Chuck Wagon Cooking & Paella


Paella - Chuck Wagon Style

Reenactments. They are everywhere, especially here in Virginia. Ours tend to be the Civil War variety, but further north you will find the Revolutionary War type. It’s all fun if you like that sort of thing, but what about old West revivals? What? People think they can imitate the Duke? Really??

Cowboys – Gunslingers – and Chuck Wagons, oh my.

Yes. Reliving the Old West is a growing niche in the world of reenactors. There is a single action shooting society that uses period weapons, meaning the old standby, the six shooter. There are companies out there that, for a fee, will let you drive cattle from point A to point B. Surely you have seen the movie City Slickers. I think Curly would make a better president than most of the folks running, but I digress. Let’s talk cooking!

Undercooked beans and overcooked cabrito (that’s goat in case you needed to know) were probably commonplace. I guess this was to be expected, since the chuck wagon cook, traditionally known as “Cookie,” probably did not have a copy of Julia Child’s  Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Yet one chuck wagon cook, Bendito del Freito, from the little known White Rock Trail “just south of the three forks of the Trinity,” in Texas, had a recipe for Paella. This is so good, the cowpokes probably gained weight by the end of the cattle drive!

(Disclaimer: Bendito did not graduate from the Le Cordon Bleu. His measurements are…unique.)

Here is my translation. Apologies to the grammar police.

Build the fire, get the coals going.

Put the skillet on the coals to heat up. (I used a large cast iron skill, on a Weber grill)

Throw on some chicken and pig. (I used boneless chicken breasts and St. Louis style pork ribs.)

When the pig don’t fight back (meaning it is done) move aside and put on some tomato, pimiento y frijole. (I used diced tomatoes, red and green bell peppers – rough chopped, onion – chopped, and green beans.)

Handful of ajo (garlic) and “the rest.” Clean water. (I like how Bendito specifically mentioned clean water. I used a tablespoon of minced garlic, rosemary, and a bit of salt, and even a touch of saffron. I also used two cups of chicken broth.)

Arroz. (meaning add uncooked rice to the mixture. How much? I used 1 1/2 cups.)

That’s all Bendito tells us. I covered the cast iron skillet for about twenty minutes to allow the rice to cook.

Yes, I know this is not a “normal” recipe. It’s just a bit of Texas folklore, really. If you want an excellent step by step recipe for Paella, including photos, visit my good friends from Colorado, The Fearless Cooking Club. These folks know how to have a good time!

And thanks to Bendito, wherever you are…


2 thoughts on “Chuck Wagon Cooking & Paella

  1. pattyabr

    Thanks for mentioning The Fearless Cooking Club blog. Muchas gracias! I have seen references to making paella in a cast iron skillet which is perfect for the campfire. How fun!

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