This is the most popular Pioneer Woman recipe of 2020

In 2020, the year where everybody and their newly-adopted rescue dog started cooking up a storm, Ree Drummond, aka the Pioneer Woman, decided she'd had enough of the kitchen and quit her Food Network gig to become a long-haul trucker. (Perhaps she was devastated by the fact that so many of us think we've got better spaghetti recipes.) Oh wait, that's in the alternate history version of the past year. Back in reality, Drummond kept on cooking, undeterred by our opinions, and she released a bunch of recipes throughout the year — heavy on the comfort food, of course; never let it be said that Drummond's not in tune with the zeitgeist. Plus comfort food's always been her thing, anyway — apart from banana bread, that is, since she hates that fruit.

The Pioneer Woman website did a countdown of Drummond's most popular 2020 recipes, and these included such basic-yet-classic dishes as mac and cheese (hers uses a whole pound of cheese and half a stick of butter), chicken salad (she uses green grapes, sliced almonds, and fresh dill), and chicken pot pie (what, this comes in a non-frozen version?) as well as a Thanksgiving turkey (roasted, not fried). Drummond's most popular recipe for the entire year, however, was something she called "Crash Hot Potatoes."

What's a "crashed" potato, anyway?

These crashed-not-mashed-or-even-smashed potatoes are, as Drummond tells us, a recipe that comes from a friend of hers in Australia (a country where her oldest daughter was conceived, she shares in a TMI-bordering confession). While Drummond wouldn't be likely to base a meal around veggies, she describes these potatoes as one of her "Favorite Side Dishes to Serve With Big Ol' Hunks of Beef" (caps all hers) as well as a nice alternative to "the tired old baked potato."

How you make them is, you first boil up some small potatoes and then arrange them on an oiled baking sheet where you "crash" them with a potato mashed (or crasher) in a criss-cross pattern, much as you do with a fork when making peanut butter cookies. Anyway, you wind up with flattened, ridged potato patties which you then drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, chopped fresh herbs (Drummond favors rosemary), and Parmesan before baking at 450 degrees for 20+ minutes.

As to why these potatoes were the most popular pick from the PW website — well, they sound tasty enough, if a bit on the plain side. When compared to her OTT mashed potatoes made with half-and-half, cream cheese, and a stick and a half of butter, though, these "crashed" ones are practically a superfood. Interesting to think this might reflect a shift toward healthier eating on the part of Ree's audience...wonder if Marlboro Man will follow suit? (Don't hold your breath).

Ree Drummond's food that came in second place, was a seasonal surprise

Thanksgiving is, of course, a busy time of year for the Pioneer Woman — so busy that she even endorses using frozen dinner rolls as long as you enhance them with a lot of butter (of course), salt, and herbs, but she does take some time with her turkey. While her roast turkey recipe itself came in at number 13 for the year, the surprise second place finisher was the apple cider-enhanced brine in which to soak it. (Yes, these actually counted as two separate recipes).

The brine itself, which involves adding a few cups of cider as well as salt, brown sugar (quite a lot of this — two cups), peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, rosemary, and orange peel to several gallons of water, takes just 25 minutes to prepare, but you'll need to soak the turkey in this solution for 16 to 24 hours. For most of us, the problem with brining comes in finding sufficient space to house the soaking turkey (a cooler? a bathtub?), but if you live on almost half a million acres, you've probably got entire outbuildings to spare so you could have your pick of brining rooms.

Coming in third was Ladd Drummond's favorite dessert

While the top two spots were taken by a side dish and a — what would you call brine, a pre-condiment? Respectively, the number three spot was occupied by something that actually deserves a starring role: Chocolate Pie. This is, again, a very simple dish, basically chocolate pudding in a crust. While Drummond does have a "Perfect Pie Crust" recipe (which came in at number nine), she says you can use an easy-to-make Oreo or graham cracker crust, and the photo on her site does seem to depict a crumb crust.

The pudding, however, isn't the Jell-O kind, since what kind of recipe would that be? (One from a vintage Jell-O cookbook, probably.) Instead, Drummond makes the from-scratch kind with bittersweet chocolate, sugar, milk, egg yolks, butter, salt, and vanilla, thickened with cornstarch. Not too tricky, except as regards to the cooking, since any time when you're heating milk to the point where it thickens you have to be careful it doesn't scorch.

Drummond describes this dessert as "just good ol' basic, can't-go-wrong, everyone-loves-it, super-easy-to-make, been-around-forever chocolate pie," and says that "my beloved could seriously eat a slice every day of his life and never get bored." If you, too, are looking to snag a millionaire cowboy in 2021, it seems like this might be a good recipe to add to your repertoire.