The country singer talked with Food & Wine about her go-to ingredient of the moment and her favorite red wines. 

Martina McBride interview
Credit: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

When you think of Martina McBride—legendary country singer—you most likely think of music, and that would of course only be right. But she’s actually an accomplished cook, as well.

“I just always loved to cook. I started to cook when I was 12,” she recalls. “I was in 4H, [and] I started getting interested in cooking then. My mom always cooked in the house and my grandma cooked all the time.”

McBride translated that livelong passion in her first cookbook, called Around the Table: Recipes and Inspiration for Gatherings Throughout the Year, which came out in 2014. Now, she’s preparing to embark on her Joy of Christmas tour, which begins November 24.

When it comes to eating on the road, McBride makes sure that she has healthy snacks in the tour bus because catering can be unpredictable. But these days she doesn’t have as much of an occasion to cook on the road—except under special circumstances.

“I cooked a big pot of chili for the crew and band a few years go, during a bad run of catering,” the singer remembers.

In the summer, the entire crew gathers together for a cookout, where they grill hotdogs and hamburgers, and she makes guacamole. McBride’s specialty seems to be this kind of cooking—for big groups of friends and family, in a celebratory atmosphere. She also hosts a Super Bowl party, during which she hosts anywhere from 20 to 30 people.

“The pigs-in-a-blanket are always a hit,” she says. “Everybody brings something, but I make a couple pots of soup.”

When it’s just her and her family (she has three daughters, for whom she used to cook when they came on tour with her) she tends to stick to simple recipes, like her chicken and sausage gumbo, which her “family really loves,” a roast chicken breast with an easy side like asparagus or roasted vegetables, as well her own version of the pot roast her mother made. At the moment her go-to ingredient is smoked paprika, which she’s putting in everything.

In the colder months, McBride says that she likes, “making things that take a lot of time.” That way, she can spend all day in the kitchen, preparing a meal for her family that she knows they will enjoy. Cooking for others is what draws McBride to the kitchen.

“It’s my way of taking care of people, and it’s a creative outlet for me,” she explains.

When McBride doesn’t have the opportunity to cook, like when she’s on tour, she has a few cities that she always looks forward to stopping in: New Orleans, where she always samples the etouffee, shrimp po boy sandwiches, and gumbo; Nashville, where she sometimes stops by Jack’s Bar-B-Que; and in Kansas, her home state, one of her favorite spots is Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. She also names the Napa area of California as one of her favorite regions in the United States.

Speaking of Napa, McBride says she was first introduced to wine with California cabernets. Her favorite labels include Caymus and Beringer Reserve. At the moment, however, she’s been more interested in pinot noir.

McBride has been cooking most of her life, but she hasn’t always been completely comfortable in the kitchen. She has some sound advice for people who are hoping to learn to cook, at any stage of their lives.

“Sometimes beginner cooks get intimidated by a recipe but its really just following directions. I find even now, I’m just starting to feel comfortable experimenting and adding my own flair,” she explains, adding that she still reads the recipe all the way through before starting, and makes a list of the groceries the dish requires.

Her Joy of Christmas tour kicks off tomorrow, November 3, so in honor of the impending holiday season, head to the kitchen Martina McBride style: Open your favorite bottle of red wine, and try out a new recipe you think your whole family will love.

Update 11/8: A previous version of this article stated that Martina McBride's Joy of Christmas tour began on November 3. It actually begins November 24.