures.

"My grandmother used to say they sounded like two old men swapping tales," Freda said.

A few years after they'd moved away from the ranch, she and Ray took a drive back down to see the Doll Baby.

"I just burst out bawling and Ray said if he'd known it was going to make me cry to see the old place, he never would have brought me down there," Freda said.


For those who want something with another traditional Western flavor, there is a favorite of several Roundup staffers, Max Foster's Smoked Ribs.

Foster, the Roundup's sports editor for close to 20 years, said, "I have never written these recipes down. We just make them from memory.

"The recipes are a mixture of what my dad learned growing up near small barbecue cafes in Los Angeles. He was a butcher for Wilson Meat Company and delivered to the barbecues in east L.A.


Before cooking your ribs, make sure you remove the membranes, which if left on, can prevent ribs from absorbing the flavors of the smoke and the rub.

"Also, we picked up a lot from Ralph and Bessie's barbecues in Winslow. It was a famous barbecue cafe in the 1950s and 1960s on Route 66."

Foster's Smoked Ribs

When smoking ribs, whether beef or pork, begin by removing all the membranes. Membranes block out the smoke and flavors of the rubs, Foster said.

With a sharp boning knife, start in one corner of the ribs and lift only the membrane from the bone. "When you have a good grip on one corner, grab the membrane with a paper towel and gently pull it off, try to remove it in one piece," he said

When the membrane has been removed, wash the ribs well with cold water and allow them to reach room temperature.

Next, liberally add a good seasoning rub.

"There are many good commercial rubs, but we prefer a simple homemade one," Foster said. His recipe:

Foster's Barbecue Rub

1/4 cup paprika

1/4 cup medium chili powder

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup ground black pepper

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon salt

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Apply about two tablespoons of rub to each side of ribs. Rub into meat.

Once you have cleaned and seasoned the ribs, prepare the smoker.

"We use a Brinkman electric smoker. Our favorite wood chips are hickory, apple and mesquite. You can use a combination or just one," he said.

In smoking, the liquid pan is commonly filled with water, which produces great-tasting ribs.

"We have experimented with many liquids and have come to like a combination of apple and orange juice. Those liquids give the meat a pleasant, fruity taste," Foster said.

The liquid pan should be about three-quarters full. For ribs, the pan should not have to be refilled. For larger cuts of meats, refilling is often required.

When the smoker exceeds 200 degrees, place the ribs on the top rack and allow them to cook until tender, about four hours.

If cooking a large amount of ribs, a second cooking rack can be used. The ribs should be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of about 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.

"To serve beef ribs, we cut individually. For pork, we serve them in baby back racks," Foster said. "The ribs are tasty, tender and delicious without sauce. For those who enjoy a hearty sauce, a favorite, quick fix in our house is to spice up Bulls Eye Original sauce with a couple of shots of Tabasco hot sauce," he said, but he and his family also make their own sauce:

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup strong black coffee

2 to 3 ounces Jack Daniels

1 cup ketchup

1 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup hot chile peppers, minced

3 tablespoons chili powder

6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons salt

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer 30 minutes. Let cool. Pour into blender and puree.

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