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His cowboy beans are assertive, not aggressive.

Sooner or later, the Western Chef is faced with preparing a meal fora crowd--be it a block party, a potluck supper, a company picnic, or any of the multifarious events in which people come together to eat and socialize. Such occasions call for the sort of dish known as a crowd-pleaser.

To fit this category, a dish must tread the tightrope between blandness, which bores everybody, and sharp spiciness, which frightens the young, the old, and the dyspeptic. The dish should be more filling than cucumber sandwiches, but less overwhelming than a Pennsylvania Dutch Sunday dinner.

The food must not only please, but be reasonably easy to prepare and serve--ideally a one-dish, serve-from-the-pot recipe. For really large groups, prepare food that can be served on paper plates and eaten with disposable cutlery. Aim for a formality level somewhere between the candlelight dinner and the mess line at boot camp.

Here are four recipes that Chefs of the West have found to please crowds.

Donavin Dressler sends a recipe for High-mileage Cowboy Beans--a dish he has prepared for as many as 60 to 80 people at Western night barbecues. He believes that modern cowpersons do not have the iron digestive systems of a century ago; for this reason his beans do not contain chili powder, pepper, or hot pepper sauces. Though assertive, they are not aggressive. Like Shakespeare's Bottom the weaver, they "will roar you as gently as any sucking dove . . . roar you as 'twere any nightingale." Any surplus will store well and quietly in the refrigerator. High-mileage Cowboy Beans

5 pounds dried small red beans


2 large red or white onions, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed

3 to 3-1/2 pounds ham hocks

1 to 1-1/4 pounds salt pork, diced

2 cans (6 oz. each) tomato paste

1 can (1 lb.) tomatoes

1/2 cup Worcestershire

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup each Dijon mustard and chopped parsley


Sort through beans, discarding any extraneous material. Rinse beans and put in a 14- to 16-quart kettle; cover with water to within 6 inches of rim. Soak overnight.

In the morning, drain beans and cover with 4 quarts fresh water. Add the onions, garlic, ham hocks, and salt pork. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce heat, and boil gently for 2 hours. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes and their liquid (break tomatoes up with a spoon), Worcestershire, brown sugar, and mustard. Cover and simmer until ham hocks are very tender when pierced and beans are tender to bite, about 1 hour longer; stir occasionally.

Lift out ham hocks and, when cool enough to handle, pull off meat, discarding skin and bones. Return meat to kettle. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt. Makes about 10 quarts, enough for 35 to 40 servings.

Bud DeWitt's Swamp Omelet doesn't take its name from any paludal odor, texture, or appearance. The name refers only to its place of birth: a duck-hunting camp, where it's served to hunters when they return from swampy blinds with cold feet and ravening hunger. With 2 pounds of bacon and 2 dozen eggs, it packs plenty of sustenance. Swamp Omelet

2 pounds bacon, diced

2 large onions, chopped

1 large green pepper, seeded and diced

2 cups coarsely chopped celery

2 dozen eggs

1/2 teaspoon each dry rosemary, dry oregano leaves, dry thyme leaves, and pepper

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

In two 12- to 14-inch frying pans, cook bacon over medium heat until crips. Lift out bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off and reserve bacon drippings; return 3 tablespoons drippings to each pan. Add half the onions, green pepper, and celery to each pan, and cook, stirring often, until onion is limp and lightly browned.

Meanwhile, beat eggs, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and pepper to blend. Divide mixture equally between the two pans and sprinkle each with half the bacon. Cook, lifting cooked portion so liquid egg can flow underneath, until done to your liking. Sprinkle each with half the parsley and serve directly from pan. Makes about 12 servings.

Chef Robert L. Martin, Jr., feels that the standard two-loaf bread recipe does not address a significant problem: keeping homemade bread on the table without having to bake every few days. He sent along a recipe that will make 6 loaves--enough to keep a family of five in bread for a week.

His recipe produces attractive and delicious loaves that make excellent toast and sandwiches, and they freeze well too. To minimize rising time, he suggests you warm the pans and ingredients before using them. Bob's Bulk Bread

4 packages active dry yeast

7 cups warm water (about 110[deg.])

3/4 cup each sugar and salad oil

2 tablespoons salt

About 6 pounds (5-lb. bag plus about 3 cups) bread flour

1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

About 1 tablespoon poppy or sesame seed

In a large bowl or kettle (at least 12 qt.), mix yeast and water with 1 tablespoon of the sugar; let stand 5 minutes.

Add remaining sugar, oil, and salt and stir well to blend. Add half of the bag of flour (about 10 cups) and stir with a heavy spoon to moisten thoroughly. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Add remaining flour from bag (about 10 cups) plus 1 more cup, mix, then beat until dough is stretchy. Scrape dough out onto a board coated with about 1 cup of remaining flour. Knead quickly and lightly until the soft dough is relatively smooth, about 15 minutes; add only enough flour to prevent sticking.

Wash bowl or kettle and grease well. Turn dough over in the container to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Punch down dough and turn out onto a floured board. Knead to expel air, then divide in half. If you have only 1 oven and/or 3 loaf pans (each 5 by 9 in.), return half the dough to the container; cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature.

Divide remaining half into 3 equal portions. Shape each into a smooth loaf and place each in a greased 5- by 9-inch loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Make 3 diagonal slashes about 1/2 inch deep in the top of each loaf; brush lightly with the egg white mixture. Sprinkle each loaf with about 1/2 teaspoon poppy or sesame seed.

Bake, uncovered, in a 350[deg.] oven until nicely browned, about 35 minutes. Let cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.

Divide rest of dough into thirds. Shape dough into loaves, let rise, and bake as directed.

Slice to serve. To store, wrap airtight and hold at room temperature up to 2 days, refrigerate up to 1 week, or freeze. Makes 6 loaves, each about 1-1/2 pounds.

John Ortega of Corrales, New Mexico, works part-time in a bakery white he continues his studies and works on his soccer skills. He admired a dessert he tasted at a Santa Fe restaurant and proceeded to invent his own version, which he now makes for his family and friends. Chocolate Mocha Torte

1 package (8-1/2 oz.) chocolate cooky wafers

2/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds or chopped walnuts

2 large packages (12 oz. each) semisweet chocolate baking chips

1/4 cup each instant coffee and water

12 eggs, separated

2 teaspoons vanilla

Sweetened whipped cream

In a food processor or blender, whirl the cooky wafers until fine crumbs form; set aside.

Spread nuts in an 8- or 9-inch pie pan. Bake in a 350[deg.] oven until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes; set aside.

In a 4-to 6-quart pan, combine the baking chips, coffee, and water. Stir over very low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool.

Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat on high speed with an electric mixer until creamy and light, about 5 minutes; scrape pan sides often.

Wash beaters. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form when beaters are withdrawn. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture until blended.

In an ungreased 10- by 15-inch rimmed baking pan, sprinkle 2/3 of the crumbs evenly over pand bottom. Top with spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture and spread gently to form an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining crumbs and nuts. Freeze, uncovered, until firm, about 1 hour.

Cut torte into about 2-inch squares to serve; or cover and refrigerate as long as overnight, or freeze up to 1 month. (If frozen, let stand at room temperature about 15 minutes or in the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cutting.) Top portions whith whipped cream. Makes 35 servings.
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Title Annotation:recipes; chefs of the West
Date:May 1, 1984
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