New Cooking From The Old West

Recipes: Beef Stew and Crab Quiche

new cooking old west  

If you think that western cooking means mesquite grills and a conspicuous absence of fresh vegetables, well, think again. New Cooking From Old West will shatter your preconceived notions. What excites author Greg Patent "are the foods brought by new immigrants to the West" and the new ways western cooks are using regional ingredients. Suddenly, a culinary tradition that began with salt pork, beans, coffee, and dried fruit meets cilantro, fava beans, Rocky Mountain trout, and Flathead Lake Cherries.

Today we see old-country recipes being adapted to the resources readily available in the West—fresh fish, exotic mushrooms, fresh berries, to name just a few. At the same time, regional favorites are changing to accommodate new ethnic trends and influences. This symbiosis has generated a culinary spirit that is decidedly western in its inventive approach, and, true to the nineties, is health-conscious as well. Now, we're tasting the New West.

Patent has assembled more than 125 contemporary recipes, together with archival photos, quotes, journal entries, songs, and poems from real Western pioneers. The 10 chapters cover basics, appetizers, soups, breads, meats, poultry, game, fish and seafood, vegetables, grains, and sides, and desserts. Try the Dungeness Crab-Stuffed Morel Mushrooms appetizer, the Curried Butternut Squash Soup, the Sourdough Sage Biscuits, the Roasted Armagnac-Marinated Fillet of Beef, or the Smoked Pork Lasagne with Salsa Verde and Red Pepper purée. If you can get your hands on some real western poultry or game (see the resource lists at the end of the book), impress your guests with the Buffalo Burgers with Shiitake Mushrooms and Onion-Cilantro Relish, the Venison Chili with Singapore Hot Sauce, or, better still, the Roasted Hazelnut-Marinated Ostrich with Garlic Chive Sauce. The angling tradition of the Pacific Northwest figures prominently in this collection, with recipes such as Herbed Baked Halibut and Sturgeon Provencal. Round out your meal with Braised Savoy Cabbage and Carrots or Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and finish off with a generous helping of Huckleberry Ice Cream or Blueberry-Rhubarb Pie (or both!).

No matter what your ethnic background or where you live, New Cooking From Old West will bring the maverick spirit, grit, and resourcefulness of America's pioneers into your kitchen.

About the author:
Greg Patent is a man with a keen sense of the American West and an eye to its culinary and social history, as he has been a westerner since he emmigrated to the U.S. when he was 11. Greg has hosted the TV show "Big Sky Cooking," has worked as a restaurant chef, was the national spokesperson for Cuisinarts, Inc., authored the book Food Processor Cooking Quick and Easy (Ten Speed Press, 1992) and hosted a successful show on the Learning Channel with the same focus. He is currently a contributing editor for Cooking Light magazine. He shares his Missoula home with his wife, Dorothy, and his dogs, Elsa and Ninja.


New West Beef Stew

Yield: 8 servings

This recipe clearly shows the difference between the new and old cooking of the West. In the old days, all the ingredients for a stew were cooked together for hours until everything was overcooked. Hungry ranch hands wanted nourishing food as soon as their work was done, so stews were put on the stove and cooked for a variable number of hours. Today, we cook each ingredient in a stew so that its integrity is maintained, making the dish all the more enjoyable.

  • 3-1/2 pounds trimmed beef chuck, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Unbleached all-purpose flour, for coating
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried whole leaf thyme or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes, such as yellow Finn, peeled
         and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 16 small turnips (1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter), peeled and cut in half
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup mixed chopped fresh parsley, thyme, and oregano

Coat the beef in flour. Place the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or a wide, deep ovenproof skillet and set the pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the meat in batches and brown on all sides. Remove meat and set aside. Repeat until all meat is browned.

Remove the pan from the heat and discard fat and any burned pieces of meat stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the water, and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits. Strain and reserve the liquid. Return beef to pan, add the beef stock, the strained liquid, bay leaves, and thyme. The liquid should just reach the top of the meat without actually covering it. Simmer slowly, covered, until meat is very tender, 2 to 3 hours.

Meanwhile, bring 3 to 4 quarts water to a rolling boil over high heat in an 8-quart pot. Add the salt and potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Test with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove the potatoes with a large skimmer and set aside. Add the turnips to the pot of water and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the turnips and set aside with the potatoes. Finally, add the carrots to the water and cook until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and add them to the potatoes and turnips. Set aside until ready to use. The recipe may be completed hours in advance up to this point.

When the beef is tender, taste the cooking liquid and season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes, turnips, carrots, peas, and corn to the beef and stir together carefully without breaking up the meat or the vegetables. Cover the pan and place it in a preheated 350 degrees F oven until piping hot and the peas and corn are cooked, about 30 minutes.

To serve, transfer beef and vegetables to large soup bowls with a slotted spoon and ladle some of the broth into the bowls. Sprinkle with the chopped fresh herbs and serve immediately. If you are not going to serve the stew right away, cool, cover, and refrigerate.


Dungeness Crab Quiche

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

This quiche is definitely elegant and indulgent. I make it for important occasions only, when Dungeness crab is fresh and the tarragon in our herb garden is tender and aromatic, with just a faint edge of licorice.


  • 1-1/3 cups (6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3/4 pound lump Dungeness crabmeat, shelled and cleaned
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Measure flours for the pastry by spooning them into measuring cups, filling the cups to overflowing, and sweeping off the excess with a metal spatula.

To make pastry in a food processor, place the flours in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the salt, butter, and shortening. Pulse the processor 4 times, about 1 second each. Combine the egg yolk, cider vinegar, and enough ice water to total 1/3 cup. While pulsing the food processor rapidly, gradually pour the egg mixture through the feed tube. Keep pulsing rapidly until the dough almost gathers into a ball. Remove the dough from the work bowl and place on a sheet of plastic wrap. Pat dough gently to form a 6-inch disc. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.

To make pastry by hand, place the flours in a large mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Add butter and shortening and cut in with a pastry blender until particles resemble small peas. Combine the egg yolk, cider vinegar, and enough ice water to total 1/3 cup. Sprinkle this mixture over the dry ingredients while gently tossing with a fork. Keep tossing until the mixture is moistened and gathers into a ball. Remove the dough from the bowl and pat it gently to form a 6-inch disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll the chilled pastry into a 14-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Fold the circle in half and place in an 11-inch tart pan 1-inch deep with fluted sides and a removable bottom. Carefully unfold the pastry and tuck it gently into the corners without stretching it. Trim the overhanging pastry to within 1/2 inch of the tart pan rim, then fold the overhang against the sides of the pastry in the pan, pressing firmly to make a double thickness. Shape and press the edge so that it is of even thickness and extends about 1/3 inch above the rim. Place the pan on a baking sheet and freeze until the pastry is firm, about 15 minutes. Line the pastry shell with foil, pressing the foil so that it fits snugly into the corners. Fill the shell with dried beans or rice. Place the pastry (still on baking sheet) in the oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the edge of the pastry just begins to color. Remove from the oven and carefully lift away the foil and beans or rice. Prick the bottom of the pastry shell all over with a fork and return the pan to the oven for another 5 minutes, to dry out the bottom of the pastry shell. Remove the tart pan from the baking sheet, and cool the pastry shell on a wire rack while you prepare the filling. (The pastry may be baked hours in advance and left at room temperature, or you can make it a day or two ahead and freeze it; just thaw it before filling.)

Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion and cook slowly, for about 30 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary so that the onions become tender and golden but don't brown too much. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir in the crab and sherry. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the tarragon. Set aside to cool. (May be made hours in advance and refrigerated).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk together the eggs in a medium bowl, just until they are well combined. Whisk in the cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the cooled crab mixture. Carefully pour into the pastry shell in the tart pan (which should be again set on the baking sheet), distributing the crabmeat evenly. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top. Bake about 1 hour, or until the filling has puffed and set and the top is a rich golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the quiche stand 10 minutes. Set the quiche pan onto an inverted 8-inch round cake pan. The side of the quiche pan should fall away. Carefully slide the quiche onto a large round platter, cut into wedges, and serve.


Recipes from:
New Cooking From Old West
by Greg Patent
Publication Date: September 15, 1996
Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 0-89815-786-2
Reprinted with permission

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified February 2007

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