Nolan Ryan cooks up a book of beef and barbecue recipes

Posted Wednesday, May. 07, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

The Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook

by Nolan Ryan

Little, Brown and Co., $25

Meet the author

Nolan Ryan will meet fans and sign copies of his book at Kroger (3300 Texas Sage Trail in Fort Worth) 4-6 p.m. May 20, and at Barnes & Noble (7700 W. Northwest Hwy. in Dallas) 7-9 p.m. May 21.

Tex-Mex taco dog

Makes 8 hot dogs

8 all-beef hot dogs

8 hot dog buns

8 hard taco shells

1 recipe taco sauce (recipe follows)

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded

2 cups pico de gallo (recipe follows)

8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup sliced pickled jalapeños

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup salsa roja (recipe follows)

1. Preheat the grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grill grates.

2. Slit the hot dogs lengthwise, halfway through, and grill them for 6 to 8 minutes, turning frequently.

3. Toast the buns and the taco shells on the grill.

4. Place a taco shell inside each bun and a hot dog inside the taco shell, and top with taco sauce, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese, and jalapeños.

5. Serve with sour cream and salsa roja on the side.


Taco sauce

Makes about 3 cups

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 pound ground chuck (80-20 meat-to-fat ratio)

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup tomato juice

1. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat and cook the onions until golden brown. Add the ground chuck, stirring until crumbly, and then add the chili powder, paprika, salt, and garlic powder. Cook, stirring, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

2. Drain off the excess fat and add the tomato juice. Reduce the heat to low and cook the meat, stirring, until the juices almost dry up.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.


Pico de gallo

Makes about 2 cups

2 medium red onions, diced

2 to 3 medium tomatoes, diced

2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced small

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (leaves only)

Juice of 2 limes

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and chill until ready to use.


Salsa roja

Makes about 2 cups

8 large Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise

4 jalapeño peppers, stemmed and halved lengthwise

4 garlic gloves, peeled

1/2 small white onion, cut into chunks

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil

1/2 cup chicken broth

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro (leaves only)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Spread out the tomatoes, jalapeños, garlic cloves and onion chunks on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss gently with your hands to mix.

3. Roast the vegetables until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

4. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a blender and add the chicken broth, lime juice and adobo sauce. Blend on low speed for 3 to 5 seconds. Add the cilantro, salt and pepper and blend for another 3 to5 seconds. The salsa should be chunky, so don’t overblend.

5. Serve the salsa hot, or cover and refrigerate to serve cold.

Sunday pot roast

Serves 8 to 10

4 cups beef broth

4 1/2 cups water

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) boneless beef roast (shoulder or round), trimmed on all sides

4 ounces Yukon gold potatoes

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 medium white onions, cut into wedges

1 celery rib, bias-cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the beef broth, 1 cup of the water, the Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Set the sauce aside.

3. Coat the bottom of a heavy roasting pan with the oil, add the meat, and place the pan over medium-high heat to sear the beef. Brown on all sides.

4. Pour the sauce into the pan. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the meat, cover the pan with foil, and roast the meat in the oven for 1 hour.

5. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Rinse the potatoes in cold water for 5 to 10 minutes.

6. After the roast has been cooking for 1 hour, add the potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery to the pan; pour in the remaining 3 1/2 cups water.

7. Cover and cook until the meat is tender, about 1 hour more.

8. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl and the meat to a cutting board to rest while you make the gravy.

9. In a deep saucepan set over medium-high heat, stir the butter and flour together to make a roux. Add the liquids from the roasting pan to the saucepan, bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

10. Thick-slice the roast and serve with the vegetables and gravy.

Ruth Ryan’s special occasion carrot cake

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake

For the carrot cake:

2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups peeled, grated carrots

1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the cream cheese frosting:

1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, or using a handheld mixer and a medium bowl, beat the sugar and oil until blended.

3. Add the eggs one at a time; beat after each addition.

4. Sift the dry ingredients into the mixture and continue beating.

5. Add the carrots and pecans and, using a wooden spoon, mix well.

6. Pour the batter into the cake pans. Bake for 45 minutes.

7. Cool well in the pans before frosting.

8. To prepare the frosting, in the bowl of a standing mixer, or using a hand-held mixer and a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and beat until the frosting is a smooth consistency for spreading. (The frosting will seem stiff at first, but after thoroughly mixing, it will soften enough to spread evenly over the cake.)

9. Spread the frosting between each layer of the cake, on top, and on the sides. Serve and enjoy.

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Baseball lovers might find this hard to believe, but it’s true.

There are times when people meet the great Nolan Ryan, the all-time king of no-hitters and strikeouts, and they make a big fuss about him — but not because they remember his exploits on the pitching mound.

They know him first, foremost and sometimes only because he’s the name and face on the Nolan Ryan Beef products that they buy in the grocery store.

“It really does happen,” Ryan says. “Some of the younger people I meet seem to have no idea I played ball.”

In their defense, it has been two decades since Ryan ended his celebrated 27-year playing career in 1993.

“From a marketing standpoint, it’s good,” Ryan says of his evolving claim to fame. “The branding aspect of our product is what we’re wanting people to focus on.

“Take Jimmy Dean, for instance. I would venture a bet that very few people remember he was a country-Western singer. Most people seem to believe he just sold sausage.

“I don’t think you can say the same thing about Paul Newman, though. People might enjoy his salad dressing, but I think he’ll always be more famous as an actor.”

Now the Hall of Fame athlete, former Texas Rangers CEO and beef industry giant can add a new accomplishment to a long list of achievements: He’s a cookbook author.

The Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook (Little, Brown and Co., $25) comes out Tuesday.

Ryan worked with Cristobal Vazquez, executive chef for the Texas Rangers, and took inspiration from his mother’s kitchen to come up with more than 70 recipes, including burgers and steaks, salads, side dishes and desserts.

Of all the things that Ryan has aspired to achieve in his life, putting out a barbecue book was never on the wish list until recently.

“It was the farthest thing from my mind,” he admits. “The way it came about is that, after we started the beef company, people would contact us with questions. They would buy our product and then email us wanting to know things about preparing it.

“So we started putting recipes on our website, just to help them have a good eating experience, because a lot of people aren’t sure about grilling and the preparation of meat and what you can do in terms of being creative with it.

“Then one thing led to another. Eventually we floated the idea of a cookbook and I think there were six publishing companies, maybe eight, that contacted us with interest.”

Nearly three years later, it’s a reality. Ryan also uses the book to tell the story of how and why he got into cattle ranching in the early 1970s and how that led to his becoming a major beef provider.

His basic herd is Beefmaster cattle, a three-way cross of Brahman, Hereford and Shorthorn that is able to thrive in the oft-brutal Texas heat.

“I have so many people come up to me to tell me that they love our product,” Ryan says. “I take a lot of pride in the fact that we give a money-back guarantee, but the number of complaints we get from bad eating experiences is very small.”

The book stresses the idea that a meal doesn’t have to be painstakingly elaborate to be good.

“Who has time to go the supermarket and spend half the day searching for ingredients you never heard of?” Ryan says. “We keep the recipes simple, but we give them as much flavor as we possibly can.”

Ryan knows a lot about providing quality all-natural beef products, but he’s the first admit that he’s no chef. That’s why he relied heavily on Vazquez, and sometimes his wife, Ruth, when it came to developing the recipes that appear in the book.

“The Rangers are very fortunate to have Chef Cris,” Ryan says. “I have a lot of respect for him. His contributions were very important. I like the Southwest flair and the Mexican influence that he brings. I think it gives us more flavors, especially with some of the side dishes.”

One of the more whimsical recipes in the book is the Tex-Mex taco dog, which looks like a taco and a hotdog had a baby and yields a surprising mix of flavors.

Ruth Ryan, Nolan’s wife of more than 45 years, contributed her special-occasion carrot cake recipe, which is a longtime family favorite.

Some of Ryan’s other favorites are the Cobb salad with sirloin and Sunday pot roast.

“The thing that’s great about the sirloin Cobb salad is it’s simple to fix, it’s very wholesome, you can have it for lunch or dinner and it’s got a lot of flavor,” Ryan says. “It’s just a good all-around recipe.

“The other one, the pot roast, with pan gravy made from the drippings, has been a favorite of mine going all the way back to my childhood.

“That was always a special meal for us as a family. And I still really like it to this day. If I come home and Ruth has that pot roast for dinner, I would say it doesn’t get any better than this.”

After devoting more than two years to the project, Ryan is proud of the results and eager for people to give the recipes a try.

“It was a joint effort by a lot of people and everybody from Chef Cris to the food stylist to the photographer did a great job,” he says. “I see this book as a tool to educate people and to give them options when it comes to preparing a great meal on the grill or in the kitchen.

“Even people like me, who don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen, can take this cookbook and be pretty proud of what they produce out of it. I feel really good about that.”

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