Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Don't Know, (Baked) Alaska

In throwing these dinner parties, it has become extremely apparent that I can't expect friends to keep coming to my house simply with the promise of disgusting (looking at least) meat dishes. Thus, I have turned to adding vintage dessert recipe finds to reward them for putting foods like ham loaf down their gullet. Unfortunately, the Meats cookbook does not hold such recipes, so I've had to stray over to the very modern source of the Internet to hunt down appropriate after dinner delights.

One thing I've always wanted to make (but never even knew what the heck was) is Baked Alaska. Turns out, Baked Alaska is just a layer of pound cake covered in a layer of ice cream - all of which is covered with meringue, briefly baked and served up hot, cold and a little melty.

Who came up with such a brilliant idea? Apparently the lovely folks at Delmonico's right here in NYC - incidentally, the same restaurant that claims invention of Eggs Benedict!

According to legend (and perhaps fact), the chef created the dish in 1876 in honor of the newest state to join our lovely union (Alaska, durrrr). Plenty of other people have claimed to invent Baked Alaska, but I'm gonna stick to this story because, well, it's closest to home.

At any rate, it was simple to make, rewarding to eat and got many bonus points for visual appeal (big improvement from those scary-looking Jello molds...).

Adapted from the Retro Recipes Blog

4 Egg whites
2/3 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter (I left this out because I didn't have it - didn't seem to cause any trouble)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 8-inch square layer sponge cake (Sure, you could make your own, but I bought a frozen Sara Lee pound cake and it did the trick)
2 pints of ice cream (any flavor but Neapolitan makes it more fun)

Beat the egg whites with sugar and cream of tarter (if you have that) until stiff and "glossy." Add in the vanilla. Place sponge cake on top of a baking sheet covered in parchment. If you use the frozen pound cake like I did, you must slice the thing in half so that you have two flat rectangles of cake in equal height. Place those next to each other to make a nice platform for your ice cream to sit on. Cover this with ice cream. Ideally, you've purchased a box of ice cream and can cut it into nice slices of even thickness kind of like you did with the frozen cake. Cover this whole shebang with meringue (sides and all - make a nice seal). Brown in a hot oven (450-500 degrees) for three minutes of until all your delicate peaks of meringue are perfectly browned then serve it up to all your very impressed friends!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Betcha Can't Eat Just One...

Dear Mrs. Long,

I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that a recipe consisting solely of potato chips, garlic, butter and chicken tastes like heaven, but boy was I glad my suspicions were verified when I made your "Oven Fried Chicken" the other night. It was a real crowd pleaser. The crisp, salty, buttery crust couldn't have tasted more like actual fried chicken. I'm sure it's not exactly a healthy alternative to the real thing, but it sure as heck was a lot easier to make. The "Perfection Salad" I made that same night didn't remotely live up to its name, but I'd suggest you give serious thought to renaming this recipe "Perfection Chicken" - if anything, you'd be selling it short!

Many thanks and congratulations on an outstanding recipe!


Sam L.

Oven Fried Chicken
(Adapted from recipe by Mrs. Dorsey Long, Laverne H.S., Laverne, OK in Favorite Recipes of American Home Economics Teachers: MEATS Edition, Copyright 1962)

1 whole chicken cut into pieces
1 clove garlic
1/4 lb butter
1 package plain potato chips

Soften butter. Crush garlic in butter. Roll chicken in butter and garlic then in crushed chips. For an easy and even way to coat the chicken with the crushed chips, put them in freezer bag and shake, shake, shake! Once coated with chips, place on a flat pan or in a baking dish and bake in oven for 45 minutes at 350. To get an extra crispy crust, move up to the top rack of the oven for the last ten minutes or put under broiler briefly until desired crispiness is achieved.

PS - Don't worry, I serve veggies too... with Hidden Valley Ranch, of course! The tray is vintage from my mom's collection. I always coveted it and finally got her to turn it over to me a couple years ago.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Simply the Best

Dear Ms. Forrester,

Thank you for sharing your recipe for "Chicken Simplicity." The name couldn't be more apt. Preparation of the dish took me under five minutes, but enjoying the meal lasted well over an hour. I had some friends over for dinner and everyone seemed to enjoy this chicken quite a bit. My roommate particularly loved the sauce, which I feared was a bit too salty from the onion soup mix. My one complaint with the recipe was that the rice didn't cook properly and remained fairly crunchy when the chicken was finished cooking. I used a wild rice blend. Is there a particular type of rice you normally use that cooks better? Maybe I will try a "minute rice" blend next time.

I hope this note finds you well and look forward to trying more of your recipes in the future.

Many Thanks and All the Best,

Sam L.

Chicken Simplicity
(Adapted from recipe by Lucile Forrester, Kelso H.S., Kelso, WA in Favorite Recipes of American Home Economics Teachers: MEATS Edition, Copyright 1962)

1 uncooked chicken cut into pieces
1/2 package of dry onion soup mix
1 cup uncooked brown or white rice
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Sprinkle onion soup mix on bottom of baking pan. Over this sprinkle the rice. Place chicken on top and pour diluted soup over the chicken. Cover. Bake at 325 for 1 hour 15 minutes or until done.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Home Wreck 102 Look Book

I have a large collection of vintage dresses. Sadly, many of them would be really weird to wear out in public, so it gives me great joy to have a new reason to rock out with my frock out.

For Sunday's Home Wreck 102 dinner party I brought out a real winner I like to call "Uncle Sam":

I wear the matching blazer out with jeans a lot, but the whole suit/dress combo always seemed a little much... because it is.

Apparently I look sexy in this dress as it got rave reviews and I was told I "should find a wedding dress in this cut" because it made my butt look good. Um, yeah, when I find myself a future husband I'll be sure to do that. But, hell, if I wear this out sometime maybe I'll have a husband sooner than I think.

I Don't Think You're Ready for this Jelly

I could hardly host a Home Wreck themed dinner party without sticking to the theme in every last detail. Hell, as you've seen, I even dress the part. This has been a little bit of a problem when it comes to preparing a full meal. Since my cookbook is specifically about meats, I've had to look elsewhere for vintage side dish recipes. Luckily, in a decidedly non-1960s twist, the Internet is chock-full of archived recipes. With a little quick searching I came across a recipe from the December 1960 issue of Better Homes and Gardens titled "Perfection Salad." How could anything with that name not be good?

Easily. You know how they say "Don't mess with perfection"? Yeah, I think they're referring to this salad. It consists of shredded cabbage, chopped celery, green pepper and pimiento, all cleverly presented in a mold of clear gelatin. Oh, and it looks a little something like this:


Essentially the gelatin takes the place of a traditional vinegar-based dressing, but who really wants their dressing to slimily slide down their tongue? The answer amongst my friends was no one.

I have to say, I understand the appeal of making gelatin molds, because they are like a weird science/art project, and I was really proud to show my work to my friends, but I won't be making "Perfection Salad" ever again.

Though I discovered there's a reason why this recipe is dead, I'm glad I chose it. After some more fancy shmancy Internet research, I've discovered that "Perfection Salad" is a pretty important recipe in the history of American housewife cooking. As it turns out, there's a book and even a blog titled "Perfection Salad." According to "Better Homes and Gardens:

"Once upon a time, in 1904 to be exact, a recipe called Perfection Salad won third prize, a $100 sewing machine, for Mrs. John E. Cook of New Castle, Pennsylvania.

Among the judges was Fannie Farmer of cooking school fame, crusader for level measures. The first and second prize entries in the “receipt” contest are forgotten, but the runner-up is here to stay.

Perfection Salad has been a winner at the dinner table for generations. It was originally published in a gelatin advertisement the year following that contest of long ago and was described as a “delicious accompaniment to cold sliced chicken or veal.” Mrs. Cook herself said it was “especially fine with fried oysters” and wrote in her entry that she planned to have it at her next church supper.

So excellent was Mrs. Cook’s recipe that today’s version is amazingly like hers. Through the years, we have printed popular Perfection Salad many times."

So, there you have it: "Perfection Salad" is hardly perfection, but it is a perfect example of classic 60s cooking.

Perfection Salad

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens recipe published December 1960

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups cold water
1/2 cup vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 large green olives stuffed with pimientos sliced into halves or thirds
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped pimiento
1/2 cup chopped green pepper

Mix gelatin, sugar, and salt. Add boiling water and stir until gelatin dissolves. Add cold water, vinegar, lemon juice and chill until partly set. Pour 1/2 cup in a ring mold (I actually used a greased bunt pan because I don't own real Jello molds) and arrange slices of olives in mold. Chill until set. Mix the remaining gelatin with the cabbage, green pepper, pimiento, celery, and green pepper. Pour over gelatin in mold and chill until set.

To easily turn it out on a platter, put the platter on top of the mold and then flip it and let it sit until it slides out of the mold on its own. If need be, you may help this along by rubbing a hot rag on the outside of the mold.

Once you've turned it out on the platter, you can play with the presentation by filling the center with baby carrots (the Better Homes recipe calls for cooked can carrots marinated in Italian dressing) and surrounding it with cabbage leaves (a special shout out to Erica who helped with this part of things).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

WRECKfast of Champions

Dear Bernice,

This morning (oh, let's face it, afternoon) I made your Bacon 'n Egg Luncheon Pie. Though I'm wondering why you didn't just call a spade a spade and name it a quiche, this breakfast meal under any other name would still be a treat. Knowing I had promised my roommate brunch today, I managed to drag myself out of bed at 11am to hit up the grocery store for provisions. I realize when you made this recipe you probably got up at 5am or some such ungodly hour to cook for your family, but trust me, when you're 28 and live in New York City getting out of the house at 11am is quite an accomplishment. On my way to the grocery store, I passed several other young folks out getting breakfast for their loved ones. I must say it filled me with pride to know that I was making a nice home-cooked meal when they were carrying boxes of donuts and bags of bagels (not that those aren't delicious too). What's especially great about this luncheon pie is that it was so incredibly easy to make and I got all the credit of slaving away for hours in the kitchen! I do admit to having made a few changes to your recipe. First off, I didn't use strips of bacon because my sister gifted me with home-cured smoked bacon for my birthday. Store bought bacon is amazing, but homemade bacon really kicks it up a notch. We can't all be so lucky to have a sister with a smoker and a penchant for pork! I also added minced onions that I sauteed briefly in the bacon fat which I think added a nice flavor to the mix. I would also consider reducing the quantities in your recipe as I ended up with too much filling for my pie crust. I cooked the excess in a pie plate, but in the future I will reduce the cream and cheese measurements (and have in my adapted recipe below). I would also recommend experimenting with adding different vegetables like mushrooms or spinach - the great thing about a basic quiche is you really could throw just about anything in the mix. As for a side dish, I served myself some fresh grapefruit, but I think a nice salad of arugula would have complimented everything nicely.

Thanks again for contributing this recipe, which I will certainly be adding to my cooking repertoire.

All the Very Best,

Sam L.

Bacon 'N Egg Luncheon Pie
(Adapted from recipe by Bernice Bammann, Beecher H.S., Beecher, IL in Favorite Recipes of American Home Economics Teachers: MEATS Edition, Copyright 1962)

9 inch deep dish pie crust
10 slices of bacon cooked and drained
5 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup light cream
3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup minced onion

Preheat oven to 375. Crumble bacon into pie shell. Saute onions in leftover bacon fat for several minutes until they begin to turn clear and are slightly browned. Beat eggs, cream, salt and pepper together. Mix in Swiss cheese, peas and onions (you may also choose to add other vegetable like mushrooms at this point). Pour into pie shell. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes, or until a fork or toothpick comes out clean from the center of the pie.

Today's Outfit:

A 70s polyester house robe that I stole from my mother many moons ago, red plastic beads and a nod to "Julie and Julia" in the form of a vintage lobster pin. I bought the pin on eBay after watching the movie on Netflix. Liked the movie, LOVED the pin.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Don't Hassle the 'Noff...

Dear Mrs. Freeman,

I recently served your recipe for Beef Stroganoff at a dinner party and was entirely pleased with the results (minus the smell that still permeates my kitchen!). Beef Stroganoff has special place in my heart as it was one of my mother's very favorite dishes to cook for our family. She grew up in a German household so I always assumed this was a German dish, and I was surprised to find out recently that this is a dish of Russian origin (I suppose I should have realized this from its name...), but I've also come to realize this was a widely popular dish amongst all Americans for a few decades. Clearly there are many variations on this dish, presumably from its diaspora, and I was amazed to find upwards of a dozen variations in this cookbook alone... which leads me to admit that I experimented with your recipe a bit. Many of the other Home Economics teachers recommended rubbing the meat with garlic before flouring and also suggested adding a dash of paprika - which in my opinion is never a bad idea. You were one of only a few that included green pepper in your dish, but I also never think more veggies are a bad idea, so I went ahead and added them (though I don't believe they are an ingredient in traditional Stroganoff). You suggested serving the dish over spaghetti, a Chinese omelet, or steamed rice. Do you have a favorite? I'm sure all of these would be delicious choices, but in tribute to my mother, I couldn't imagine serving Stroganoff over anything but buttered egg noodles. In addition, I recall my mother's Stroganoff having a dash of Dijon mustard, and I do believe this would add a nice kick to your recipe. You may want to consider experimenting with this addition in the future.

The Stroganoff was very well received by my guests and I truly appreciate you reminding me what a wonderful comfort food this could be on a cold winter's evening. I will never let myself forget Stroganoff in the future!

All the Very Best,

Sam L.

Beef Stroganoff
(Adapted from recipe by Hazel R. Freeman, West Valley H.S., Yakima, WA in Favorite Recipes of American Home Economics Teachers: MEATS Edition, Copyright 1962)

1 pound round steak (cut into strips)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 oz. canned chopped mushrooms (stems and bits)
1/2 cup green pepper
1 clove garlic
1 cup sour cream
1 can tomato soup
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp Tabasco

Rub meat strips with garlic.

Mix flour in large plastic bag with salt and pepper and then flour meat in the bag (shake until nicely coated).

Melt the butter in a large saucepan (or, unlike me, if you have a Le Creuset, use that) and brown the meat in that.

Add onions, mushrooms and crushed clove of garlic.

Combine the sour cream, tomato soup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and Paprika and pour over meat. Stir to blend and then stir in chopped green pepper.

Cover skillet and cook until steaming, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 to 40 minutes.

Serve over buttered egg noodles.