Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chinese Casserole

Chinese Casserole
contributed by Mrs. Mary West, Salt Lake, Utah
Favorite Recipes of America: Casseroles
Because nothing screams Chinese food like condensed mushroom soup and potato chips, I guess?

Have no illusions, this dish, while delicious, is only "Chinese" in the sense that you can throw any salty, gooey slop into a pot, call it Chinese, and Americans will lap it up.  Culinary mythology holds that that's how Americanized Chinese food got its start - Chinese immigrants, prevented from most jobs due to prejudice, opened up restaurants to cater to hungry miners and laborers and such, and developed sweeter, meatier dishes unknown in China but nonetheless exotic enough to seem exciting to the emerging middle class.

My own mother used to make something akin to egg foo young, which consisted of whatever happened to be lying in the bottom of the crisper drawer, scrambled with eggs, and served with a gelatinous sauce made from soy sauce and corn starch. Yum!

My crack Googling skills have also revealed several casserole recipes in the same vein as this one, which seemed to be popular at Church potlucks during the 60's and 70's.  As you'll see in the video, this one's a winner, so feel free to use or adapt to your heart's content!

1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. frozen peas, thawed
2 c. finely sliced celery
1 can cream of mushroom or chicken soup
1 med. onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp. evaporated milk (opt.)
1/8 tsp. each pepper and salt
2 c. crumbed potato chips (opt.)

Fry ground beef until brown; place in 2-quart casserole. Place a layer of peas and a layer of celery on top. Mix soup, onion, evaporated milk, pepper and salt. Pour mixture on top of previous layers; top with potato chips. Bake in 375-degree oven for 55 minutes. Serve with soy sauce if desired. Serves 8.

I followed the directions to the letter. It seemed to be done well before 55 minutes was up, so you probably won't need to cook it so long. It does get awfully dried out, I'm wondering in hindsight if the  condensed soup should have been thinned with milk before pouring on top?  Also, there's not nearly enough salt, even with the potato chip topping. So add liberally, or follow the suggestion to serve with soy sauce.

Dr. Husband loved it, as you'll see:

Our Rating: One Screaming Husband!
(all dishes are rated from one to five Screaming Husbands. One Screaming Husband equals a happy home where all problems are solved during cocktail hour. Five Screaming Husbands signals the beginning of divorce proceedings.)
Oh and Hey!
Coming soon: The Twelve Days of Kitschmas! Twelve Recipes in Twelve Days, plus twelve songs from me and Dr. Husband!  You can send recipe ideas AND song requests by commenting below, or send it right to me at the Historic Test Kitchen by December 5, and earn yourself a big fat mention here on the blog! And really, what could be better than that?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Krab Mold

Krab Mold
contributed by Bryce Westervelt, Selden, NY
So it's four days til payday, and Dr. Husband hasn't given me my grocery budget, and I had a hankering for a bagel with lox, but couldn't afford lox, so I got imitation crab meat (henceforth known as "krab") thinking that any old fishy thing plopped on top of cream cheese would suffice.

I was wrong, in case you were wondering.

No sooner had I bemoaned my fate on Facebook (oh, hey, did you know the Kitschen has a Facebook page? Like us!) than loyal reader Bryce sent me a recipe to use up the rest of my krab meat.

Oh, hey, and you still have time to contribute to Bryce's kickstarter!

This isn't technically a retro recipe, as krab meat was first introduced in Japan in 1973. As you probably already know, Alaskan pollock is commonly the main ingredient of krab, often mixed with egg white or other binding ingredient, such as the enzyme transglutaminase. Crab flavoring is added (either artificial or crab-derived), and a layer of red food coloring is applied to the outside.

So, here's the recipe:
8 ozs imitation crabmeat (finely chopped)
3/4 cup green onion (finely chopped)
1 cup mayonnaise
11/2 tbsps worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsps cold water
11/2 tbsp unflavored gelatin (1 envelope)
10 3/4 ozs cream of mushroom soup (1 can)
8 ozs cream cheese

Mix first five ingredients together. Heat soup and cream cheese together until cheese is melted. Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes. Stir into crab mixture. Dissolve gelatin in water*; stir into mixture.  Pour into mold.  Chill at least 4 or 5 hours.

*It doesn't say so here, but you'll have to heat the gelatin mixture to dissolve the granules before adding it to the mixture. It's science, you know!

Not that this was terribly hard to put together, but for the same amount of trouble you could dump everything (minus the mayonnaise - in fact, I'm not even sure why the mayonnaise is here in the first place) into a crock pot, turn it on low, and be done with it. Serve it with crackers as a hot dip. Not that the resulting cold mold isn't delicious, as you'll see below, but - I mean, hot cream cheese with meat. What could be more wholesome or natural?

Let's see what Dr. Husband thought:

Our Rating: One Screaming Husband!
(all dishes are rated from one to five Screaming Husbands. One Screaming Husband equals a happy home where all problems are solved during cocktail hour. Five Screaming Husbands signals the beginning of divorce proceedings.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Special Edition: Sky-like Chili

Sky-like Chili
contributed by Dr. Bobb, Sharpsburg, MD
Much as I enjoy digging up disgusting mid-century recipes with which to torment Dr. Husband, the realities of today's economy dictate that I occasionally make something that won't immediately be sent down the garbage disposal. As it's a lovely, crisp fall day outside the historic test kitchen, I've decided to share with you my man-pleasing chili recipe.


If you grew up in the kitsch triangle of Ohio-Indiana-Northern Kentucky (or, oddly, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) you may have enjoyed the regional delights of Skyline Chili, also known variously as Empress Chili, Gold Star Chili, or the all-encompassing Cincinnati-style. I myself, although an Ohio native with ties to Cincinnati (well, my great-great grandfather owned a whorehouse there in the 1800's, does that count as "ties"?) never heard of it until well into my college years, but then I was hooked.  If you find yourself geographically isolated you can find the real article, occasionally, in the freezer section of your local grocery, but my version is better, and I've found enough ways to cut corners that you can have it assembled and warming on the stove with enough time to swig down a couple of cocktails before husband gets home from the office.

The dish originated in the 1920's in Cincinnati's Greek immigrant community, and retains a decidedly Mediterranean spice combination. The soupy concoction is traditionally served either over spaghetti or on hot dogs, topped with mounds of cheddar cheese, and if you happen into an authentic Cincinnati Chili restaurant, you'll find suggestive menu options like the basic Three Way (noodles, chili and cheese); Four Way (all of the above plus either chopped onions or beans); and for the adventurous, the Five Way (the whole kit and caboodle.)  A word of caution: Steak 'n Shake restaurants have menu items called Three Way, etc., but their chili is definitely NOT exotically-spiced in the Cincinnati way, and if you've ever had that version thinking that's all there is, then think again.

So, here's the recipe, perfected with trial and error by me:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped and divided*
2 garlic cloves, minced**
2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce plus 1 can water
1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, grated***
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. each cumin, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cardamom
9 ounces spaghetti
1 15-ounce can kidney beans (optional)
1 pound cheddar cheese, finely shredded ****
Oyster crackers for garnish
Tabasco sauce (optional)

In a large skillet, brown the meat with the garlic and 3/4 of the chopped onion, storing and breaking up the meat as it cooks. Drain fat from pan. Add the tomato sauce and water and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the chocolate, salt, and spices. If time allows, add the spices one at a time, while talking to yourself and looking at the splash guard behind the stove as if you're doing a cooking demonstration on the Food Network. Cover and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally, while you read a magazine or watch a story on tv, cocktail in hand.

When husband gets home, cook the spaghetti and heat the kidney beans, if desired.

To make each serving, start with a layer of spaghetti; top with hot chili, warm beans and/or chopped onions. Pat on shredded cheese so that it starts to melt. Garnish with oyster crackers and hot sauce.

*Use yellow onions if you must, but I use Vidalias in every instance where onions are called for. Maybe I've been spoiled by living in the south for a while, but they seem to be available year-round.

**I feel no shame in admitting that I use pre-minced garlic out of a jar. Also, 2 cloves is a general guess. I've never met a dish that suffered by having "too much" garlic added.

***You can grate your own chocolate if you're especially ambitious, but I gave up the effort long ago. I usually use a tablespoon of cocoa powder, but this evening I didn't happen to have any in the house, so I used a couple of mini Hershey bars leftover from Halloween. In past pinches I've used chocolate morsels, Swiss Miss cocoa mix, and chocolate pudding. Do what you need to do, ladies, but the chocolate is essential.

****I suppose, at this point, I need not advise you to buy pre-shredded cheese.

No rating this week, as I know that dishes like this are how I keep my marriage stable, but I WILL show you the proper assembly method: