Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Potatoe (sic) Chip Cookies

Potatoe Chip Cookies

Contributed by Mrs. Andrew J. White, Jr., Columbus, Oh.
collection of the author

Were you ever really snacky (for the sake of argument, and to better connect with my presumed audience, let's just say you were stoned) and went to the kitchen to get something to eat, and there were presented with the age-old dilemma of exactly what to eat? I mean, do you go for the cookies, or the potato chips?

Thanks to the wonders of modern cookery, you no longer have to be confronted with this bothersome decision-making.

Because you can have BOTH.

I was flipping through the "Desserts" volume of Favorite Recipes of America, when out fell an ephemeraphile's delight: a pamphlet entitled Special Recipe Collection from the Ladies of the 5th Division Commandery. (You can learn all about the Grand Commandery Knights Templar by clicking here. Be sure you have your sound turned up real loud.)

Not only was it filled with gastronomical wonders, many of which I'll be featuring on this site in weeks to come, but the pamphlet itself was stuffed full of loose index cards with handwritten recipes of treats I dimly remember from my youth, including Special K Fruit Cookies, Lebkuchen, and last week's "Aunt Sue's Chicken".

Also included was this gem, "Potatoe Chip Cookies", which I remember well. Chiefly because:

- improperly crushed potato chips will cause severe gum lacerations, which will immediately have salt rubbed in them, and;

- My grandmother, Mrs. White, would cheerfully urge her obese grandchildren to eat all they wanted, as "there's not much sugar in them."

The recipe seems to have come from the kitchen of "Helen", who didn't know how to spell potato. I'm assuming this would be Mrs. White's friend Helen Rice, who used to don a plastic grass skirt at otherwise-respectable society functions and do a hula dance while lip-synching to "We Are Going to A Huki-lau".

The Recipe:

Ingedients bought for this recipe: NONE!

Ingredients already on hand: I used pre-sifted flour, which seems like cheating somehow, but there you have it.

I used pecans for the nuts, though I suppose any nut would do, I even considered peanuts. The pecans were pre-chopped. I really got off easy this week.

I used Ruffles ridged potato chips - I'm thinking this part is glaringly unhistorical, as I'm sure my grandmother would have used flat, greasy potato chips that were delivered to her house in a tin can. But I'm lazy, and it's what I had on hand.

I used butter instead of margarine, again because it's what I had on hand. It seems more natural, somehow. Plus, butter creamed with sugar is, I'm quite certain, the best smell on the Earth. Ever.

I baked them a little longer than suggested, about 25 minutes, because they weren't browned yet at 20.

What we thought: Again this time, the rules were broken by Husband knowing what I was making ahead of time. He has been eating the cookies for about three days now without saying much, until this morning, when he said "These cookies aren't really very good." And then kept eating. I think he was just saying it so I'd have something to write here.

They're not bad, slightly reminiscent of a pecan sandie, owing of course to the fact that I used pecans. The cookies are VERY crumbly, you almost have to eat them standing over the sink or the trash pail. They certainly wouldn't stand up to a good dunking in milk. If I ever make them again, I may try and come up with a clever way to make them doughier so they hold together better. And some orange zest wouldn't hurt either. Maybe a Hershey's kiss plopped in the middle of each cookie. And some frosting.

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, February 24, 2013

(Someone Else's) Aunt Sue's Chicken

Aunt Sue's Chicken
contributed by Sue Hansell, Columbus, Oh.

I wasn't going to post again so soon, but I'm bored, and hungry, and hydrated enough to prepare for the sudden ingestion of a week's worth of sodium.

I have dim childhood memories of eating what was always referred to as "Aunt Sue's Chicken", as well as a careworn, hand-written recipe in a lovely cursive script, titled "Aunt Sue's Chicken", and so I naturally assumed that the titular "Aunt Sue" was my own Aunt Sue, who was my grandmother's sister and lived with her for several years during my childhood.

BUT. Finally getting up the energy to read the recipe, I find it signed by "Sue Hansell", not my Aunt Sue and, in fact, not any Sue I ever heard of.

My crack Googling skills tell me not only that everyone apparently has an Aunt Sue that makes chicken, but also that this recipe, which combines chicken, dried beef, bacon, and mushroom soup, is not unique at all, but is apparently, as the kids would say, "a thing".

Nonetheless, here is the recipe, transcribed from the handwritten original:

Line bottom of 9x12x2 inch pan with dried beef.

Place skinned and boned chicken breast on top of dried beef.

Place 1/2 strip of bacon on top of each piece.

Mix together 1 cup of sour cream and one can of mushroom soup. Spread on top of chicken.

Bake uncovered at 225 degrees for 3 hours. I serve with minute rice and green peas and biscuits or rolls. I usually put light meat in one casserole and dark meat in the other. So use whichever kind of chicken.

Sue Hansel

Ingredients bought for this recipe: All of the above

With no measurement for the chicken or dried beef, I just used my best guesses. I bought a package of skinless, boneless chicken breasts (though Aunt Sue contradicts herself later in the recipe, I suppose I could've used "whichever kind of chicken") and 4 packages of Buddig pressed beef (I only used 2, so be thrifty!)  

In a nod to the modern healthy lifestyle, I bought fat-free sour cream and a can of mushroom soup with a "healthy request" sticker on the front, though I don't know that it's any different from the regular mushroom soup.

FYI, combining 1 cup of sour cream with 1 can of mushroom soup mysteriously results in about a gallon and a half of gelatinous goop, so you'll have plenty to go around.

I was skeptical about the low temp/3 hour cook time, but followed the instructions dutifully. Also following the instructions to the letter, I served the dish alongside rice and peas, and crescent rolls.

What we thought: I assumed that the low and slow cooking, along with the protective layers of beef and bacon, would result in a mouthwateringly moist piece of chicken, and indeed Husband proclaimed his piece to be so.  Mine, however, was as dry and chewy as chicken breast is wont to be.

I'm not sure of the purpose of the dried beef, other than to add salt.  It didn't add much flavor to the chicken, or if it did it was overpowered by the bacon. Which is not a bad thing.

The mushroom soup - well, I think we can all agree that you could glop a ladle full of mushroom soup onto a pile of horse manure and make it palatable.

But all those good things mixed into one dish? Meh.  Lots of textures, not enough individual flavors. I'd give this one a pass, ladies, unless you're trying to weasel out of ever having to host another bridge club luncheon.

Our Rating:
Three Screaming Husbands
(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.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chicken and Coke

Chicken and Coke

Contributed by Mrs. Willard Williams, Courtland, Miss.
Favorite Recipes of America: Meats p. 241

This recipe, otherwise known as "I'm too fat and lazy to make you a real Sunday dinner", is the sole reason I rescued this set of cookbooks from the trash bin. I've been dying to try this recipe for about fifteen years but have never had a reason until now.

Plus, my small rural grocery apparently doesn't stock unflavored gelatin. So I promise more congealed salads next week when I get to the big city.

The recipe:

1 fryer, cut into pieces
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. catsup
lge. Coke

Place chicken in a deep skillet or casserole dish. Pour salt, catsup and Coke over chicken. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes.

I started out thinking that Mrs. Willard Williams must have secretly despised her family, or been severely handicapped and unable to cook. Then I realized she was from Mississippi, in which case she had probably been raised with any number of innovative uses for Coca-Cola, including using it as a poultry marinade.

Ingredients bought for this recipe:

1 fryer (already cut up, with giblets)
Against my own rules, husband knew about this recipe all day. And he scolded me for buying an already-cut fryer.

Ingredients already in the fridge:
Catsup (actually, Heinz ketchup. Hopefully it didn't make a difference)

I had no idea what "1 lge. Coke" might signify to a 1968 housewife, but I guessed at 12 ounces, which is a cup and a half.

Since the main dish was so easy to assemble, I decided to make a whole meal of dishes which would signify that the chef was too fat and lazy to make anything nice. Thus:

Green Salad
contributed by Dr. Bobb, Sharpsburg, Mary.

1 bag pre-washed Romaine Hearts
Tear romaine hearts into bite-size pieces. Top with dressing.

Husband also wanted in on the action, and decided to make home-made macaroni and cheese, which I pooh-poohed as being too much love and attention for a fat and lazy person to lavish on his or her family. He refused to follow my suggestion to white-trash the recipe up a little by using Velveeta or, preferablyCheez Whiz. But he did relent and top the casserole with crumbled Ritz crackers.

Macaroni and Cheese
Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, p. 160

1 cup elbow macaroni
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Dash pepper
1/4 cups milk
2 cups shredded American cheese
1 cup Ritz crackers, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, for cheese sauce, cook onion in butter or margarine till tender but not brown. Stir in flour and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir till slightly thickened and bubbly. Add shredded cheese, stir till melted. Stir macaroni into cheese sauce. Transfer to a 1-quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or till bubbly. During the last five minutes of baking, arrange crumbled Ritz crackers atop macaroni. Let stand 10 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Unbeknownst to me, Husband turned up the heat on the chicken halfway through, to accommodate the macaroni, and because he was worried that the Coca-Cola sauce wasn't bubbling. It seems to have worked out fine.

What we thought: The chicken was remarkably moist and tender, owing we assume to the Coca-Cola.  When preparing the recipe, I had thought that the ketchup-Coke combination was meant to approximate Barbecue sauce, but the Coke seems to have acted solely as a moistening agent, and not imparted much flavor to the dish at all. If I ever am lazy enough to make something like it again, I may just go ahead and use Barbecue sauce, and leave the Coke to do it's moistening work (though I'm wondering if any carbonated beverage would do. The Coke brought on a night full of troubled dreams involving me living in a flophouse with 1940's actress Teresa Wright. If it were my grandmother's house back in the day, there would have been no Coke in the house - "Uncle Doc always said it would rot your stomach!" - and we would have had to make do with 7-UP. Which might be awesome.)

The macaroni was the star of the evening, I highly recommend it, though it's certainly more effort than your average negligent housewife would be willing to expend.

Our Rating:
Zero Screaming Husbands!
(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, February 17, 2013

Guess What Salad (aka Welcome to the blog)

Guess What Salad
contributed by Mrs. Stewart Rowles, Newman, Ill.
Favorite Recipes of America: Salads p. 158

Oh, okay, I'll take a guess.....um, vomit?

Hello, retro-gastronomes, welcome to Dr. Bobb's Kitschen, where I'll be tracking down and meticulously re-creating the swank company food that our parents and grandparents served at their fancy dinner parties and backyard barbecues, the kind of food that can alternately make you squeal with glee or spend the night on the commode.

My chief source of inspiration is a set of cookbooks I "borrowed" from my mother, called Favorite Recipes of America. Staff Home Economist Mary Anne Richards explains, in the preface, that "The Recipes in...FAVORITE RECIPES OF AMERICA were selected from the more than 100,000 recipes in my files to represent regional cookery at its very best...Each of these favorite American Recipes was home tested by cooks across the nation just like you. Every homemaker endorsed her own favorite recipe. Her name appears under her personal recipe. You'll treasure the many recipes in this collection which will become your favorites."

The copyright date is 1968, but the general flavor of the recipes collected therein (no pun intended) leads me to believe that the recipes were collected over the 1940's and 50's - lots of congealed salads, thrifty ways to stretch your ingredients, a submission from Mamie Eisenhower - that sort of thing.

I had thought that the books were bought and owned by my mother, but apparently not. A handwritten note found inside the MEATS volume read:

Dear Dorothy,

Have a Happy Birthday! And a happy summer. See you in Wichita!

Mary Helen

Dorothy would be my grandmother. In 1968, any trip to Wichita would be owing to her duties as Past Supreme President of the Social Order of the Beauceant, a title she would boast of frequently, though when she said it it came out all as one word (PassupremeprezdentatheBeauceant). Her duties as Past Supreme President took all over the world, including (but not limited to) Alaska, Scandinavia, and seven times to Hawaii (four times as an escort).

I have no idea who Mary Helen was, but she must not have been a very close friend, otherwise she would have known that the only book my grandmother would have need of would be the volume called CASSEROLES, especially if it had a chapter called "Casseroles containing cans of water chestnuts and crushed potato chips".

For this project, my self-created rules are:

1. I will follow the recipe ingredients and measurements to the letter, which is a struggle as I tend to eyeball measurements and add ingredients that I think would benefit the recipe.

2. Whenever possible, I will use ingredients that I, in my furtive imagination, think would have been readily available to a housewife of the fifties or sixties. Knowing the advances made in food preservation and transportation since then, for example, I will eschew a major national brand of a particular product in favor of a lesser known, regional brand. The exception being Jello-O brand gelatin, which is de rigueur in the preparation of congealed salads (unless the recipe calls for unflavored gelatin, in which case I will use Knox).

3. Each recipe will be blindly taste-tested by my husband, himself a Doctor (of music, like me...don't worry, I'm sure in the course of the blog I'll be revealing all sorts of delectable details of our life together) - that is, he will taste each recipe before knowing what the ingredients are. If he manages to get a bite down without vomiting, he will then be told the ingredients and see if that influences his final rating. Though I will gladly contribute my own comments on each dish, the final rating will be determined by him, who for our purposes here will serve as my breadwinning 1950's suburban husband.

And yes, we're both men. If you have a problem with that, stop reading. Or just get over it, like the rest of the 21st Century.

4. For now, my only source of recipes is the aforementioned five-book set. Once I have some petty cash (lovingly known in my household as "Lucy's allowance from Ricky") I will search up some antiquated cookbooks in used book stores. But I'll gladly accept recipe submissions here, if you don't have the stomach to make it yourself.

So, Guess What Salad, containing as its main ingredients canned corned beef and lemon gelatin, is part of a section of salads which all contain canned corned beef and lemon gelatin. They are so numerous, they got their own subheading - "Corned Beef Salads". Who knew?

The recipe is as follows:

1 box lemon gelatin
1 8-oz. can corned beef
1/2 c. mayonnaise
Dash of salt
1 c. finely chopped celery
2 finely chopped slices onion
1/4 c. chopped olives
4 chopped hard-cooked eggs
1/4 c. chopped green pepper

Make gelatin as package directs, using only 1 1/2 cups liquid. Let set until gelatin has begun to set; mix in remaining ingredients. Chill until firm. Yield: 12 servings.

One thing I noticed right away was that old-timety recipes apparently have no use for listing ingredients in decreasing order by how much is used, which I thought was standard practice. One would think the editors would have taken care of it, but apparently they just printed off Mrs. Rowles' recipe exactly as it appeared on the careworn index card she mailed in for consideration.

The recipe immediately preceding this one, called simply "Corned Beef Salad", is almost the same recipe except that it calls for the addition of 1/2 c. V-8 juice. Since V-8 juice makes me gag all by itself, I opted for this recipe instead.

Ingredients bought for this recipe:

1 box lemon Jell-O brand gelatin

1 12-oz. can Deltina brand Corned Beef ( I got Deltina brand because I'd never heard of it, and guessed that it might be regional. They apparently don't make 8-oz. cans of corned beef anymore, at least not that I could find. Breaking my own rule right away, I eyeballed 3/4 of the can's contents, which would be roughly 9 oz., and used that in the recipe. Also, though not indicated in the recipe, I sliced the corned beef and then cubed the slices, for easier mixing).

1 jar Publix brand Salad Olives (mysteriously, by the time I got home, the olives which looked so normal in the store had lost all their pimento fillings, and the pimentos had settled to the bottom of the jar. I don't recall driving erratically or getting swept up into a cyclone, and have no other explanation for the loss of the pimentos. I chose Publix brand because they were the smallest, and I figured would be of a size and variety widely available to a 50's housewife shopping at her local market. What I DON'T know is whether or not jarred olives of the past were stuffed with pimentos - but since magazine illustrations of the day of martinis clearly show pimento-stuffed olives, I assume they were. Not that it mattered, since most of my pimentos had settled to the briny bottom of the jar, beyond my reach).

I fruitlessly searched for a gelatin mold at Publix - since this is my initial venture, I haven't had a chance to scour the town for one. No such luck, and none of their disposable cake tins seemed to be exactly right, so for this recipe I used an Anchor Ovenware Casserole dish, pictured below.

Ingredients already in the fridge:

Hellman's Mayonnaise (I suppose, now that I'm a Southerner, there's some other brand I should be using. I'll ask Paula Deen about it and get back to you).
Onion (Vidalia)
Eggs (Brown Extra Large)
Green Pepper

It seems to me this recipe left an awful lot to the maker's discretion - like, should I add the ingredients to the Jell-O one at a time, or all together? In order as they are printed? Were there standard techniques to making congealed salads that everyone knew back in the day, but that have become lost to the ravages of time?

I just had to make my best guess at technique, so while the Jell-O was chilling, I mixed all the other ingredients together in the Ovenware Casserole dish, and then added the Jell-O in to that. This was perhaps the wrong way to go about it - I probably should have chilled the Jell-O in the Ovenware, and mixed the other things in a separate dish. At any rate, I left the completed salad in the refrigerator for about four hours, which is what the Jell-O directions called for, and this still didn't seem like quite long enough - the completed mold still seemed a bit loose and sweaty. Plus, shortly after completing the artful photographic arrangement below, the mold developed a fissure right down the middle, and by the time Jet arrived home it had nearly split in two.

The V-8 Corned Beef Salad recipe called for chilling the salad overnight, so perhaps that was standard practice. I DID use the loosening technique that every good congealed salad maker should know (setting the mold in warm water for a few minutes, and running a knife around the edge of the mold before turning it on to the serving platter).

I didn't taste the salad until Jet arrived home, and remember, husband is not to know the ingredients until after his first taste. I should explain that husband was returning home from a fourteen-hour workday, and was very hungry, which worked in my favor - I'm not sure he would have been quite so eager to try it had that not been the case.

His comments, in the order in which they occurred:

"It's not deplorable."
"Jesus, I'm hungry."
"There's corned beef in this, isn't there?"
"Who the hell puts corned beef in lemon Jell-O?"
"You know what's missing from this? Being drunk."

So, ladies, I think we've all learned an important lesson. If you want to keep your man happy, make sure he's had an extra-long workday when you serve up his slop, and have plenty of booze on hand.

What I thought: the dish is slightly reminiscent of ham salad - ham salad encased in lemon Jell-O. As husband observed, it's not deplorable, but....who WAS the first pioneering soul who decided that potted meat and lemon gelatin would be an ideal complement to one another?

Our Rating:
One and a half Screaming Husbands 

(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.)