27 essential Western dishes

Taste local flavor in every bite of these star recipes that define the West

Gabriel's Guacamole

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Gabriel's Guacamole

At Gabriel’s, in Santa Fe, the guacamole—made table-side in a Mexican molcajete (stone mortar)—is seasoned as diners direct. This recipe is a jumping-off point; add more garlic, jalapeño, onion, salt, lime juice, or cilantro to your taste. (We prefer extra jalapeño, onion, and lime.) Serve with tortilla chips.

Recipe:  Gabriel's Guacamole

Caramelized Maui Onion Dip

Photo by Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Caramelized Maui Onion Dip

Remember onion-soup-mix dip? This is similar, but infinitely better. In 1954, when an unknown California cook combined sour cream with onion soup mix, the recipe became so popular that Lipton soup company began to print it on its packages. We gave the dip a Hawaiian accent. Make it a couple of hours ahead of time to let flavors develop, and serve with lots of potato chips.

Recipe: Caramelized Maui Onion Dip

Barbecued Oysters with Chipotle Glaze

Barbecued Oysters with Chipotle Glaze

This recipe is from Dory Ford, former executive chef at Portola Restaurant at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Seafood Watch, the aquarium’s guide to sustainable seafood, recommends farmed oysters, which can be grown in protected areas and harvested with minimal environmental impact.

Recipe: Barbecued Oysters with Chipotle Glaze

Sesame Ahi Poke

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Sesame Ahi Poke

Poke, the much-loved Hawaiian raw-fish salad, has many variations; this is a relatively simple one. Use the highest-quality fish you can get your hands on—that’s often found at Japanese markets. Serve with taro chips.

Recipe:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. sashimi-grade ahi tuna steaks, cut into 1/2-in. dice
  • 1 tbsp. each minced fresh ginger and Asian (toasted) sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 3 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce 2 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve immediately.

Classic Crabcakes

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Classic Crabcakes

These simple, delicious crabcakes, from Nicholas Petti, owner of Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg, California, won the Mendocino Crab & Wine Days Crabcake Cook-off in both 2002 and 2003.

Classic Crabcakes recipe:

  • 1 lb. shelled cooked crab (about 2 3/4 cups)
  • 1 3/4 cups panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs) or other fine dried bread crumbs, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
  • Tarragon Aioli (recipe below)
  • About 1/2 cup vegetable oil, divided
1. Combine crab, 3/4 cup panko, and the onions in a bowl. Gently mix in 1/2 cup aioli.

2. Press mixture firmly into 8 patties about 3 in. wide; set, separated, on waxed paper or foil. Pour remaining 1 cup panko into a shallow bowl.

3. Preheat oven to 200°. Pour 1/3 cup oil into a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, set each crabcake in panko; using a slotted spatula, turn, pressing gently to coat. Cook in small batches, adding more oil as needed, until golden brown on bottom, 3 to 4 minutes; turn gently and cook until browned on other side, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in oven. Serve with aioli.

Tarragon Aoili recipe: Blend 2 egg yolks*, 3 peeled garlic cloves, 1/3 cup lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a blender until smooth. With machine running, gradually pour in 1 cup vegetable oil and 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a slow stream until smooth, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped tarragon, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. hot sauce, and more lemon juice and salt to taste.

Sopaipillas

Sopaipillas

These light, airy pillows of fried dough, traditionally drizzled with honey or sprinkled with powdered sugar, are one of the Southwest’s great treats. They’re rewarding to make because the process seems magical: When you push the pieces of dough into the hot oil, they puff up like balloons.

Recipe: Sopaipillas

Ruby Grapefruit, Avocado, and Spinach Salad

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Ruby Grapefruit, Avocado, and Spinach Salad

Fresh ginger, fish sauce, and rice vinegar add a Southeast Asian twist to a classic California salad.

Recipe:

  • 3 1/2 cups baby spinach
  • 3 ruby grapefruit (1 lb. each), cut into segments, juice reserved
  • 1 firm-ripe avocado (about 1/2 lb.), pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. each unseasoned rice vinegar and Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 1/2 tsp. sugar
1. Arrange spinach, grapefruit segments, and avocado slices on salad plates.

2. Measure 3 tbsp. grapefruit juice (save any extra for other uses) into a small bowl and whisk with vinegar, fish sauce, ginger, and sugar to blend. Spoon dressing over salads.

Deviled Crab Louis

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Deviled Crab Louis

Whoever Louis—or Louie—was (no one’s quite sure), San Francisco’s Hotel St. Francis was serving his addictive combination of Dungeness crab, iceberg lettuce, and chili-mayo dressing in 1910. Our updated recipe reflects a broader selection of greens, with salsa and smoky chipotle chiles replacing the chili sauce for a more interesting interplay of flavors. But a little mountain of sweet, fresh crab—a far pricier ingredient now than a century ago—is still the final flourish.

Deviled Crab Louis recipe:

  • 8 romaine or iceberg lettuce leaves (10 in. long)
  • 1 head Belgian endive (white or red; 3 oz.), leaves separated
  • 2 qts. finely shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce, or a combination
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Deviled Louis Dressing (recipe below)
  • 1 lb. shelled cooked Dungeness or Alaska king crab
  • 2 firm-ripe tomatoes (3/4 lb. total), cored and each cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and each cut into 4 wedges
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp. chopped chives
  • Lemon wedges
1. Line dinner plates or wide bowls with whole lettuce leaves, and then Belgian endive leaves.

2. In a large bowl, combine shredded lettuce and parsley. Add 2/3 cup deviled Louis dressing and mix gently. Divide among lettuce-lined plates.

3. Mound crab in center of shredded lettuce mixture; arrange tomato and egg wedges around edges. Sprinkle salads with salt, pepper, and chopped chives. Serve with lemon wedges and remaining dressing.

Deviled Louis dressing recipe: Purée 1 cup tomato salsa (medium to hot) and 3 to 4 tsp. chopped canned chipotle chiles in a blender until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in 2 cups mayonnaise, 6 tbsp. lemon juice, and 1 tbsp. sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 3 1/2 cups.

Green Salad with Papaya-seed Dressing

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Green Salad with Papaya-seed Dressing

The creamy-looking dressing on this version of a classic Hawaiian salad gets its texture and zing from sweet Maui onions and peppery, crunchy papaya seeds. To collect the seeds, scoop them out of the fruit and rinse off the bits of papaya.

Recipe: Green Salad with Papaya-seed Dressing

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo)

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo)

Pho, the beloved meat-and-noodle soup of Vietnam, has firmly established itself in the United States—particularly in the West, where large numbers of Vietnamese have settled. Pho originated in Hanoi at the turn of the last century. In those early days, it was a beef broth embellished only with noodles and sliced beef. As it spread to South Vietnam, pho took on spices and herbs and other ingredients—and it’s this bounteous style of pho that crossed the ocean to the United States, brought by immigrants fleeing the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 3 star anise pods (or 2 tsp. pieces) or 1 tsp. anise seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 in. long)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boned beef chuck, fat trimmed
  • 2 1/2 qts. beef broth
  • About 1/4 cup Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • Salt
  • 2 cups bean sprouts (5 to 6 oz.), rinsed
  • 1/4 cup very thinly sliced red or green chiles, such as Thai, serrano, or jalapeño
  • 1/2 cup Thai or small regular basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 3 limes, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 lb. boned beef sirloin steak, fat trimmed and very thinly sliced
  • 6 cups cooked rice noodles
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • Hoisin sauce and Asian red chili paste or sauce (optional)
1. Wrap ginger, shallots, star anise, and cinnamon stick in two layers of cheesecloth (about 17 in. square); tie with heavy cotton string. Combine beef chuck, broth, 2 1/2 qts. water, 1/4 cup fish sauce, sugar, and spice bundle in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat; uncover, reduce heat, and simmer until beef is tender when pierced, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

2. Transfer meat to a board with a slotted spoon. Remove and discard spice bundle. Skim and discard fat from broth. Add salt and more fish sauce to taste. Return broth to a simmer.

3. Meanwhile, arrange bean sprouts, sliced chiles, basil, cilantro, and lime wedges on a platter. When beef chuck is cool enough to handle, thinly slice across the grain.

4. Immerse sliced sirloin in simmering broth (use a wire basket or strainer, if available) and cook just until brown on the outside but still pink in the center, 30 seconds to 1 minute; lift out (with basket or a slotted spoon).

5. Mound hot noodles in deep bowls (at least 3-cup capacity). Top with beef chuck, sirloin, and onions. Ladle broth over portions to cover generously.

6. Serve with platter of accompaniments and hoisin sauce and chili paste (if using) to add to taste.

Tortilla Soup

Photo by David Prince

Tortilla Soup

To get to know her neighbors in Berkeley better, Johanna Sedman started hosting a monthly soup night. With tortilla soup, guests can customize their own toppings. The recipe is Sedman’s take on the Mexican soup, which traveled north by at least the mid–20th century (a version appears in Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, published in San Francisco in 1944).

Recipe: Tortilla Soup

Cioppino

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Cioppino

In the 1800s, San Francisco’s Italian fishermen cooked up their leftover catch in a vegetable purée, as they had in Genoa. Over time, Sicilians replaced the Genoese on fishing boats, and cioppino acquired its tomatoes. Today, it’s no longer a poor man’s dish but a sumptuous stew, brimming with shellfish and chunks of fish.

Recipe: Cioppino

Red Chile and Pork Stew (Carne Adovada)

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Red Chile and Pork Stew (Carne Adovada)

Red New Mexico chiles develop a complex, earthy flavor and mellow heat as they dry. Chimayó chiles (named for the town they come from) have a particularly intense, flowery aroma. Don’t be put off by the large quantity called for; the chile is nothing like cayenne or supermarket chili powder.

Recipe: Red Chile and Pork Stew (Carne Adovada)

Green Chile Pork Stew (Chile Verde)

Green Chile Pork Stew (Chile Verde)

This spicy, long-simmered pork dish is a fixture in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado cooking, and each state has its own version. New Mexicans use their famous green chiles, naturally. Ours is a bit of a combination.

Recipe: Green Chile Pork Stew (Chile Verde)

California Roll

California Roll

We wrap our version of the California roll with the nori on the outside. You can find the Japanese ingredients needed to make this in the Asian-foods aisle at most grocery stores.

Recipe: California Roll

Delfina’s Broccoli Rabe Pizza

Delfina’s Broccoli Rabe Pizza

Fresh mozzarella, salty caciocavallo cheese straight from Campania, and peppery broccoli rabe make this one of our favorite pizzas. Pizzaiolo Anthony Strong drizzles on a bit of cream before shoving the pizza in the oven.

Recipe: Delfina’s Broccoli Rabe Pizza

Cracked Crab with Herbed Avocado Sauce

Cracked Crab with Herbed Avocado Sauce

This simple sauce was inspired by the tarragon tang and beautiful color of Green Goddess salad dressing.

Recipe: Cracked Crab with Herbed Avocado Sauce

Baja Fish Tacos

Baja Fish Tacos

A good fish taco, a cold Corona, and the beach—these equal summer up and down the coast of California.

Recipe: Baja Fish Tacos

Chorizo Beef Dinner Nachos

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Chorizo Beef Dinner Nachos

Our super-stacked version of nachos has chorizo, juicy chopped steak, black beans, guacamole, and crisp lettuce. The ultimate crowd-pleaser, nachos were invented in 1943 by a maître d’ at the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico (just across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas). Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya was the only restaurant employee on-site when a group of U.S. military wives came in for a snack. With no cooks around, he cobbled together a pile of tortilla chips topped with melted cheese and jalapeños. His creation, quickly imitated by others, became hugely popular, paving the way for massive concession-stand revenues across America.

Recipe: Chorizo-Beef Dinner Nachos

Cedar-planked Salmon

Cedar-planked Salmon

A technique developed by northwest native Americans, planking salmon gives the fish a deep, woodsy taste and keeps it moist by protecting it from the flames. You will need an untreated cedar board, ½ to ¾ in. thick and big enough to accommodate your fish. Find planks at a well-stocked fish shop, barbecue store, or online.

Recipe: Cedar-planked Salmon

Barbecued Glazed Turkey

Barbecued Glazed Turkey

One method, three flavor choices: Just pick the seasonings that go best with the rest of your feast. Grilling gives the bird a really crisp, brown skin—plus it frees up your oven so you can cook everything else.

Recipe: Barbecued Glazed Turkey

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Annabelle Breakey

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Like all good New Mexico food, this dish is rustic and delicious. Its heat depends on the chiles; go with Anaheims if you scorch easily.

Recipe: Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Santa Maria–style Grilled Tri-tip

Santa Maria–style Grilled Tri-tip

Grilling over red oak, the local wood in Santa Maria, gives the meat a wonderful rustic flavor. If you don't live in the area, you can find red oak chips at Susy Q’s Brand.

Recipe: Santa Maria–style Grilled Tri-tip

Cherry Dutch Baby

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Cherry Dutch Baby

Most likely based on the German pancake Apfelpfannkuchen, the Dutch (a mispronunciation of Deutsch, meaning German) baby is said to have been dreamed up at Manca’s Café, in Seattle, in the early 1900s. Until Manca’s closed, in 1988, the Dutch baby remained a signature dish. The recipe is also wonderful with other fruits if cherries aren’t in season.

Recipe:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups pitted sweet cherries
  • Powdered sugar
  • Lemon wedges
1. Preheat oven to 425°. In a blender, blend flour, granulated sugar, milk, eggs, and salt until smooth.

2. Melt butter in a 12-in. ovenproof frying pan over high heat. Add cherries; cook until warm, about 2 minutes. Pour in batter. Bake until golden brown and puffed, about 20 minutes. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Nanaimo Bars

Photo by Quentin Bacon

Nanaimo Bars

Bliss in a bar, these no-bake creations have three layers: nutty, creamy, and chocolaty. One Mabel Jenkins dreamed up the recipe in the 1950s, near the city of Nanaimo, on Canada’s Vancouver Island.

Recipe: Nanaimo Bars

Keoke Coffee

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Keoke Coffee

A simple, warming coffee drink is an ideal end to a big meal (a little chocolate on the side can complete the sweet finish). Keoke coffee was invented by George Bullington at his restaurant, Bully’s, in La Jolla, California, in the late 1960s. His staff dubbed it “George’s coffee” until one of the cooks, a Hawaiian, came up with the name that stuck: Keoke is Hawaiian for “George.”

Recipe: Keoke Coffee

Classic Tiki Mai Tai

Classic Tiki Mai Tai

The mai tai is a creation of the West, invented in the 1940s by Vic Bergeron of Trader Vic’s fame. It features rum, lime juice, and orange liqueur, with a bit of orgeat (almond-flavored syrup). Go as fanciful as you like with the garnishes.

Recipe: Classic Tiki Mai Tai

More essential Western dishes

Photo by E. Spencer Toy

More essential Western dishes

Discover many more of the foods that define the West--from fish tacos and grilled tri-tip to huckleberry cobbler--in The Sunset Essential Western Cookbook (Oxmoor House; $25).

Plus even more from The Sunset Cookbook

Plus even more from The Sunset Cookbook

For generations, the editors of Sunset magazine have been sharing their knowledge in the kitchen with millions of home cooks. The Sunset Cookbook pulls together their favorite tips and trends in home cooking, featuring 1,000 recipes selected, retested, and updated from Sunset magazine. Get your copy now on Amazon.com.

Printed from:
http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/kitchen-assistant/sunset-cookbook-recipes-00418000068879/