Welcome to our new “Cooking from the Collections” feature! On a monthly basis, we will be experimenting with the wide variety of cookbooks in the Smithsonian Libraries’ collections. From a personal cookbook of James Smithson to the many volumes of the Culinary Historians of Washington (CHoW) collection, we have plenty to work with!
It’s that time of year again! For many, the Thanksgiving meal is the culinary event of the year (we’ll be giving thanks for elastic-waist pants!), filled with turkey, pumpkin pie, and mountains of side dishes. What Thanksgiving table would be complete without a homey casserole to round out the offerings? For our inaugural “Cooking from the Collections” post, we’ve decided to feature a few unusual dishes from The Casserole Cookbook. A 1956 volume, written by “Staff Home Economists” and published by the Culinary Arts Institute, it boasts “175 main dish and dessert casseroles”. The photo credits acknowledge a number of large companies in the food industry, such as the American Meat Institute and Ac’cent, and the recipes place a heavy emphasis on canned ingredients and monosodium glutamate.
Our three testers each chose a recipe. Could they make their way to your Thanksgiving table or were they better left in a bygone era? Let’s see! Each recipe is below with our staff’s notes and adaptations in italics.
Macaroni Royal casserole. What’s not to love? It has macaroni, cheese, sautéed green peppers, onions, some seasonings, a can of tomato soup, and green olives. Green olives, you say?
- 2 cups of cooked macaroni noodles
- 1 ¼ cups (10 ½ to 11 oz can) of tomato soup. In my case, it was a 10 can of condensed tomato soup
- ½ cup of stuffed olives
- A few drops of tobasco sauce
- And a mixture of: ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon monosodium glutamate (omitted), ¼ teaspoon dry mustard, and a dash of paprika
- 2/3 cup (6 ¾ oz can) drained mushrooms
- ½ cup of chopped onion
- ½ cup of chopped green pepper
- 1 clove of garlic, cut in halves
- ½ lb. of cheddar cheese, cut in to slices
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 qt casserole dish (I chose butter and I also used a 1 ½ qt casserole dish)
- Combine tomato soup, olives, tobasco sauce and spice mixture.
- Heat in a skillet 3-4 tablespoons of fat(I used butter) add onion and pepper and cook until onion is transparent.
- Blend tomato mixture into vegetables. Cover and simmer 5 min. Place ½ of macaroni in casserole dish and cover with ½ of the vegetable mixture and repeat.
- Spear garlic with wooden picks (for easy removal after vegetables are cooked) and place in casserole. I put them on toothpicks and cooked them in the casserole and they fell off the toothpicks as I tried to pull them out
- Overlap cheese slices in a border around top. I cubed the cheese and added half in the middle of the layers and the other half on top
- Bake at 350 25-30 minutes or until cheese slices are softened and tinged with brow.
After all that, it was rather bland. Maybe due to the fact that there was no MSG in it or maybe it just needed more salt and pepper. However, after it was put out for taste testing it seemed to disappear. I hope nobody bit into a hunk of the garlic that was left in the casserole. I’m still not sure what makes it royal.
This is one of the most questionable recipes I have ever made, and I eat Brussel sprouts on a regular basis. Instead of an elegant corn accompaniment, it was more akin to some kind of western omelet flan. Much like a melodramatic soap opera star (or maybe your aunt after she’s had a few too many glasses of Chardonnay with her turkey), it wept uncontrollably. Yet despite its texture, it actually did have a few fans at the tasting. It might be worth tinkering with to create a more stable base.
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups cream-style corn
- 2 tablespoons slivered pimentos (Unable to find pimentos, I used roasted red peppers)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped green pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated onion
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease casserole dish. Put a pot of water on to boil for water bath.
- Scald milk and add butter.
- As milk heats, beat eggs and combine with vegetables and seasoning.
- When milk starts to foam, whisk slowly in to egg mixture. Pour in to casserole dish.
- Place casserole dish into larger pan and fill larger pan with boiling water. Bake in oven for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. My pudding was still completely liquid and no where near done at the hour mark. I cranked up the heat to 350 and cooked for an additional 30 minutes before it solidified.
Deep-Dish Cheese Apple Scallop
As an avid dessert maker, it pained me to do this to apples. While the orange zest and juice did complement the dish, I could not get over the addition of corn flakes. The smell was just off. And I kept wondering why the author referred to this as a “pudding” at the end of the recipe…
- 1 ½ c corn flakes
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided
- 3 tbs flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 3 tbs butter or margarine (trying to be authentic, I opted for margarine)
- 1 tsp grated orange peel
- 3 oz grated cheddar cheese
- 6-7 medium sized firm, tart cooking apples (Granny Smiths)
- ¼ c orange juice
- Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 2 qt casserole dish.
- Crush corn flakes with 1/4 cup brown sugar (I pulsed both in a food processor 10-15 seconds). Set aside.
- Thoroughly blend together remaining sugar and spices (again I used the trusty food processor).
- Add margarine and orange peel. (I pulsed in the food processor for a second, ten times. Then I switched to the grating attachment to . . .)
- Add grated cheese.
- Wash, quarter, core, pare and cut apples into 1/8 inch slices.
- Arrange half the slices in the casserole dish. Spread half the cheddar mixture on the apples. Arrange the rest of the apples atop this. Add the last of the cheddar mixture. Then sprinkle orange juice over the surface. Finally, cover the surface with the corn flake mixture.
- Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes, or until the apples are tender (it took me a little longer).
- Let cool, but serve slightly warm.
This was close enough to a crumble that I would probably make something like it again, only substituting an oaty crumble for the cornflakes, and maybe ditching the cheddar cheese. I’d also probably use heirloom apples and real butter. Or just make a pie and save the cornflakes for breakfast.
*Full name of dish from The Casserole Cookbook (1956) is “Plantation Corn Pudding”.