Cooking With Trisha Yearwood
Don’t miss Trisha’s recipes, scroll down to the end to find seven of her tastiest dishes.
We recently had the pleasure of talking to Trisha Yearwood about the 10th season of her television cooking show, “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen,” which premieres Saturday, August 19 at 9:30 a.m. CT on Food Network.
Trisha is well-known for her award-winning singing career, as well as for being married to country singer Garth Brooks. And for the past several years, she’s gained fame as a best-selling cookbook author and host of “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen,” where her Southern hospitality shines as she brings to life the stories and recipes from her cookbooks.
Here is the interview.
Have you always liked to cook?
I grew up in a house where my mom was an amazing cook, and my dad was a really good cook, too. My sister and I, when we were kids, basically set the table … and we didn’t have an ice maker, so we cracked the ice cubes. Those were our big jobs.
I think the biggest thing we made were maybe cookies or something like that. My mom was the primary cook. She had a job … she was a schoolteacher … but she would come home every afternoon at 3:30 and have a meal on the table at 6 p.m. … I mean every single night. As an adult now, I don’t even know … I can’t imagine doing that.
I didn’t really learn to cook until I moved away to college and came to Nashville and was living in an apartment … and I grew up on a farm with a garden and fresh vegetables … and the first time I ate a vegetable out of a can, I think I called home in tears, like, I don’t know what to do, and my mom gave me a couple really simple recipes to make, like her potato salad and her meatloaf, and both of those things have like 4 ingredients … and it was kind of like, wow, I cannot only connect with home because I miss my folks, but I can now make this food, and it tastes like Mom’s, so it’s like being at home, and I can cook for myself … and it was really a revelation that it didn’t have to be hard.
It was really more, I guess, of osmosis. I mean, my mom really didn’t teach me … well, she taught me everything I know, but I was older. I was 20 years old before she really started talking me through things, and it was wonderful, because I could pick up the phone and ask her the most basic questions, like, if you’re going to boil corn on the cob, do you boil the water first, or do you put the corn in cold water and then bring it to a boil. Just simple questions … and she was great, because she always said, “Look, if you don’t know the basics, you don’t know.” And she always encouraged me to ask questions.
It really all started there, but I never dreamed I would be here. I never … I didn’t say “Oh, one day I’m going to write three cookbooks and have a cooking show.” It just came out of something I like to do.
So, you grew up in Georgia, spent a lot of time in Nashville, lived in Oklahoma for several years, and now you’re back in Nashville?
Yes, we lived in Oklahoma for 14 years while our girls … I’m a bonus mom. I think stepmom is Cinderella, so I’m a bonus mom … when our youngest graduated from high school and went to college, we moved back to Nashville. We’ve been here for about three years now, and we’re on this tour that has been really incredible, but probably … as much as I’ve toured in my life, and I’ve been on the road a lot, this is a big tour. It’s been going on for three years, and this leg of the tour comes to a close in December, so my calendar for January, every day just says “sleep.”
While watching some past episodes of “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen,” we noticed that you don’t measure a lot of ingredients. Is that typical practice for you?
It depends on what I’m making. On the show, I’m a little looser, because on the show, if you’re watching the show, you’re probably not pausing at every moment and writing down exactly what’s happening. You can go to FoodNetwork.com and find the recipe, so it’s a little bit looser on the show, because the recipe is written down on the internet.
I will say that, like at home, if I’ve made something a gazillion times, I mean I know at this point what a teaspoon looks like, what a tablespoon looks like, what a quarter cup looks like, but if it’s … the rule of thumb is if you’re making something savory … if you’re making pasta or if you’re cooking a steak or a casserole or a savory soup, measuring is not as important. If you’re making a cake, where the mix of flour and sugar and baking soda and salt, those are precise, and if you screw up on those, you can mess up the cake, so usually you’ll see me measure when I’m baking more than when I’m making savory dishes.
Where do you draw your Southern cooking influence from – which part of the South?
My mother was from South Georgia, south of Macon, close to the Florida line. Her parents were dairy farmers and grew tobacco, had cows and hogs. Her mother was an amazing cook. Her mom would work in the fields, and then she’d cook a meal for 30 people. She did that every single day. My mom was the only daughter – she had two brothers – so my mom ended up being the one who mostly helped in the kitchen. So my mom learned to cook at a young age.
I would say the way I grew up was definitely comfort food. It’s not the most heart-healthy stuff you can eat, but … you know, we were organic before it was cool, because everything was grown on the farm, everything was naturally made. Even as a kid in my family, we killed our own beef and pork, we did everything ourselves, so even the meat we ate was organic and grain fed on our farm, so I come from a real appreciation of that. So I think even if you’re using cream and butter – for us, it was cream and butter from my grandpa’s dairy, so it was as fresh and natural as it could possibly be – so I think even if you’re using rich ingredients, if they can be organic, that’s the way to go.
What is your favorite “Southern” dish to cook?
What pops into my head is macaroni and cheese, because in the South, there’s a ton of socials and covered-dish suppers, and somebody always brought macaroni and cheese.
I came across, from a cousin of mine, a Crockpot macaroni and cheese recipe a few years ago, and it took it to another level. All you do is cook the macaroni, and everything else you just throw in the Crockpot, and you just leave it for 3 hours, and the cheese gets brown around the outside, and it just slow cooks forever, and it’s the best thing. I don’t make it very often, because that’s one thing I probably couldn’t be alone with.
It’s as Southern to me as fried chicken, which is probably my other favorite Southern dish. And it’s funny because when we were writing the first cookbook, a lot of the recipes were not written down, because my mom had learned from her mom, and they weren’t written down. So when I was trying to put the fried chicken recipe in the cookbook, I said to my mom that we need to tell people how long you cook it on each side, and my mom said, “Well, you just cook it ’til it sounds right.” And while I appreciate that, you can’t write that in a book, you have to explain. But when you fry chicken, and you first put it in the hot oil, it sizzles, and it sizzles and sizzles, and when it gets quiet, it’s ready to turn. So she’s right, but we had to tell people that’s probably about four minutes. Once you’ve done it enough, you realize that when it gets quiet, it’s trying to tell you it’s time to turn it over.
What are some other favorite foods you like to cook?
I like to do everything, like for lunch today, I actually made a recipe out of Mario Batali’s cookbook. I went to his restaurant, Babbo, in New York, and I’m obsessed. I’m obsessed with his food. He has this really incredible pasta dish. It’s kind of like pomodoro, but you sauté grape tomatoes until they burst with garlic and chives and basil, and then you pour it over pasta. It’s really a simple dish, but it’s just so good.
I guess I don’t really have a favorite thing to cook, it’s just kind of whatever I’m in the mood for. My husband likes casseroles, and he likes anything that’s in one dish, so lasagna’s a big thing, anything he can basically stick a fork in, and it’s the whole meal. He likes that kind of thing.
Speaking of Garth, what are some meals you guys like to make together?
We really like breakfast for dinner. He does a dish called Garth’s Breakfast Bowl, and I gave him crap for such a long time, because it’s really not a recipe. It’s like everything you would eat for breakfast, you just make, and then you assemble it in a bowl. It’s really just a layering of a million calories, and then you have to take a nap for a week.
Usually it’s bacon, sausage, tater tots or hash brown, then eggs and cheese, and he loves tortellini … it’s a joke, he puts it in everything … and he actually puts it in this breakfast bowl, and it’s phenomenal. Then I make sausage gravy to go on top. Seriously, it’s decadent, but it’s just a breakfast bowl of layering everything you’d ever want for breakfast. It’s pretty great!
What do you consider to be the quintessential “country meal”?
I really think it’s fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, maybe cooked-to-death green beans, and some kind of biscuit.
With such a busy life, with family and your music and touring, how do even find time to cook?
Well, when we’re on the road, I don’t. We have a really great catering staff, who Garth asked to cook out of my cookbooks. So, usually every night, there’s something on the menu that’s mine. It’s kind of cool because you get to eat your own cooking, but you didn’t have to actually cook … and you don’t have to do the dishes.
We’re on the road about half the time and at home about half the time. So when we’re home for the week (Monday through Thursday), I’m going to cook at least one or two nights out of those four days, because for me, I don’t feel like it’s a chore. It’s really relaxing for me. It’s almost like therapy. I really do enjoy it, so it’s something I look forward to.
I also love to read books and drink coffee, so that’s my other thing I like to do if I’m not cooking. But it’s that relaxing for me, so it’s something I really look forward to doing. So I really do get a chance to do it a pretty good bit. And I think I enjoy it because I don’t have to do it. I’m asked a lot if I’d like to do a restaurant, and I think that would make me not love cooking … if I had to do it every day and had to be in there all the time, I think it would lose the joy for me.
I like to cook when I want to, and if I don’t want to, Garth will … or we’ll go out for dinner or order in.
What made you decide to do a TV cooking show?
I had resisted it for a long time. The cookbooks were fun to write, especially the first one with my mom and my sister, and the second one, but then my mom passed away, and my sister and I wrote the third cookbook, because we really wanted to kind of give a nod that we’d learned to eat a little healthier, but we still wanted to have comfort food. So the third book is a little more about that 80/20 rule, where 80 percent of the time you try to make good choices, and 20 percent of the time you have fried chicken.
I didn’t think I wanted to do a cooking show, because I just thought, most of the time you see people standing behind the counter by themselves going, “Now you’re going to add the butter,” and I just thought that would bore me, but Food Network said it can be whatever you want, and we’d love you to bring the cookbooks, the stories you tell in these cookbooks to life, and so I thought, well if I can have my sister and my best friends, my relatives, my buddies, on the show and make it fun, then it might be good. So we just did a few episodes to see how it went, and we had fun, and the network liked it, and people apparently liked it, and so here we are 10 seasons in, and it’s really, really fun.
We’re not scripted, so we’re not perfect. We show our mistakes, because I think most people that cook are like me … they’re not chefs, they’re just home cooks … so we show people if you drop the egg shell in the mixer when you’re making a cake, here’s how you get it out. Instead of cutting and taking it out and making it look perfect for camera, we show the mistakes, and I think that’s more realistic, and it makes it fun for me.
Where is the show filmed?
In Nashville. I had a house before Garth and I moved back here and built a house. My house … I was going to sell it, but I thought, I love this house, it’s beautiful, and the show has to film somewhere, so we film in my house. We redid the kitchen a little bit … made it a little more camera-friendly. The cooktop is now in the island, so I can face the camera.
I love it, because when I go there to work, I’m really at my house, so it’s really comfortable. And since we have a 30-person crew, it’s nice to wake up at home and not walk into the kitchen and see 30 people, but instead get your coffee, then go see the 30 people, but not actually walk into the kitchen in your pajamas and say good morning. So it’s kind of the best of both worlds. It’s not in my house, but it is in my house, so it makes it nice.
Are any of the recipes you make on the show included in your cookbooks?
Yeah, some of them are. We really have, over the past seasons, exhausted a lot of the recipes out of the cookbooks. So the new season has a few things out of the cookbooks, but then there’s new things, because if you cook, you’re always finding new recipes or somebody’s giving you something new to try that you like, and then you kind of tweak it and make it your own, or you discover something new you want to share with everybody. And I have to do that now because with the show continuing, I’m running out of recipes. You can only make your mama’s fried chicken once, and then you’ve got to figure out something else, so it’s a constant process of developing new recipes, revamping older ones to kind of give them a new twist, and keeping them very authentic to me, because I am not a fancy cook … my exotic spices are salt and pepper, so I can’t get too crazy. I like to keep it simple.
What do you do with the food you cook on the show?
Oh, we eat it, of course! The cool thing is, when you do a show, I make one dish … you see me put mine in the oven … and then there’s a swap, because you can’t wait an hour for it to cook for camera, or we’d be there for two days to film one show, so there’s a whole culinary team that’s watched me make it and knows how I do it, so the swap looks the same. So the crew is really happy because usually they get at least two versions of the dish.
Once the show is taped, and once we’ve tasted it, and once the crew has got what they call their “beauties” – they do beauty shots of food on the plate or in the casserole dish – once that’s done, the food goes on the craft table, and then everybody gets to try it. So, I like that, because nothing gets wasted. There’s not enough for everybody, so everybody knows when it hits the craft table, you better go get your bite because it’ll be gone.
We have a proper lunch on set every day that’s brought in by a caterer, but I don’t know why anybody ever eats it. Well, for me at least, I’ll forget … we will have shot things in the morning that don’t involve tasting any food, and then I’ll eat lunch, and then I’ll be like, oh crap, I’ve got to eat this whole meal in an hour … it’s like I forgot I’ve got to eat again. So since I’ve learned, kind of, I try to remember that I’m going to be eating, and I don’t need to go through the lunch line because I’m going to be eating plenty that day.
When does the new season of “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen” premiere, and do you have anything special planned for this season?
It premieres Saturday, August 19, with 13 new episodes.
Yeah, there are special guests. I think we can’t say who they are, but there are a couple people coming on that you’ll recognize.
My sister and I are kind of known for being like Thelma and Louis, or more like Lucy and Ethel, and we do kind of crazy things. There’s an episode that involves a paint gun and some armor, so that’ll be fun, and cooking actually happens also, so that’s good. It’s funny, I think I say just about every episode, when we’re doing some silly stunt, I always remind the crew that this is a cooking show, and everybody laughs. They all say, and I don’t know if they’re just being nice to me, but the crew says “we look so forward to your show because it’s like a vacation, because we know we’re gonna laugh, we know it’s not gonna be stressful.” I mean, it’s a cooking show, there needs to be no drama. We’re a drama-free set, so if you’re dramatic, you don’t get to stay. It’s just fun.
Be sure to tune in for a fun-filled cooking session with Trisha. You’ll be glad you did!
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