It is a truth universally acknowledged that a TV show with more than two seasons in the can needs to have its own cookbook. Often, the impulse behind these cookbooks seems more commercial than culinary. For example, it’s hard to imagine that even the most hardcore Seinfeld or Friends fans were setting their VCR to record every episode, in hopes that there would be some tips on how to cook like Elaine or Chandler.
Yellowstone: The Official Dutton Ranch Family Cookbook, which dropped earlier this month, is a different proposition. For one thing, Yellowstone is not a show about nothing — it’s a show about a ranch, which is a place they actually produce something people eat. More important, the author of the cookbook, Gabriel “Gator” Guilbeau, is the actual craft services guy for Yellowstone, and a character on the show. While fans of the show are in limbo waiting for the rest of Season 5, and itching for news about possible additions to the Yellowstone Expanded Universe coming in 2024, they can keep those cozy Dutton vibes going with some of these dishes. (Or, you can actually stay in a cabin on the ranch, but that’s more expensive.)
This cookbook is’ both better than it has to be, and different from what you might expect. I have been thinking about cookbooks for a minute. Depending on how serious you are about cooking, you can divide cookbooks into three categories:
- Essential: The Joy of Cooking, for example.
- Inspiring: Like Dave Chang or Samin Nosrat’s cookbooks.
- Why? The Sunday Night Football Cookbook, to name but one.
I would put the Yellowstone cookbook squarely in the #2 category of “inspiring.”
If someone had asked me to guess what a Yellowstone cookbook would look like, I would have guessed it would be sort of boring and beefy — maybe a Pioneer Woman vibe with better art direction. Somewhat surprisingly, the Yellowstone team let Gator cook, both literally and figuratively. This cookbook feels very much like the expression of a specific cook’s aesthetic and philosophy, rather than a paint-by-numbers cash grab. Chef Gator grew up in LA but has Cajun heritage, and that influence comes through in the recipes included in this book — like the dirty rice, the gumbo, the maque choux and bourbon bread pudding.
Sure, there are hearty chili recipes and bacon bison burgers, but there is also a chopped salad recipe with an intro that invokes John Dutton’s colon cancer diagnosis. There is a grilled octopus recipe that I have to imagine is in the book because Gator likes to cook octopus. As he explains, this is also the dish he prepared for his first on-camera appearance. In general, the recipes are much more integrated into the narrative arcs and characters than, say the Frasier cookbook.
Things are too busy in the Decider Test Kitchen for me to do a full Julie/Julia style cookthrough of the book, but I did cook Jamie’s smothered chicken with brown mushroom gravy, and it came together nicely. There are several other recipes I have marked with a post-it as things I’d like to try — when it cools off this fall, there is a solid looking pot roast, cowboy caviar, and these chicken and biscuit dumplings.
When I was shopping for the ingredients for the smothered chicken, I had the book in my shopping cart. I had to explain that it already belonged to me and not to scan it, but the bagger grabbed the book and started flipping through it, telling me how she and her son hope to visit Dutton Ranch someday. Until then, and until the show comes back, if there are Yellowstone fans in your life, you should get them this cookbook.
Yellowstone: The Official Dutton Ranch Family Cookbook is now available at bookstores near you, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Jonathan Beecher Field was born in New England, educated in the Midwest, and teaches in the South. He Tweets professionally as @ThatJBF, and unprofessionally as @TheGurglingCod. He also sometimes writes for Avidly and Common-Place
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