Spend a little time in the Wild West and you'll quickly discover why cowboys never die: They eat really well. Steaks sizzling over the campfire, saucy baked beans, rustic Dutch-oven desserts?it's all the fuel anyone needs to round up a few hundred steer. But you don't have to be a cowboy (or cowgirl) to chow down like one. Two Texas cooks show you the ropes in The Texas Cowboy Cookbook, by Robb Walsh ($18, Broadway Books), and Cowgirl Cuisine, by Paula Disbrowe ($30, William Morrow). We brought the authors together at George Ranch Historical Park in Richmond, Texas, for a boy-meets-girl cookoff. May the best cowpoke win!
This mixture usually contains three components: an acid, such as vinegar, wine or citrus juice; an oil, which protects the meat from drying out; and flavorings, such as herbs, spices and vegetables. Almost any food can be marinated: meat, poultry, fish and vegetables.
This solution of salt and water-often mixed with sugar, spices and herbs-delivers seasoning and moisture to meat. Brining takes longer than marinating but often yields more flavorful, juicier food. Brining works best with pork, poultry and shrimp.
This mixture of salt, spices and herbs is rubbed onto the surface of meat, poultry or fish before cooking. Spice rubs can be dry or mixed with oil; the latter are easier to apply.