The Pioneer Woman didn’t plan on calling her latest endeavor “The New Frontier.”

“I never begin working on a new cookbook with some kind of theme in mind,” said Ree Drummond, whose sixth cookbook, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: The New Frontier” is officially released Tuesday.

“Well, that’s not entirely true — when we did the holiday cookbook, we of course knew that in advance,” she said. “But usually a new cookbook starts with me making a list of recipes I’m passionate about sharing. And that usually takes a couple of months, because things need to evolve before I come up with a more or less complete list. Then I see if there’s some sort of theme I can use to try and connect everything together.”

In the introduction to the new book, Drummond refers to ways her family has changed in the past few years, such as having her two oldest children now attending college and the loss of her mother-in-law.

“When I started to examine the recipes that I particularly loved, and how they kind of reflected the new perspectives I’ve had as family and friendships have developed, ‘The New Frontier’ seemed to sum everything up,” Drummond said.

One new culinary frontier Drummond deals with in the new book involves a relatively recent piece of cooking technology: the Instant Pot.

“I know I’m a little late to the party with this,” she said, laughing. “I guess I’m a little too old-fashioned — I like to use old-fashioned pots and pans that I know are going to last forever, and that’s why I kind of resisted getting one. So it was nice to kind of jump in and try to figure out how an Instant Pot would fit into my cooking life.

“I have friends who use one as their go-to cooker for just about everything,” Drummond said. “I haven’t gone that far, but I can appreciate what it can do. I really like using it for certain cuts of beef that ordinarily would take a long time to braise, or for a quick soup that doesn’t taste like it was quick to make.”

Drummond also includes recipes that are labeled as “lower carb,” which she said is a reflection of her own eating habits.

“It’s something that I’ve been dabbling with,” she said. “I couldn’t in all honesty call these dishes ‘low carb,’ but they definitely are lower in carbs than some of my other recipes. It’s for when you want to lighten things up a bit.”

Some of her lower-carb creations include hamburgers served with grilled portobello mushrooms as the buns, a “fried rice” made with cauliflower, and pan-fried chicken breasts with a pesto cream sauce.

But Drummond said there are plenty of indulgent recipes, as well, with cinnamon rolls that fill a large cast-iron skillet, mashed potatoes cooked in the Instant Pot with loads of cream cheese and butter, and two sections devoted for desserts and sweets.

“There is no way I am not going to have a sweet attack after a meal,” Drummond said. “But sometimes you don’t want a huge dessert, so I have a section of small, sweet bites.”

Drummond recently completed filming new episodes for her Food Network series, “The Pioneer Woman.”

“The TV crews come out to the ranch about five times a year and spend about 10 to 12 days filming,” she said. “We just finished up about eight shows.

“TV definitely takes a lot of time,” Drummond said. “There is a lot of planning and prep work to do, which fortunately I can do at home.”

The upcoming series is not directly tied into the new cookbook, though Drummond acknowledged some overlap.

“I want everything to stand on its own, whether it’s the TV series or the cookbooks or my website,” she said. “But sometimes I’ll make something for the show, then take that and give a few tweaks, and it will end up as a different dish for a cookbook.

“And if things don’t turn out the way I want them to, then they get cut,” she said. “I have this pile of poor little recipes that for one reason or another just weren’t good enough.”

“New frontiers” have been something of a cornerstone of Drummond’s career from the start, beginning with her blog about being “an accidental cowgirl” when she married into the Drummond family, which owns one of the largest working ranches in the region.

Her chatty posts, which usually featured step-by-step recipes of the meals she would cook for friends and family — all illustrated with Drummond’s own photographs — soon made her an internet sensation.

That success was followed by a string of cookbooks along with children’s books that featured her basset hound Charlie, her popular TV series on the Food Network, which was recently renewed for an additional three years, and a quarterly magazine.

Drummond has also been helping to transform her adopted hometown of Pawhuska, establishing the Pioneer Woman Mercantile — known to Pioneer Woman fans as “the Merc” — in downtown Pawhuska. The restaurant-bakery-retail store attracts thousands of people to this Osage County town every week.

Drummond said there are plans for a makeover of the Mercantile’s restaurant in early 2020, with a revamped menu.

The Mercantile has been augmented with two other Pawhuska businesses: a wood-fired pizza restaurant called P-Town Pizza, and an eight-room boutique hotel called the Pioneer Woman Boarding House, which is currently booked until September 2020.

And for those who don’t want to brave the lines at the Mercantile’s restaurant — or aren’t confident enough in the kitchen to try their hand at one of Drummond’s recipes — a new line of Pioneer Woman frozen appetizers, side dishes and snacks are available at most grocery stores.

In spite of all this, Drummond said life for her hasn’t changed a great deal.

“My daily life on the ranch isn’t any different than it was before all this started,” she said. “I mean, there’s still horse and cattle manure in my yard that’s got to be cleaned up. That’s something that doesn’t change when you live on a working ranch.

“Now, if I go into town, there’s always the chance I’ll run into someone who’s seen the show or bought one of the cookbooks,” Drummond said. “And it’s always nice to talk with people who like what you do.

“And I realize that a lot of the people who are coming to Pawhuska now are doing that because of my stuff,” she said. “But what thrills me is that they really dig in to all the other things in the area. They’ll go to Woolaroc, see the Tallgrass Prairie, visit the Osage Tribal Museum. They may come here because of the Pioneer Woman, but they stay because of all the other great things in Osage County.”

Here are a couple recipes from the new book.

INSTANT POT STICKY PORK LETTUCE WRAPS

My original idea for this lettuce wrap recipe was to use a traditional barbecued pulled pork. But, as happens often when I start on a recipe, my scattered brain (and spice cabinet) took me in a totally different direction, and by the time I was finished, I’d made a sticky hoisin-based pork dish that is so beautifully unusual, it was hard to get it out of my mind for weeks. The flavor is incredible, and will make you fall in love with five-spice powder forever. Make this and set out all the elements when you have friends over. Building the wraps is part of the experience!

PICKLED ONIONS

½ cup rice vinegar (or any white vinegar)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced

PORK RUB

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons five-spice powder

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

PORK AND STICKY SAUCE

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon salted butter

1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

¼ cup hoisin sauce

¼ cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon sriracha sauce, or more to taste

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

FOR SERVING

Leaves from 2 to 3 heads Bibb or Boston lettuce

Toasted sesame seeds

3 green onions, sliced

1. First, make the pickled onions: In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper flakes, and ½ cup water and bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Place the onion in a large heatproof bowl and pour the mixture on top. Cover and let it sit in the fridge until the pork is ready for serving. (Psst. You can make these a couple of days in advance!)

2. Make the pork rub: In a large bowl, place all the rub ingredients and whisk until combined. Place the pork in the bowl, pressing the rub into the surface. Keep going until the pork is completely coated in the rub.

3. Set the Instant Pot to Sauté. When it’s hot, add the olive oil and butter, then place the pork in the pot. Sear the pork on all sides until very brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove it to a plate.

4. Add the stock to the Instant Pot and stir to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the hoisin, soy sauce, vinegar, sweet chili sauce, and sriracha and whisk until combined. Return the pork to the pot, secure the lid on the pot, and set the pressure valve to Sealing. Press the Manual button and set to 30 minutes.

5. After the cook time, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then use the handle of a wooden spoon to open the valve to Venting, to let the rest of the pressure release quickly. Remove the lid and place the pork on a sheet pan.

6. Use two forks to shred the pork. Set it aside.

7. Set the Instant Pot back to Sauté, then add the brown sugar.

8. In a small bowl, whisk ½ cup water into the cornstarch.

9. Pour the mixture into the pot, then let it cook and bubble up for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. It should be nice and thick. Taste and add more salt as needed.

10. Return the shredded pork to the sauce and stir until the pork is heated through and seriously sticky!

11. Serve the pork with the pickled onions, lettuce leaves, and sesame seeds. Sprinkle sliced green onions on top.

STANDARD COOKING DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Sear the pork in a Dutch oven, following steps 9 to 13. Add 1 cup extra stock or water and cover the pot. Braise for 3 to 3½ hours, until the pork is falling apart. Follow steps 6 to 11 to finish the pork and sauce.

From “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: The New Frontier” by Ree Drummond. Copyright © 2019 by Ree Drummond. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

KUNG PAO CAULIFLOWER

Kung Pao Chicken is my go-to takeout dish whenever I pass by a Chinese restaurant. It’s so spicy and flavorful, and if my brow isn’t sweating when I finish it, I’m not happy. In my quest to discover a thousand new ways to use cauliflower this year, I turned my beloved stir-fry dish into a meatless wonder, and it’s the perfect dinner whenever Ladd and the boys are gone for dinner. And I guess I could make it when they are home for dinner. I’d just have to throw a big steak on top. (Hey . . . that wouldn’t be half bad!)

SAUCE

⅓ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon chili paste (sambal oelek), or more to taste

3 garlic cloves, minced

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

STIR-FRY

1½ tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 head cauliflower, stem removed, cut into small florets

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 zucchini, cut into small dice

6 small dried hot chile peppers (sold in the Asian foods aisle)

6 green onions, sliced

½ cup unsalted peanuts

1. First, make the sauce: In a small pitcher, mix all the ingredients. Set aside.

2. For the stir-fry: In a separate pitcher, lightly whisk the cornstarch and ½ cup water with a fork to make a slurry. Set aside with the sauce.

3. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the peanut oil over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.

4. Add the bell peppers and stir and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the zucchini, chile peppers, and half of the green onions and cook, stirring, until the cauliflower has softened slightly and begins to char, about 4 minutes.

5. Pour in the sauce and the slurry along with an additional ½ cup water. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick and the veggies are coated, about 1 minute. They should be cooked through but not mushy at all. Add another splash of water if the sauce is too thick.

6. Add the peanuts and toss to coat. Taste and add more chile paste if you like things spicier.

7. Serve with the rest of the green onions sprinkled on top. (Avoid eating the chile peppers, as they are fiery hot!)

From “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: The New Frontier” by Ree Drummond. Copyright © 2019 by Ree Drummond. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


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