By Marialisa Calta

Newspaper Enterprise Association



Meredith Brokaw, wife of broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw, proved herself to be a friend to parents over the years with her “Penny Whistle” books on cooking and other children’s activities. Now, in conjunction with co-author Ellen Wright, she is proving herself to be a friend to home cooks and wanna-be ranchers with “Big Sky Cooking” (Artisan, 2006).

The book, like the Montana landscape it praises, has a wide-open feel, and a proper tone of respect for the hardworking people who shoot, fish and grow the food of the area. The recipes are tasty, too. Some are a bit on the fussy side; Wright is an admitted “city girl” and New York foodie as well as the author of “Bridgehampton Weekends,” and it shows in dishes like “Fontina and Asparagus Bruschetta” and “Cold Grapefruit Souffle with Pistachios” and “Bison Osso Buco.” This is hardly the kind of “grub” that you think ol’ Dusty and Tex would chow down on while on a cattle drive (”Pass the pinot noir, Dusty”). It’s the “big” dishes from “Big Sky Cooking” that appeal, the Chile Rellenos and Skillet Sweet Potatoes and the Peach Pie with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. Don’t fence me out!

The full-color photos — buffalo grazing, a full moon over the mountains, wildflowers on a hillside — bring the landscape home, and the food photographs are hunger-inducing and down-to-earth. In addition, essays by the likes of writers Jim Harrison (a personal favorite) and Tom McGuane add to the appeal.

This book can happily join an old favorite on the cookbook shelf, “The National Hall of Fame Chuck Wagon Cookbook” (Hearst Books, 1995) by B. Bryon Price. The food in that book is much more rustic and focused on the “cuisine” created by camp cooks (a.k.a. “pot rasslers,” “grub-spoilers” and “bean-masters”) for the hungry wranglers on the trail. It is full of cowboy lore and food history.

The recipes here come from both volumes. Come an’ git it.



Frontier Eggs

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 cup diced celery

1 to 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno chili

4 cups crushed tomatoes (canned is fine)

1 small bay leaf, crumbled

1-1/2 cups soft breadcrumbs (see note)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

8 large eggs



Note: Make fresh breadcrumbs by putting 3 fresh bread slices into a food processor and pulsing until crumbs form. You can substitute panko (Japanese breadcrumbs sold in many supermarkets) or dried breadcrumbs.



Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and jalapeno; cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf; simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down and most of the water has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread half of the sauce on the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish or a 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup cheese on top. Ladle the rest of the tomato sauce over the cheese; top with the remaining 1 cup cheese. With the back of a spoon, make 8 depressions the size of an egg; crack an egg into each well.

Bake until the whites of the eggs are set and the yolks are still a bit runny, or to your taste, 15 to 25 minutes.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Recipe from “Big Sky Cooking” by Meredith Auld Brokaw and Ellen Wright (Artisan, 2006).



Old-fashioned Peach Pie

For the crust:

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of kosher salt

1 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup milk

For the filling:

8 to 10 large ripe peaches (about 3 pounds)

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces



Make the crust: Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a food processor; add the shortening. Pulse on and off until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the milk, pulsing until the dough comes together in a ball. turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Pat the dough into balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one ball to an 11-inch round, 1/4-inch thick. (Do not over-handle the dough.) Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and let it drape over the edges a bit.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 F. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

Make the filling: Drop the peaches into the boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and run under cold water. Slip off the skins. Pit the peaches and, working over a bowl to catch any juices, slice them 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle the peaches in the bowl with the flour, lemon zest and juice, and cinnamon and toss to distribute evenly.

Add half the peaches to the pie crust; sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar. Top with the remaining peaches and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Dot with butter.

Roll out the remaining dough into a 12-inch round, 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 1/2-inch wide strips. Roll each strip so it is like a cord. Lightly moisten the edge of the bottom crust with water to make it easier to seal. Make a lattice by placing half the cords 3/4-inch apart across the top of the pie. At right angles, weave the remaining cords in and out of the cords on the pie. Trim the excess dough from around the edge. Dip a fork in flour, and crimp and seal the cords to the bottom of the crust. Brush the lattice with cold water.

Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F and bake until the crust is lightly browned and the peaches are bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes longer. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Yield: 8 servings

Recipe from “Big Sky Cooking” by Meredith Auld Brokaw and Ellen Wright (Artisan, 2006).



Corn and Cornbread

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (8-1/2-ounce) can cream-style corn

1 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs, beaten



Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 10-inch round baking pan or cast-iron skillet.

In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the cream-style corn, milk, oil and eggs. Stir just until combined; do not over mix. Transfer to the baking pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Recipe from the “National Cowboy Hall of Fame Chuck Wagon Cookbook” (Hearst Books, 1995) by B. Byron Price.