NEW YORK — Trisha Yearwood is a collard greens kind of gal, but her husband, Garth Brooks, is definitely not a collard greens kind of guy. So she had to be a little sly when it came time to perfect her Collard-Stuffed Wontons.
When the country star and her collaborator and sister, Beth, made them the first time at her Nashville home, they didn’t tell Brooks and his buddy what was in them when the two men came into the kitchen after working on their farm.
“I said, ‘You try this.’ Didn’t tell them what it was. And they ate them all. They were like, ‘These are amazing!’” Yearwood recalls. “And then I told him he ate his collard greens for the day.”
The quirky South-meets-Asia wontons are a feature of Yearwood’s fourth cookbook, “Trisha’s Kitchen: Easy Comfort Food for Friends and Family,” which has 125 recipes that blend her knowledge of soulful Southern cooking with influences from China, Italy and Mexico.
Yearwood says the last five years hosting her Emmy-winning Food Network series “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen” has helped boost her kitchen skills and expand her recipe development.
“I’ve entered into a really cool phase and I really attribute the show for just giving me confidence to try new things. And now they’ve become kind of family favorites and they feel like things that have been in the family forever,” she says.
Yearwood is open to ideas, even asking at restaurants how the chefs make favored dishes. She walked away from a sushi restaurant in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the origins of Garth’s Teriyaki Bowl, which uses marinated chicken and steak.
That same restaurant inspired her Steak & Avocado Rolls, which use soy wrappers to mimic sushi rolls. Neither Yearwood nor Brooks are fans of raw fish — “we’re sort of roll-it-in-flour-and-fry-it people,” she confesses — but their girls are, so the recipe is a compromise.
Yearwood also leaned on several family recipes for dishes in the new book, including some from her dad’s mom. Her grandmother was a dessert specialist but none of her recipes seemed to have survived until the family recently found a little book with handwritten recipes, including one for Hundred Dollar Cupcakes. Trisha and Beth also recreated a dish that was never written down, Jack’s Fried Pies, named after her father (see recipe below).
Jerky turns out to have a special place in her kitchen, and yet she has learned that she doesn’t need fancy equipment or a dehumidifier to make her BBQ or teriyaki jerky. She just turns on her oven.
“It’s really a low and slow in the oven, like at 200 degrees for hours. It’s not expensive to do. You can get a really inexpensive cut of meat and slice it yourself, or you can have your butcher slice it in the strips for you and then you marinate it and then you just slow bake it. Then it can be as tender or as tough as you like,” she says.
Other nifty recipes include one for Camo Cake she made for her nephew’s birthday that uses food coloring to mimic the look of camouflage, and Chicken Potpie Burger, which combines a classic chicken potpie with a bun.
“Everything that’s in the book is the way she really is and the way she really cooks. And it is a reflection of her life and her personality,” says Deb Brody, vice president and publisher of adult trade at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “It’s not just a celebrity putting her name on a cookbook. She actually cooks this way.”
Though Yearwood includes plenty of vegetarian options, bacon plays a key role in “Trisha’s Kitchen,” including a breakthrough in snack technology called Bacon Straws: twisted bacon strips brushed with maple syrup and red pepper flakes and sprinkled with cheddar cheese.
“When I’m cooking, if there’s bacon going on a burger or something, anybody at my house walks by and they’re going to take a piece of bacon. We all just want the bacon, like, it doesn’t have to be on anything,” she says. “So this was that idea of making it its own thing, making it an appetizer and it’s crunchy and crispy. You just walk by and grab one — or 10.”
The pandemic accelerated the book’s creation, with Yearwood’s touring scheduled stilled and lockdown forcing her into her kitchen. Easy comfort food was a natural way for her to cook her way out of quarantine.
“I did a lot of sitting on the couch and drinking coffee and going down the rabbit hole of depression. But then — I think it was getting close to a few months in — I was like, ‘This would be a perfect time just to write a new book,’” she says.
“It kind of had been knocking on the door, almost like when you need to make a new album. In a way, it was really therapeutic and cathartic for me to be able to focus on something like that, because food really does bring us together.”
Trisha Yearwood’s recipe for fried apple fritters
“My dad, Jack, used to reminisce about small fried apple fritters that his mother, Elizabeth, would make for him when he was a kid. Of course, like many passed-down family recipes, this one wasn’t written down anywhere, so Mama went to work, trying to figure out how to make them just like his mama had. That’s never an easy job, because our childhood memories often make those original flavors impossible to replicate. Beth and I remember those pre-made dough pockets sitting on the kitchen counter, and Mama frying them up in a cast iron skillet. We also remember how happy Daddy was with the result. We’re not surprised she got it right! Grandma Yearwood always fried with lard, but if that scares you, vegetable oil is perfectly fine!” — Trisha Yearwood
Jack’s Fried Pies
Makes 10 pies
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced in ½-inch pieces
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch of ground ginger
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 pounds lard or
- 1½ quarts vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 box (2 crusts) refrigerated pie crusts (I like Pillsbury)
- Special Equipment:
- 4½-inch round cookie cutter
1. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, brown sugar, salt, and 1/4 cup water, stir, and cover to bring to a simmer, 5 to 7 minutes, then cook, uncovered, until the apples are slightly softened, about 4 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water until combined and pourable. Stream the cornstarch slurry into the apple filling and cook on a low simmer for 2 minutes more, or until the liquid has thickened.
3. Pour the apple mixture into a shallow bowl (a pie plate works great) and cool in the fridge, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.
4. Put the lard or vegetable oil in a deep Dutch oven. Clip a deep-fry thermometer to its side and heat the lard over high heat to 360°F.
5. Lay out both rounds of pie dough and use a 4 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut four circles from each of them. Gather the scraps, roll out again, and cut out 2 more circles.
6. Fill each round of dough with a heaping tablespoon of the apple filling, then, using a little water on your fingers, wet the edge of the dough and press together into a half-moon. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork to seal.
7. When all the pies are assembled and the oil is to temperature, fry 3 or 4 pies at a time for 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the pies to a paper towel–lined tray to drain and cool slightly, then repeat to fry the remaining pies, letting the oil come back up to 360°F between batches. Enjoy warm.
Trisha’s Tip: The apple filling can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Excerpted from “Trisha’s Kitchen: Easy Comfort Food for Friends and Family” , copyright 2021. Reproduced by permission of Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.