Chocolate Lace Sandwich Cookies
"I call these the 'backache' cookies because I always make a double batch, sitting hunched over at the table," says Fran Pepoon of Roseville, California. She has been baking these chocolate cookies, which have a subtle hit of orange and vanilla, every Christmas for 30 years, adapting them over time from a recipe given to her by a friend. Two tips: The cookies tend to stick and spread, so be sure to use a nonstick baking-sheet liner or parchment, and don't bake more than 12 cookies on each sheet.
Chocolate Thumbprints with Caramel and Sea Salt
From Great Falls, Montana, Colette Tihista-Longin writes, "I found this cookie recipe in an old collection at a yard sale. The original recipe has a chocolate filling, but I adapted it to include caramel and sea salt several years ago. It's a hit every year at our cookie exchange." Despite the name for this style of cookie, the end of a wooden spoon makes a neater, deeper depression in the cookie than your thumb will.
If you have shells and just a little leftover crab from a cracked-crab feast, this delicious bisque is a natural. Chef Jordan Davis of Herringbone Restaurants in Southern California gave us the recipe. "Slow and low is the only trick to cooking it," he says.
Crab Posole Salad
The ocean flavor of Dungeness meets earthy hominy in this twist on the Mexican soup posole, from chef Aniedra Nichols of Elway's Cherry Creek restaurant in Denver. "Dungeness crabmeat has a natural orange-red hue from the shell that makes the salad look vibrant," she says. You could also use shrimp, scallops, or fat flakes of Pacific cod.
Crab and Spinach Gnocchi
Despite being in Phoenix and quite a distance from an ocean, chef Cullen Campbell serves impeccable seafood at Crudo restaurant. These plump gnocchi are cooked in gently simmering water, but the mixture can also be pan-fried to create crabcakes.
Crabcake Eggs Benedict
Dungeness is always on the menu at the Alderbrook, set right on Washington's Hood Canal. These outstanding Benedicts skip the customary English muffin to showcase just crisp crabcake, egg, and hollandaise.
Cracked Crab with Butter and Citrus
Chef Jordan Davis of Herringbone Restaurants in Southern California grew up in San Francisco, devouring piles of Dungeness crab every Christmas Eve. He still loves his crab, and like most devotees, he prefers to cook the crustaceans live; the cooking process isn't difficult (see our how-to video on sunset.com/crabvideo), and the resulting flavor, texture, and freshness cannot be surpassed. "It's so good, I usually just eat it straight, with a little drawn butter and lemon," says Davis. Then he uses the shells, poaching liquid, and any leftover meat to make his superlative Crab Bisque (recipe on sunset.com).
Donna's Molasses Cookies
"This recipe is from my mother-in-law's box of typed 3- by 5-in. cards, handed down from her mother," says Beryl Schwartz of Ojai, California. "Nothing reminds us of the holidays like the aroma of molasses wafting through the house!" Schwartz adds cloves and ginger for extra spice and rolls the cookie balls in turbinado sugar for crunch.
Elsa's Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons
These macaroons are the most delicious we've ever tasted in the Sunset Test Kitchen. The recipe comes from Karen Dannenbaum of Topanga, California, who inherited it from her mother, Elsa, an outstanding cook. Of all the recipes Elsa left behind in her handwritten notebooks, "this was one of her best, and a family favorite," Dannenbaum says. She also included an option for double-dipping the cookies in melted white chocolate over the dark. We loved them as-is, but if you'd like to double-dip, feel free!
Spicy Chorizo and Lima-Bean Scramble
This Mexican-style skillet dinner makes a good brunch too. If you can find large yellow canned limas--a variety known as butter beans--choose those over the smaller green limas; they have a deeper, richer flavor.
Take-Two Turkey Noodle Soup with Ginger and Chile
After eating piles of turkey flavored with the usual sage and oregano, you'll be grateful for leftovers that taste totally different: This soup is fiercely gingery (to revitalize you after a holiday-meal stupor). If you're not a ginger lover, cut back the amount to a few slices.
Tout Sweet Russian Tea Cakes
Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes, Viennese almond crescents--many countries have their own version of these melt-in-your-mouth butter-and-nut cookies. This one was created by Yigit Pura of Tout Sweet patisserie, in San Francisco and Palo Alto. We love it for its extreme crispness and toasty brown-butter flavor, and because it's not too sweet; most of the sugar is on the outside.
Warm Chicory Steak Salad with Agrodolce Dressing
An Italian sweet-and-sour sauce made with vinegar, honey, and raisins--agrodolce, literally "sour/sweet"--softens the bitterness of radicchio and escarole. Serve this salad right away, while it's crisp.