After compiling her first cookbook, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen, Trisha Yearwood found 60 or 70 recipes on the chopping block. However, she wasn’t sure those leftovers would ever end up in print since she says it takes about a year to put a cookbook together. To help her make the decision, she enlisted family members to bring their favorite dishes to a reunion — along with the recipe. Then she divided the stack of recipes between herself, her sister and their mother, plucking the best ones. The result is Home Cooking With Trisha Yearwood, a new book being served in April 2010.
Calling from the Oklahoma home she shares with husband Garth Brooks, she spent about half of our conversation describing her new dishes, such as asparagus wrapped in bacon, Crock-Pot macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pudding, Key lime cake (her new favorite), ambrosia with apples (contributed by family friend, the late Betty Maxwell), cornbread salad with homemade French dressing and chunky, meaty cowboy lasagna.
After wiping away the drool, we were able to talk about cooking meals for her friends, sharing (or not sharing) famous recipes and holding out for the best brownies.
CMT: You’ve mentioned you cook for your friends a lot. Why is it so much fun to cook for them?
It’s almost a different form of entertainment. You’re not an artist, but if people say they don’t do it for applause, you know they’re lying. We’re artists because we like for people to go, “Oh, you’re so good. You did a great job.” And cooking is like that. I love to make something new and have everyone over and see the look on their faces when they try it. It’s fun, and I always tell them, especially if it’s new, “Look, I’m not going to think I’m a horrible cook if you don’t like this, so just tell me the truth and how it can be better or if you don’t care for it.” I think I’m a pretty good judge for if it’s good or not.
This whole book is really about those events where you’re going to somebody’s house and you want to take something. If you don’t cook a lot, most people think, “Man, I can’t make anything.” That’s what’s cool about this book and the first one — they’re pretty much easy things to make. And when you walk in with them, people will think they were hard to make because they taste so good but they’re really easy. That’s the key — to keep it simple.
Do you ever encounter other cooks that say, “Well, that’s my secret recipe”?
Yeah, I sure do. There’s a guy here that’s a really good friend of mine. He’s a fireman, and his wife is a dental hygienist, and we’re best buddies. Being a fireman, they take turns cooking, and most firemen are really good cooks because they spend a lot of downtime at the station. He’s a really good cook, and he makes a firehouse chili I would have loved to put in the book, but he won’t give the recipe out. But he’ll make it for me. So I said, “I’m fine with that as long as you’ll make it for me. I don’t need to know how to make it.” When he cooks, he cooks for the station, so if he brings chili over here, it’s a vat of chili, which is great, because it lasts for a long time. I’ve had a couple of people, once or twice, where somebody didn’t want to do that, and that’s OK. I don’t have any secret recipe at all. I’m just like, “Here it is, and here’s how you make it.” I want people to know how easy these things are to make because I really like it when somebody says, “I didn’t really cook, but I made your meatloaf out of your first book, and it was so easy and so good.” That’s what I want, so I share as much as I can.
When you gather other people’s recipes, is it like a demo pile where you find some recipes that you love but maybe they don’t fit the approach you’re going for?
Yeah, it very much is, especially because I don’t want to put anything in the book that I wouldn’t eat or that I don’t think is good. There are some things in the book that are more my favorites than others. There’s a recipe in here for fruitcake cookies. I’m not a fruitcake person, and these are OK, but they’re really good if you like that kind of thing. My sister loves them and my mom loves them, so I’m like, “All right, we’ll put them in there.” But it’s not my favorite thing.
We had a lot of people who were friends and family who sent us your basic brownie recipe and all kinds of variations of brownies. We wanted to have some brownies in this book, but because we had brownies in the last book, we had way too many choices. So we just said, “OK, I’m going to make three, you make these three, and, Mom, you make these three, and we’ll pick the best.” And we did. Everything was good, but you ask, “What would I make again? What do I really like?” That’s what we based it on. It’s just like when you’re choosing songs. There are songs that are OK. They’re pretty good, but they’re not great, so let’s hold out for the best of the best.