(((PRINTED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE ALPINE AVALANCHE)))
If you read last week’s column about a chuck wagon cookout we attended at Camp Mitre Peak, you might be thinking that all we do out here is eat from chuck wagons, but that’s not true. And if it were true, would that be a terrible thing? I think not.
Last weekend, we attended the annual BBQ & Auction at the beautiful Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute located just outside of Fort Davis. Ordinarily, the staff and volunteers of the CDRI cook and prepare all of the delicious food for the event.
This year, the world famous Glenn Moreland of Texas Cowboy Outfitters and his crew provided the amazing spread. Glenn and his wife Patty live in Fort Davis, where he has a blacksmith shop and builds chuck wagons. Glenn has been cooking in his chuck wagons for about 40 years, and started collecting wagons to rebuild for fun at about that time.
Glenn began building chuck wagons as a profession about 20 years ago when he started Texas Cowboy Outfitters. His wagons are on display throughout the country, including the one at the Museum of the Big Bend, and he built a half-stagecoach for the Overland Trail Museum in Fort Davis. Small world that the vast community of chuck wagon cooking is, the Cocklebur Camp wagon that served us at the Camp Mitre Peak event last weekend was also one of Glenn’s pieces.
Chuck wagon competitions are serious business. Besides being judged on authenticity of the wagon and how your crew is dressed to match the era of chuck wagon cooking days, there are typically five categories of food to prepare: meat, beans, bread, dessert and potatoes, most (if not all) prepared in Dutch ovens. Moreland and his crew served us tender chopped brisket and sausage with a tasty sauce, beans, coleslaw, green salad, bread and his signature peach cobbler.
According to the American Chuck Wagon Association (our evening’s cook has served as a director) website, “In 1996 at a chuck wagon competition in Amarillo, Texas, a small group of Old West enthusiasts and wagon masters talked about an association. The mission would be to preserve the heritage of the chuck wagon and its use in the short, but significant, era of the cattle drives. In 1997, in Bryson, Texas, by-laws and articles of operation were adopted and the American Chuck Wagon Association was off and running. Today there are members in 31 states, Canada, Germany and France. Members participate in cook off competitions, demonstrations, catering, charity events and school visits…” You can find a complete listing of all events on the site at http://www.americanchuckwagon.org.
Dutch Oven Potato Recipe
(Courtesy of Glenn Moreland, from my personal copy of the fantastic cookbook The Big Bend Cookbook – Recipes and Stories from the Heart of West Texas by Tiffany Harelik)
1 pound bacon
1 summer squash
1 zucchini squash
4 large onions
1 green pepper
12 good-sized red potatoes
10 slices white cheese
Cook bacon in a hot Dutch oven. Add vegetables and potatoes to Dutch oven, stirring occasionally to mix vegetables, potato and bacon grease. When potatoes and vegetables are done, remove heat from bottom and add slices of cheese.