HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


what would be on the menu in the wild wild west?

hi all! so i am having a dinner party and need your expert help!

the theme is "western" in the non-historically accurate sense - so any cliche goes! i am needing to plan a menu hopefully to reflect the cliched west. obviously there will be whiskey in the saloon...but that ain't food.

luckily i have a bunch of outgoing food friends so they are pretty much open to anything. if you were hosting a wild wild west dinner party, what would you like to see on the menu?

and if you feel so inclined, any decorating ideas?

have a great day

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. carpaccio - call it buffalo Rome.
    dessert? maybe a vanilla or chocolate Custer pie.
    place settings for your cousins, because of the aunt elope play.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Oh, that last line is just awful! (As dad would say: a pun, the lowest form of humor. Of course, that was immediately after offering something as bad as aunt elope ;)

      Although the song does call to mind a suggestion for venison.

      1. re: Veggo

        Cute! At least you've still got a sense of humor.

      2. Beans for sure!!!! Why do you think they were called "rootin' tootin' cowboys"? LOL. Big buttered biscuits and steak.

        I have made a cowboy steak before. It really tastes like the West! Take some quality ground coffee, ground coriander, salt and -lots of pepper. Put it in a ziplock bag. Toss in the steak and thinly coat it. Get a cast iron pan nice and hot, throw in some oil, sizzle the steak until preferred doneness (cowboys like it medium rare), then put a slab of butter on top while it rests. Try it and see if it tastes like a one eyed, scruffy cook just tossed it to you off a chow wagon. A flat iron steak is a tasty way to feed lots of cowpokes.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sedimental

          Beans were my thoughts exactly! Specifically the 'farting' beans from Blazing Saddles

        2. Try reading The Pioneer Woman Cooks (google it:) for inspiration. Sounds like a fun theme...enjoy!

          1. Beef, Venison, Bison and Elk, Bacon and Ham would've been the main protein sources, along with any fish you could catch. Cat'shead biscuits and skillet-baked cornbread with honey and/or gravy. About the only readily available veg. were potatoes and onions; hence skillet-fried potatoes and onions or a vinegar/onion dressed German potato salad. Baked beans for sure: pintos, onions, ham hocks, salt and pepper. You could get away with cabbage and carrots too, for a slaw or a hot dish. Apples were around: what about good old apple cobbler, or dried apricot pie?
            It might be fun, if your friends are the type, to ask each one to wear an outfit representing his/her favorite character from those times and then work it into a game of charades. And if you have a garage, you might want to set it up with haybales and benches and have you a good old dance, square or not!
            This would be a really fun meal plan to deconstruct; what can you up the bar on, what should stay the same, how authentic do you really want to be? You might check out "The Little House Cookbook." it's got wonderful authentic recipes, or "Cross Creek Cookery." Have a ball!!

            1. Hangtown Fry: an omlette made with eggs, bacon and fried oysters that was purportedly invented when a 49er walked into a saloon after a big strike and told the cook to make him something with the most expensive ingredients he had. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangtown...). If you want to keep in the Gold Rush vein (npi) you could serve it with Pisco Sours which were especially popular because of the Chileans on the gold fields and the pisco that was much easier to get than the ryes and bourbons that had to be imported from back East.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Trencher man

                Good call on the Piscos, Trencher man. Also, I neglected to mention sourdough which was very commonly used. Also I believe boilermakers were a heavily enjoyed beverage at the time. If your friends will eat it, rabbit stew with dumplings. And as an app., if you're looking for one, oysters would be perfectly appropriate as Trencherman says; they did get 'em through on the trains sometimes.

                1. re: mamachef

                  Yup, bad whiskey and sour beer was the beverage du jour back then, mamachef.

                  sara jane - Here's a very informative but fun page with tons of history on and ideas for cowboy cookery, old saloon fare, gold rush fare, wagon train cookery, food prices in those days, plus book recommendations for research, etc, from www.foodtimeline.com. Click on the link for the era you're interested in:


                  Here's another wild west cowboy vittles site with actual recipes, son-of-a-bitch stew, red bean pie and sourdough biscuits, anyone?


                1. Go for the real thing, Rocky Mountain Oysters.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JEN10

                    You beat me to it! Ok, then, I'll add pemmican and bannock.

                  2. Cook over a "buffalo chip" fire. Or pasture paddies would do.
                    Grilled cow's udder, udderly deliscious. No bull!

                    1. Anything where you can use the line - "It's hot, it's brown, and there's plenty of it " ;)

                      How about a chocolate souffle with espresso Crème Anglaise for "cowboy coffee dessert" since you could stand a spoon up in it.

                      1. Sourdough bread/rolls or biscuits, game (rabbit, pheasant and other smaller game probably more prevalently than venison), beans, cornbread or cornmeal mush. Redeye gravy. In my "Little House" cookbook, one of the most delicious-sounding meals involved fried leftover cornmeal mush with roasted prairie hens, their drippings made into gravy. Yum!

                        Yucca and hominy might be on the menu depending on where in the wild west we're talking about.

                        1. Some kind of cobbler with a biscuit top for dessert.

                          4 Replies
                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                              Baking Powder Biscuit II (Fanny Farmer 1893)
                              2 cups bread flour
                              2 tablespoons butter
                              5 teaspoons baking powder
                              1 cup milk
                              1/2 teaspoon salt

                              Mix dry ingredients, and sift twice.
                              Work in butter with tips of fingers; add gradually the milk, mixing with knife to a soft dough. It is impossible to determine the exact amount of milk, owing to differences in flour. Toss on a floured board, pat and roll lightly to one-half inch in thickness. Shape with a biscuit-cutter (or a tin can). Place on buttered pan, and bake in hot oven twelve to fifteen minutes. If baked in too slow an oven, the gas will escape before it has done its work.

                              1. re: Johnny West

                                I made this biscuit last week and it needed 1 cup milk - I used buttermilk and no sugar. For a dessert bickie I'd add sugar. These are excellent.

                                COWBOY BISCUITS

                                2 Cups Flour
                                1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
                                1 Tablespoon Sugar
                                2 Tablespoons Crisco, Lard or Butter
                                2/3 Cup Milk

                                Preheat oven to 450, even though real chuckwagon cooks used a Dutch oven and
                                glowing coals for baking biscuits. Mix dry ingredients and cut in shortening until mixture has a texture sort of like corn meal. Add milk and use a fork, spoon or your hand to combine. Put the dough onto a floured surface and roll around until all sides are coated and no longer sticky. Place ball of dough into a well-greased cake pan or iron skillet and pat it down to an even thickness. Grease the top surface with butter or margarine.

                                Using a soup can, baking powder can or even a small glass; cut one round biscuit right in the middle of the pan. It should then look like a bull's-eye or the insignia on the wing of a Spitfire. For the western history buff, that center biscuit is known as the "Cook's Biscuit".

                                The tip of an egg turner works just great for the next step but it can be done with a table knife. Cut through the dough between the center biscuit and the rim of the pan in 8 equally-spaced places, making a total of nine biscuits.

                                See how much simpler that was than trying to cut individual round biscuits which are no longer round once they are shoved together in the pan.

                                Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until nice and brown on top.

                                Nine biscuits should serve four people, unless you happen to have some honey or a jar of Mexican strawberry jam to go with them, and then they will probably only serve two

                                1. re: Johnny West

                                  Americas Test Kitchen Drop Biscuits:

                                  Super easy even when made outdoors.

                                  In a bowl, mix together
                                  2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
                                  2 teaspoons baking powder
                                  1 teaspoon sugar
                                  3/4 teaspoon table salt
                                  1/2 teaspoon baking soda

                                  In a separate bowl/cup, slowly drizzle
                                  6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, into
                                  1 cup buttermilk, chilled
                                  This forms tiny drops of solid butter in the cold milk (excellent technique and way WAY easier than cutting butter in flour).

                                  Mix wet and dry, scoop 1/4 C "blobs" of dough onto hot oiled frying pan or bake at 475F for 14 minutes.

                                  Simple and awesome good.

                          1. Biscuits and gravy.
                            Beef jerky and Coors (Cowboy Kool-Aid), NOT THE SILVER BULLET, appetizer.
                            Should I start a Vaquero thread?

                            1. Beef or venison jerky, chile beans or chili con carne, fried rattlesnake, salt pork & beans, copious amounts of coffee (might be nice to do a coffee dessert) , chicken fried steak & gravy, anything beef (stew, etc.) since their main goal was to heard cattle. They also had authentic barbecue, which they cooked low & slow as well as roasted meats, which were buried under coals/wood in the ground to cook.

                              1. um, spaghetti.... as in..... DON'T MAKE ME SAY IT!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: mariacarmen


                                  Cheryl has a pretty good breakdown of what was eaten back then, long on beef, beans and biscuits and very short on veggies.

                                2. Just an idea...IF you've got (or can borrow) a real cast iron Dutch Oven, with a top that has a lip for holding coals. This is a great time of year to light a fire in the fireplace and actually make a cobbler as a trail cook would have. It would be a lot of fun to retrieve your dessert from the fire after your meal. You may already have seen this in a link given by other posters, but the process involved soaking dried fruits, mixing in sweetener (maybe sorghum?) and thickeners, and then topping with a biscuit topping. The Dutch Oven top was put on and filled with grey coals and the entire pot nestled in coals at the edge of the fire, turned occasionally. Boy scouts often have those pots, if you're interested in finding one