Country Chuckwagon Dinner
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Living in the country with horses and cowboys, I love a good Country Chuckwagon Dinner. It doesn’t have to be authentic–out in the pasture cooked over an open fire. Just throw out a red checkered tablecloth, brew up some tea (or coffee), grab your cast iron skillet and guitar, and invite your friends!
(Post modified on 9/10/23.)
The first time I served many of these dishes was at a Chuckwagon Dinner I hosted for our family and church. I set out tables with red checkered cloths under our awning and decorated them with jars of wildflowers from our pasture. The kids ran and the adults played horseshoes in the yard.
After dinner, we sat around an open fire and listened to songs on the guitar. It was a lovely evening.
It reminded me of those cowboy dinner music theatres. Have you ever been to one? Here in Kansas, we have the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper. And long ago, my husband and I attended one near Colorado Springs called the Flying W Ranch. I suppose that’s where I got the idea for the outdoor shindig.
Hosting a Country Chuckwagon Dinner
For your chuckwagon dinner, you’ll want to select a few courses for your guests. If desired, begin with an appetizer or two. Coffee, tea–hot or cold are good beverages. Or even apple cider or beer, if you want more options.
Baked Jalapeno Poppers with Bacon – These little appetizers are so delicious. And every chuck wagon dinner needs some “heat” so I highly recommend these poppers before your meal.
Beer-Battered Onion Rings are so delicious and surprisingly simple to make. Light and crunchy with thick slices of sweet onion. And the dipping sauce is pretty amazing, too!
The Main Course – Open Fire or Grill
Next, consider the main course. Will you be cooking over an open fire, or on a grill? How many people will you be serving? If a large number, you might want to have a couple of options. Brisket is a good option for feeding a large number of people. Or a stew with biscuits or cornbread.
Marinated Smokey Beef Brisket is an easy-to-make recipe that’s mouth-watering delicious. Marinated overnight in a smoke-flavored sauce, then baked long and slow in the oven. The scrumptious meat is fork tender and practically melts in your mouth. It’s so good.
Sirloin Steak that’s out of this world yummy. – Marinate the steaks overnight or for at least 6 hours, and then grill or cook over an open fire.
Steak and Pinto Beans – If grilled sirloin steaks don’t tempt you, perhaps this easy dish will. Cook Steak and Pinto Beans over a campfire and let everyone line up with their plates so you can serve them straight from the skillet. I’m reminded of a song by one of those wrangler bands – “Beans for Breakfast, Beans for Dinner, Beans for Supper, Lord, deliver us from that.”
Chunky Venison Stew – it just tastes plain wonderful when you scoop some up in your spoon and take that first bite. Tender pieces of meat with chunky pieces of potatoes, carrots, and onion. So delicious.
Ham and Beans is another option for a soup at a chuckwagon dinner. A combination of Great Northern and Pinto Beans, thick and juicy with plenty of ham and plenty of flavor.
Biscuits or Cornbread
Every chuckwagon dinner needs some form of bread, and either of these biscuit recipes are a perfect fit. Even better, serve with apple butter! Yum!
or Sourdough Biscuits –
Skillet Cornbread – If biscuits aren’t your thing, try this cornbread recipe. It is amazing! Sweet and tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Again, another bread winner for your dinner.
A Few Cowboy Sides
Once the main dish has been decided, it’s time to pick out a couple of side dishes to go with it. A salad and potatoes are good choices, and beans, for sure.
Cabbage Bacon Salad – You’ll need a side dish or two for your dinner, and this cabbage slaw with bacon is a great match for the other items on this menu.
Pan Fried Country Potatoes is an easy recipe I make a lot for our family in the summer. Crispy, tender potatoes, seasoned just right with onion, bell pepper, and salt and pepper. So easy to make.
Kenny’s Cowboy Beans – No cowboy dinner would be complete without a side of beans. So, if you decide not to make the Steak and Beans above, please give these Cowboy Beans a try. This recipe from my oldest brother is a crowd-pleaser.
Fried Apples – The one time I attended the Flying W Ranch, they served fried apples as a side dish. I thought it was perfect, so I included it here. An apple a day…
A Perfect Ending to a Perfect Evening
As a closer for the evening, pick out a dessert or two to serve. Cakes will serve a large number of people, while cobblers or pies can be made in a Dutch oven over coals. Or you could keep it simple with a variety of cookies.
Spice Cake with Penuche Frosting – Finish the dinner with a lovely spiced sheet cake topped with a buttery, caramel frosting. It could be fudge, it’s that delicious! And yes, you guessed right–it blends wonderfully with the fried apples.
Cowboy Cookies are a favorite in our house. Filled with old-fashioned oats, cornflakes, raisins, pecans, and coconut, they keep a person going in the afternoon and are wonderful to snack on.
This Fresh Peach Cobbler recipe is especially easy to make. Plus you can make it ahead in the oven or during the chuckwagon dinner over hot coals.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake is a perfect ending to a summer dinner. I love that I can bake this cake in my cast iron skillet. That’s what I love about cast iron. You can go from stove top to oven in an instant. And this recipe is such a show-stopper! It really is quite beautiful.
I hope these recipes will inspire you to try your hand at hosting a Country Chuckwagon Dinner. If you do, I’d love for you to share your experience with me in the comments below! Happy Trails!
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