Saturday, September 12, 2015

Start with a can; end with extra work to make up for convenience

Pumpkin spice everything is showing up on shelves. The supermarket is getting ready to stock my favorite apples (Cortlands!) for the few short weeks they are available before the apple section reverts to the inedible red "delicious" variety. I'm feeling the stirring to watch House of 1000 Corpses and Nightmare on Elm Street rather than grade the stacks of essays from my new classes. That means it's time to start thinking about fall comfort foods, so I pulled out "Good Housekeeping's Casserole Book" from the 1958 Good Housekeeping's Cook Books collection.

Casseroles are great fall food: often relatively quick and easy for newly-busy fall schedules, one-dish meals, and a chance to turn on the oven for a little while. Some of them even look kind of autumnal:

The orange-yellow of the deviled eggs mirrors the brilliant hues of the autumn leaves, and the red mush beneath looks like a character who just went through a tree shredder or meat grinder.

How to construct this vision of the impending season?

Deviled hash should be pretty quick and easy: dump cans of corned beef hash into a buttered baking dish, top with cream and chili sauce, and bake.

The recipe writer seems to think the ease of the recipe would make it cheating, so there's an extra step: you've got to make deviled eggs to go on top! Not much of an imposition, I suppose, if you've got extras in the fridge, but if you don't then there's a whole new layer of planning for something that would otherwise be pretty quick and easy. (Plus, what would broiled deviled eggs be like?)

Deviled egg hash is not alone in looking fall-ish and being unnecessarily complicated to make up for convenience ingredients, though. There's also this:

A mish-mash of internal organs riddled with green alien eggs and the white alien larvae bursting through the protective mesh the mommy alien put in place when she laid this mess. Or "Beef Pie Alamode," as Good Housekeeping likes to call it.

How do you make it? (I've had to type the recipe; its placement in the book precluded getting a good scan or photo.)

Beef Pie Alamode

2 cans beef stew (1-lb. 4-oz. or 1-lb. 8-oz.)
1 8-oz. can white onions, drained
2 cups drained, cooked, or canned peas
1/2 teasp. dried thyme
1/2 teasp. garlic salt
1/4 teasp. salt
1/8 teasp. pepper
1 pkg. refrigerated pan-ready biscuits
1/2 tablesp. soft butter or margarine

Start heating oven to 425 F. In 1-1/2 or 2-qt. casserole, combine stew, onions, peas, thyme, garlic salt, salt, pepper. Heat in oven, uncovered, 30 min. Meanwhile, on sheet of foil, placed on baking sheet, make this topping: Flatten out each pan-ready biscuit; pull to desired length-- you'll need about 6 8" strips for center; 4 5" strips for sides. Arrange, criss-cross fashion, on foil to cover approximately same size as top of casserole; bake, with casserole, 12 to 15 min. To serve, transfer baked biscuit topping to top of casserole. Brush with butter. Makes 4 to 6 servings

Again, this should be pretty easy-- dump together a few cans, add some seasonings, and heat. That would be too easy-- cheating!-- so the book has to add this whole extra step of shaping biscuit dough into a lattice that will fit the top of the casserole dish without even having the dish for reference! Can't just bake biscuits to eat along with the casserole or bake them on top because that would be way too easy. Cooking should be sort of easy, but we don't want to take that concept too far!

Happy Saturday! Take it easy, but not too easy!


  1. Casserole season is upon us.....just not these casseroles. BLECH!

    1. I do have a soft spot for casseroles that use canned cream of mushroom soup. Shameful but true. These, though... not so much.