Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
Jensen

California Rancho Cooking

Recommended Posts

I was interested to read Rancho Gordo's comment the other day in which he said he thought that California rancho cooking could kick the pants off Tex-Mex. (Or something like that)

An article from last week's SF Chronicle's food section by Jacqueline Higuera McMahan about healthy, low-fat Mexican food just reminded me of RG's comment.

That got me thinking, "Just what is California rancho cooking?" Mr. Google tells me a lot about Mrs. McMahan's cooking book "Rancho Cooking" but I haven't seen too much else in the way of information.

So, what defines "California rancho cooking"? What are the ingredients? What are the cooking methods?

Teach a poor foreigner all about it...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm. I checked out Ms. MacMahan's book and it looks like something we would really love to have!

We think of rancho cooking as a combination of Spanish and Mediterranean influences on typical Mexican dishes, with more emphasis on the bounty of garden and farm, more seafood, and cooler climate vegetables. Definitely not the meat, beans, corn, meat, beans, corn concept. Also more of a Veracruz olive oil-and-seafood approach to many dishes. One local chef, Cris Cherry of Villa Creek, calls his approach 'Early California Cuisine.'

A rancho table would probably include:

Small sweet chiles, roasted and stuffed

Clay pot quail and dove, or blackened quail

Spit-roasted chickens, walnut-fed turkeys

Butternut squash enchiladas

Stuffed or fried squash blossoms

Cold squash soups

Wild boar meat, wild boar sausage

Pit-roasted goat, pork and veal

Lots of citrus and herbs

Hot chiles used judiciously, and moles

Jalapeno and sweet-hot jellies and preserves

Crab enchiladas

Prawns and shrimp in everything from chili to tacos

Quesa fresca on everything

Plenty of red wine

And, of course, Bloody Marias—made with modern El Pato red enchilada sauce, a variety of local hot sauces, and garnished with baby corns, roasted asparagus, and local salt-cured olives.


_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a California Mission cookbook somewhere in my collection that was published in the 60s, as I recall, and which described California Rancho cooking as being more Spanish influenced than Mexican or Southwestern. I believe it was published by the printers who publish the California Mission guides and sold to support mission restoration. It was a spiral bound book with Mission San Luis Rey on the cover. (One of my favorite missions, which is why I remember that.)

It has been a long time since I even opened the book and I will have to see if I can readily find it, however, I do remember recipes for omelettes and "tortilla" which were not at all like the tortillas we buy in the local stores.

It had recipes for beef and lamb cooked on spits, chicken cooked in clay pots and fish cooked on rock slabs heated by coals.

I have not looked as the book by Ms. MacMahan, but it sounds like something I should add to my collection, thanks for posting the info.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Soo, are there any restaurants in California that do this type of cooking? Anyone have an opinion on Vaquero or is it just talk rather than California Rancho Cooking? I'm thinking of going there this week.

Off the topic, how are the burgers at Vaquero in Sonoma? How's the Sunday Brunch?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Are there any restaurants in California that do this type of cooking?

Definitely Villa Creek, as mentioned before. It's their whole concept. The website includes the menu, and recipes as well. Would anyone be interested in a "Conversation With" . . . VC owner Cris Cherry, on the topic of California rancho cooking?

I bet Dave could be persuaded to set that up for us! :wink:


_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Soo, are there any restaurants in California that do this type of cooking? Anyone have an opinion on Vaquero or is it just talk rather than California Rancho Cooking? I'm thinking of going there this week.

Off the topic, how are the burgers at Vaquero in Sonoma? How's the Sunday Brunch?

Sounds like the latter scenario. Here's their self-styled description (from the link below):

The vaqueros generally came from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, but were predominantly Mexican. They worked long, hard hours and generally ate meals either very early in the morning or very late at night. Those meals were hearty and substantial and featured some of the bold flavors and influences we associate today with southwestern and Mexican cuisine.

Vaquero Restaurant focuses on classic ranch cooking influenced by local ingredients and the ethnic heritage of the vaqueros. Vaquero Restaurant is not just another Cal-Ital, Tex-Mex or Haute French wine country dining destination. Instead, it's a unique restaurant featuring a specific style of food: California Ranch Cooking.

Here's their dinner menu: vaquero menu


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...

Would anyone be interested in a "Conversation With" . . . VC owner Cris Cherry, on the topic of California rancho cooking?

I bet Dave could be persuaded to set that up for us!  :wink:

I think hat would be a great idea.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is an eGullet-Amazon link to The Blond Ranchero

Book synopsis from the Arroyo Grande Historical Society.

While not entirely about food, it is a first person account of life on the Nipomo Rancho by the youngest of Captain William Dana's 21 children. It includes many casual mentions of the livestock, gardens, and dishes of the time. A fascinating account that includes driving buckboard wagons over the Cuesta Grade to get supplies, and having to dodge bandits on a route I now take for granted.


_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've moved the posts about Vaquero in Sonoma to it's own there, which can be found here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...

Would anyone be interested in a "Conversation With" . . . VC owner Cris Cherry, on the topic of California rancho cooking?

I bet Dave could be persuaded to set that up for us!   :wink:

I think hat would be a great idea.

Either that, or Jacqueline Higuera McMahan herself. Is there anyway we could get her to converse with us?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ms McMahan's book is very interesting and there are some great ideas (like steaming chiles rather than soaking them in hot water) but I don't think she's defined the genre. I think it's still a work in progress and today you'd have to consider people like those 2 gals in LA who used ot be on TV (not always authentic but always very Cal), modern ag crops and recent immigrants from different parts of Mexico and even El Salvador.

I think we're in the process of creating California Rancho Cooking.


Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...

Would anyone be interested in a "Conversation With" . . . VC owner Cris Cherry, on the topic of California rancho cooking?

I bet Dave could be persuaded to set that up for us!  :wink:

I think hat would be a great idea.

Either that, or Jacqueline Higuera McMahan herself. Is there anyway we could get her to converse with us?

Either of these would make me an extremely happy girl...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think we're in the process of creating California Rancho Cooking.

Now, I don't want to start trouble here :biggrin: , but if I was a native Californian, I might take exception to that comment. I mean really, "creating" it when there have been California ranches and cooking on them for years?

So, I think that maybe what we are talking about here is "Nuevo California Rancho" cooking. N'est-ce pas? :laugh:


Deb

Liberty, MO

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think we're in the process of creating California Rancho Cooking.

Now, I don't want to start trouble here :biggrin: , but if I was a native Californian, I might take exception to that comment. I mean really, "creating" it when there have been California ranches and cooking on them for years?

So, I think that maybe what we are talking about here is "Nuevo California Rancho" cooking. N'est-ce pas? :laugh:

I agree. I think what is meant by California Rancho cooking is the type of cooking that was done on the great California ranches, by the early settlers here. Not what is being created now.


Edited by artisan02 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry, I misunderstood.

But McMahan's book is about her family and is much later than the classic Californio/Rancho period.

There's an interesting book called Encarnacion's Kitchen that is a period piece and might be closer to what you are talking about. it's interesting and almost impossible to cook from.

There was a quote attributed to me but this is not what I was referring to, although this would be an influence and inspiration.

Now, I don't want to start trouble here  , but if I was a native Californian, I might take exception to that comment. I mean really, "creating" it when there have been California ranches and cooking on them for years?

Well, as a native son of the golden west, I guess I take exception to myself!

I'm curious, what ranches are you talking about?


Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve, I was really just making a point, but now that you ask, we have several rancheros around us. Mind you they are all developed for the most part now, but they include Nellie Gail Ranch (This is our immediate area and a spin off of one of the larger ranches.), Irvine, O'Neill, etc.

As I said, I'm not a native (been here for 20+ years). Was just really trying to make a point that what "I" think of when I imagine traditional rancho California food doesn't lead me to think that anyone can "create" it now. It was what it was. Now any one of use might choose to "re-create" this sort of cooking, but to think that "we" are creating it, just doesn't cut it in my way of thinking.

JMHO and YMMV. And as you say, you are the native, so you'd be the one to be offended, not me!

Anyway, peace my friend! Was merely attempting to raise a different point of view. :smile:


Deb

Liberty, MO

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, I'm sorry if that came off less than friendly. I realize I'm not making my thoughts clear and we're talking about a couple of differnt things. No need to make peace unless it involves breaking bread together and we can just do that for fun!


Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I saw the phrase "California Rancho Cooking," I was thinking about the type of cooking during the 1800's.

Now living in Southern California, I think of the ranchos of Southern California that were owned by former Mexican generals as a reward for their military service.

Rancho San Fernando, Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica, Rancho La Cañada, Rancho San Rafael, Rancho Gordo (oops, sorry :biggrin: ) : The geographical boundaries are still noted in those Thomas Guide mapbooks.

By around 1861-2, there was a huge drought in Southern California, and these rancho owners had to sell the land for real cheap. And what happened after that? Railroads.

Pardon the history & geography lesson. Hopefully, this information provides a little historical & geographical context to "California Rancho Cooking."

Ms McMahan's book is very interesting and there are some great ideas (like steaming chiles rather than soaking them in hot water) but I don't think she's defined the genre. I think it's still a work in progress and today you'd have to consider people like those 2 gals in LA who used ot be on TV (not always authentic but always very Cal), modern ag crops and recent immigrants from different parts of Mexico and even El Salvador.

Oh, I forgot, Rancho Gordo,

Are you referring to Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, the "Two Hot Tamales"?

EDITED -- also adding a website on California history and "The Heyday of the Ranchos": http://www.californiahistory.net/ranchos_frame_main.htm


Edited by rjwong (log)

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think some of the confusion in terms might be due to my original question and how I called the cooking. I had no idea that there were two distinct types of cuisine called "rancho cooking". I suppose I assumed that the rancho cooking Rancho Gordo had mentioned was a descendant of the rancho cooking of California history, not realising that it was more likely to be an adaptation/re-creation of the same.

Rjwong, as a history buff, you might be interested in this little tidbit that I learned yesterday while on my field trip to Coloma. The area that is now Sacramento was originally a Mexican land grant made to John Sutter. He planned to develop it into a colony, not a rancho though, and it was while milling lumber for the construction of the colony that gold was discovered.

I know the gold and milling bit is common knowledge but the Mexican land grant bit was news to me.

Now that I have a slightly better idea what I was asking about, I was just thinking that a "panel Q&A" might be a neat thing to do. Cris Cherry and Jacqueline Higuera McMahan talking about rancho cooking: what it was, what it is now, what it can be, and how they are all related.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Now that I have a slightly better idea what I was asking about, I was just thinking that a "panel Q&A" might be a neat thing to do.  Cris Cherry and Jacqueline Higuera McMahan talking about rancho cooking: what it was, what it is now, what it can be, and how they are all related.

I think that's a great idea. I will talk to our forum host about it and maybe we can arrange it for later this spring. In the meantime, I am curious to know if there are any other restaurants or chefs working with the California Rancho Cooking concept. And while Maison has a point about the historical purity of true rancho cooking, I'm perfectly happy to discuss it's modern variations, as I have no desire to pluck my own chickens or render bear fat! :shock:


_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The one who you should really try and get is Dan Strehl who edited and translated Encarnacion Pinedo's Encarnacion's Kitchen (Univ Calif Press). I think he'd add a lot from an historical perpective.


Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The one who you should really try and get is Dan Strehl who edited and translated Encarnacion Pinedo's Encarnacion's Kitchen (Univ Calif Press). I think he'd add a lot from an historical perpective.

Dan is a great guy and part of the driving force of the Culinary Historical Society of Southern California. PM me if you want his e-mail.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...