In the Kitchen: Mocha Marlow (1953)

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s been rather hot so far this summer. A perfect time for icy-cold treats! The other day I made some delicious mocha marlow. “Marlow?” you ask, “What’s marlow?” Like its equally obscure cousin mallobet, it’s a frozen dessert made with a marshmallow base. I’ve definitely dated this style of dessert back to the 1920s (Clara Bow contributed a recipe for Vanilla Marlow to a 1929 movie star cookbook), but it may go further back to the earlier days of ice boxes. These desserts were still being made into the midcentury, but seem to have then died out completely.

Both marlows and mallobets are made with melted marshmallows. Marlows get their fluffiness from whipped cream, while mallobets (marshmallow-sherbet) contain stiffly beaten egg whites. You don’t need an ice cream maker for these concoctions, which was part of the appeal, I think.

I made this marlow on a terribly hot day and I must confess that cooking everything over boiling water was torture, but the end result was worth it.


Start by cutting 16 marshmallows into quarters. It’s easiest to use kitchen shears or a knife dipped in hot water. Don’t substitute mini-marshmallows because you’ll end up with the wrong ratio of cornstarch (which coats the outside of the marshmallows) to marshmallow.

Set a saucepan over boiling water and melt the chocolate. Then fold in the marshmallows and a cup of strong coffee and a pinch of salt. I don’t drink coffee so I never have any just hanging about. I made instant espresso instead. Keep folding the mixture.

When the marshmallows are about half melted, take them off the heat and keep stirring until they completely melt. Make sure everything is well combined and let it cool. I stuck the pan into a bowl of ice water to help it cool down faster on such a hot day.

Then whip cream until it’s stiff and fold into the cooled mocha mixture and add toasted nuts. I think toasting nuts before using them is always a good idea; they just taste better. The first time I made this I used slivered almonds since that’s what I had on hand, but hazelnuts add a lovely Nutella flavor. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like bits of stuff in their ice cream, you can certainly leave the nuts out.

Spoon the mixture into a container — I recommend a metal loaf pan — cover it, and stick it in the freezer. When it’s about half frozen (use your best judgement), give it a stir.

It will take a couple of hours to firm up enough to serve.

Mina’s Mocha Marlow

1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
16 marshmallows, quartered
1 cup strong coffee
pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup chopped toasted nuts

Melt chocolate over boiling water. Add marshmallows, coffee, and salt. Fold mixture continuously over and over until marshmallows are half melted. Remove from heat and continue folding until mixture is smooth. Cool. Whip cream. Add whipped cream and nuts to mocha mixture. Pour into metal loaf pan, cover, and freeze until firm, stirring at least once.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

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Published in: on 16 July 2018 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: A Novelty in Cakes (1920)

Dear Constant Reader,

The novelty for this cake is that it’s made with graham cracker crumbs instead of flour. The recipe comes from the pamphlet 100 Delicious Walnut Recipes by the California Walnut Growers Association, probably published in 1920. I’ve also found a similar recipe for the cake (but not the frosting) in a Utah newspaper from 1915.

We had a box of graham crackers left over from making s’mores at the Mini Expo cook out and I wanted to make something for our Sunday Social after Cover Girls. This fit the bill nicely.

A couple of notes:

Take the butter and eggs out of the fridge early and let them come up to room temperature. It will be easier to cream the butter and to beat the egg whites stiff when they’re not so cold.

Toast the nuts first. Toasted nuts always taste better. Also, get as much of the skin off the walnuts as possible — it can be bitter. Obviously the Walnut Growers want you to use walnuts, but the cake is probably just as good with other nuts or no nuts at all.

Most vintage recipes call for squares of unsweetened chocolate, which was an ounce. These days chocolate usually comes in bars with 4 squares to the ounce, but double-check and use a scale if you’re in doubt.

One of the challenges was figuring out how many graham crackers to use. The recipe calls for “26 graham crackers”. Is one cracker one of the rectangular cracker quarters? The square half crackers, like for s’mores? Or an entire unbroken cracker sheet? The right answer seems to be 26 square crackers aka 13 full cracker sheets.

Here’s how you make the cake:

Crush graham crackers to fine crumbs. I like to use a rolling pin, but it’s faster and more uniform if you use a food processor. Separate eggs and beat whites to stiff peaks. Mix sugar & baking powder, then cream with butter. Mix together egg yolks, milk, vanilla, cracker crumbs, and nuts. Fold in beaten egg whites. Pour batter into buttered pans. The original recipe says just to “bake in loaf or layers”. A little research lead me from this vague instruction to the appropriate size and shape of pans and the temperature and time. Let cool before frosting. See recipe below for specifics.

To make the frosting, cream butter and powdered sugar. Add melted unsweetened chocolate. Add enough cold coffee to make the frosting spreadable. I don’t drink coffee so I don’t usually have left-over coffee hanging about. I use instant espresso powder for intense flavor and make a single cup. I used about 1/4 cup of cold espresso, but the amount will depend on what consistency you like your frosting and a bit on how humid it is. Finally, mix in ground walnuts. Frost the cake(s). If you used round cake pans, level the layers before frosting and stacking (or use cake bands so you don’t have to).

It went over really well. Someone tasting the cake said the cake and the frosting have the right balance of sweet. Everyone loves the mocha frosting.

Graham Cracker Cake
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup milk
26 graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs (2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix sugar and baking powder. Cream with butter. Add egg yolks, milk, graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, and vanilla. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold in. Bake in greased pans: two 9″-round pans or two loaf pans or a 13×9″ rectangular pan for 30 minutes at 350F. Let cook and frost with Mocha Nut Frosting.

Mocha Nut Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 cup cold strong coffee
1/2 cup ground toasted nuts

Cream butter and sugar. Add melted chocolate. Add enough coffee to make a spreadable consistency. Stir in ground nuts.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 9 October 2017 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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More Vintage Cooking

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I shared a recipe with you. Last month was kind of a crazy one and I was barely in the kitchen. However, there should be more cooking in the near future.

You know I love old cookbooks of any kind, but when it comes to 20th century cooking I have a particular fondness for the recipe pamphlet. My collection includes “100 Delicious Walnut Recipes” by the California Walnut Growers Association and “The Exciting World of Rice Dishes” from Minute Rice.

A couple of years ago Scratch bought me two pamphlets that were clearly part of a series, created by the Culinary Arts Institute. Earlier this year I found two more. And now, thanks to eBay…


I have them all. 24 pamphlets to add to my cookbook project. In this project, which has been going on for years, I need to cook one recipe, which I’ve never made before, out of every cookbook in my collection. This project brought you such delights as Frozen Fruit Salad, Cashew Chicken, and Peach Mousse.

As of last week, I had 130 cookbooks in the project and I only needed to cook from 2 more of them to have completed the project (for now)! Then I added these pamphlets to the collection…

Fortunately, I’ve already cooked from three of them and two of them have no recipes (one has menus, the other food facts), but that still means I’ve got a lot of recipes to make. Perhaps some of them will even make it onto these pages. Perhaps some Luscious Refrigerator Desserts or Superb Pies and Pastries. So many possibilities!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 12 September 2017 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Spiced Cherry Soup (1958)

Dear Constant Reader,

For a couple of weeks in late June and early July, it’s sour cherry season at The Manor. We are constantly picking, pitting, and cooking cherries from the orchards (all right, it’s just one tree). I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting cherry recipes to add to our arsenal of favorites.

Recently Scratch gave me a clutch of vintage recipe pamphlets which included Good Housekeeping’s Around the World Cookbook: specialty recipes with a foreign flavor. I was surprised at the variety of countries represented and the sophistication of the recipes, especially compared to some other cookbooks of the era and their idea of “international” cuisine.

Hungary was one of the countries well represented with many recipes. Since Scratch was recently in Budapest, Spiced Cherry Soup (Hideg Cseresnyeleves in Hungarian) sounded perfect. It specifically calls for sweet cherries, but of course I used our sour ones.

Pit and stem cherries. Remove strips of zest (no white pith) from half a lemon. Stick whole cloves into the peel. Put the cherries and lemon peel into a sauce pan along with a cinnamon stick, some sugar, salt, and water. Simmer. Stir in tapioca and bring to a boil. Add red wine then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Remove lemon peel, cloves, and cinnamon then chill.

Serve cold garnished with a thin lemon slice and a dollop of sour cream.

It make a deliciously tart and refreshing soup, great as a starter or as dessert. The tapioca thickens it, but doesn’t make it utterly gloppy, which I had feared. I think the lemon garnish is optional, but the sour cream (in the original recipe as “commercial sour cream”) is mandatory.

I made only one change (besides using sour instead of sweet cherries). In the original recipe, you add the wine after taking the soup off the heat. I find the raw alcohol taste unpleasant and prefer to let it simmer for another moment or two to cook out some of that harshness.

Here’s the recipe, slightly modified:

1 lb. cherries (washed, pitted, and stemmed)
1 lemon
6 whole cloves
3” piece of cinnamon stick
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups water
3 Tbs. quick-cooking tapioca
1 cup red wine

With vegetable peeler, remove peel from lemon in strips; stick cloves into peel.

In saucepan, combine cherries, lemon rind with cloves, cinnamon, sugar, salt, water. Simmer, uncovered, 15 for minutes.

Gradually stir in tapioca; bring to boil; then stir in wine; remove from heat; allow to cool. Remove and discard lemon peel, cloves, and cinnamon; then refrigerate until serving time.

To serve, ladle ice-cold soup into individual soup bowls or plates; top each serving with a lemon slice and spoonful of sour cream.

Makes 4-6 servings

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 7 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 18 July 2017 at 2:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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Chocolate Pudding: The Video

Dear Constant Reader,

One of the things I want to do with Patreon support is make video expansions of my blog posts. I decided to make one so you can all see what I’m trying to do. This is me cooking the chocolate pudding from my previous missive:

My plan for future videos is to have a videographer with an actual camera to shoot and edit these videos, but for this deathless cinema, it was just me and my iPhone, cooking one-handed, occasionally frantically deleting stuff when my phone ran out of memory. Then I kinda edited it in iMovie, which I’m still learning how to use.

If you couldn’t tell, this is completely unscripted and there were no retakes. Just me rambling away as I cook. One-take Murray. That’s what old Jack Warner used to call me.

If you like this and want to see more (better filmed, better produced) videos, consider supporting me on Patreon.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 25 May 2017 at 1:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Chocolate Pudding (1956)

Dear Constant Reader,

This recipe came from a Baker’s Chocolate recipe pamphlet from 1956. Baker’s Chocolate used to be made just down the road from The Manor, so I was delighted at the local connection.

Although there are all sorts of fun and interesting chocolate recipes, I was looking for something I could scale down and that I had everything already. I decided on Chocolate Pudding. Easy and simple.

Untitled
Start by combining sugar, cornstarch, and salt.

The original recipe called for flour to thicken the pudding, but I know from experience that it tends to have a “floury” taste and can be difficult to incorporate smoothly. I used cornstarch instead. Rice flour would probably also work as a thickener

Add milk and stir to combine. Obviously you’re supposed to use real milk, but almond milk works perfectly fine. If you’re using flour, mix really well to keep it from being lumpy. Add the unsweetened chocolate and place over boiling water.

Baker’s unsweetened chocolate used to come in individually wrapped one-ounce squares and many recipes call for squares of chocolate. Recently Baker’s switched to selling the chocolate as a bar with half-ounce squares. Just be aware.

Chopping the chocolate before adding it makes it melt faster and more evenly. It would have taken so much longer with the whole one-ounce squares. As it was I broke the squares into quarter-ounce pieces and they didn’t melt very evenly.

Cook the pudding over boiling water until it starts to thicken. Then cook 10 minutes more. Add the vanilla and chill.

Serve with cream poured over. There were variations that were topped with flavored whipped cream (like with orange marmalade folded into it), but the basic recipe used plain cream. This was a new one to me, but it worked.

Untitled

Here’s the recipe, scaled for 4 servings.
Baker’s Chocolate Pudding, Miss Mina’s Way
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon corn starch
pinch salt
2 cups milk
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, corn starch, and salt in a medium saucepan that works as a double boiler. Also start water boiling in the bottom pan of the double boiler.

Add milk and mix well. Add the chocolate and place pan over the boiling water. Stir frequently until mixture thickens. Cook 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Pour into serving dish or individual bowls. Chill. Serve with cream poured over.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 24 May 2017 at 2:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Gold & Silver Cake (1934)

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been dying to try Gold and Silver Cake from one of my vintage recipe pamphlets, so I decided to make it as my birthday cake. The pamphlet in question, The Latest Cake Secrets, was pushing Swansdown cake flour and Baker’s coconut. I confess, I used Softasilk flour (more about the coconut below).

The cake itself is pretty simple, just a basic white cake. The flour does get sifted *four* times, once before measuring and then 3 times with salt and baking powder. This is added to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with milk. Flavor with some almond and orange extracts. Then fold in some stiffly beaten egg whites. Use a really big bowl. This recipe makes a lot of batter and you want room to gently incorporate the egg whites.

Now, it gets interesting. Take 1/3 of the batter and pour it into a cake pan. Then add beaten egg yolks to the remaining batter and divide it between 2 more pans. Thus you should (in theory) have a white layer and 2 yellow layers. Hence gold and silver.

This was the first time I baked a layer cake and used cake bands, which were totally successful. A cake band is a strip of cloth that is soaked in cold water and wrapped around the outside of the cake pan. It keeps the outside from cooking faster than the middle which is what makes the cake rise up in the center. While my layers weren’t perfectly flat, they were close enough that I didn’t feel the need to level them.

The color difference wasn’t as great as I might have hoped. Perhaps more egg yolks are needed.

The cake is then stacked gold-silver-gold with orange filling between the layers. The filling is made with sugar, water, orange juice, lemon juice, whole eggs, and cake flour cooked in a double boiler. Once it thickened, it’s finished with butter and orange zest. I didn’t love how it turned out. The flour lumped a lot and gave the filling a sort of floury flavor. I’d feared this might be the case, but I was determined to stick to the recipe as writ. Obviously the pamphlet was trying to put cake flour in as much as they could, but I’d use cornstarch next time. Also, the cake called for a double recipe of filling, which was way too much.

Then the cake gets frosted with a classic seven minute frosting. Cook (again in a double boiler) sugar, orange and lemon juices, and egg whites, beating constantly, for at least 7 minutes or until it’s thick and spreadable. Add some orange zest once it comes off the heat.

Sprinkle the top of the cake with a mixture of shredded coconut and orange zest. You want to do this right after the cake is frosted and the frosting is still gooey. The frosting dries to a crispy sugar shell and the topping would just slide off if you tried to add it at that point. The topping recipe called for Baker’s Southern Style Coconut, which they don’t make any more. It came in a can and was billed as being moist, like fresh coconut. I figured basic flaked coconut from the baking aisle was probably about the same thing. Packaging technology has moved on…

It was pretty successful for a first attempt. At least my guests liked it. I’m not giving you the recipe like I usually do, since I’m not satisfied with it and want to make some changes before I release it into the wild.

This was the cake:

M2

Published in: on 21 February 2017 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Walnut Tea Cake

Dear Constant Reader,

For the last several years at The Expo I’ve been hosting a tea party on Sunday afternoon. I love it, except for the fact that the hotel has to do the catering. I decided it was time to throw a party at Stately Babydoll Manor where I could make all the goodies.


And so I did. We had:
4 kinds of tea: peach oolong, green, rooibos, and blooming
served with sugar cubes and molded flavored sugars (thanks, RuffleCon!), milk (regular or cashew), lemon.
3 sandwiches: pear-blue cheese-walnut, classic cucumber, tomato with basil
2 breads: vegan English muffins, sour cherry scones
served with sour cherry jam and butter
3 pastries: walnut tea cake, lemon cookies with fondant & piped icing, vegan chocolate mini-cupcakes with chocolate glaze

When I posted a picture of the walnut cake on Facebook, I was asked how it was, but I baked it Thursday and I didn’t taste it until Saturday. The answer, quite good. It’s a little plain, but moist, nutty, and just a little sweet. Goes very nicely with a cup of tea (and I assume coffee, but I never touch the stuff).

The recipe came from Ida Allen Bailey’s book Luscious Luncheons and Tasty Teas which was probably published sometime between 1920 and 1930. Mrs. Bailey was a prolific cookbook author and sort of the Martha Stewart of her day. The book is one of four gorgeous volumes* that were designed to hang, calendar style, on the wall. There are menus for each week of the year with a corresponding recipe or two.

Here’s the recipe for those who asked:

Nut Tea Cake
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (I toasted them)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Cream butter & sugar, work in nuts, salt, egg, add milk. Sift together flour and baking powder, beat and transfer to medium-sized oiled dripping pan (I used a 9×9 glass baking pan). Sift 1/3 cup sugar mixed with cinnamon over. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes.

M2
*Delicious Dinners, Satisfying Salads, and Dainty Desserts. I’m on a quest for the two I don’t own.

Published in: on 13 June 2016 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Ham Banana Rolls (1950)

Dear Constant Reader,

Back in November, I wrote of my quest to prove the vintage recipe testers at Buzzfeed wrong and of the results of my first experiment, Olive-Cheese “Porcupine”. At that very same party, I also made a ham and banana dish. I had to do this at a party, because I wanted the feedback from several palates but also because I hate bananas.

I didn’t actually use the same recipe as the Buzzfeed folks. I could tell that theirs was going to be disgusting no matter how good a cook I am, so I found one that was similar, to prove that the recipe was at fault, not the dish concept. I used the recipe for Ham Banana Rolls with Cheese Sauce from a Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book from 1950 while they made Ham and Bananas Hollandaise from the McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection from 1973. I’ll explain as I go how the two diverged.


Start with bananas, ham, mustard, butter, milk, flour, shredded cheese

Both recipes begin about the same. Take slices of boiled ham and spread with mustard. My recipe left the amount of mustard up to the cook, while theirs specified a teaspoon and a half per slice. I just covered each slice with a thin, even coating. Diverging from both recipes, I used baked ham instead of boiled, because I was going to be making my lunch out of the left-over meat and I don’t like boiled ham. Does anyone? Also, back when they probably used French’s yellow, but I used a brown deli mustard.

I wrapped the bananas in the mustard-smeared ham and then brushed the bare banana tips with melted butter. Their recipe says to sprinkle the bananas with lemon juice to keep them from browning (not so necessary I thought) before wrapping the bananas. In both cases the wrapped bananas go into a greased, shallow baking dish.

Now things get very different. Their bananas are baked at 400F for 10 minutes. I baked my bananas at 350F for 30 minutes, but first I had to pour cheese sauce over them.

The cheese sauce is really easy. Make a roux with butter and flour, then add milk. Then add grated cheese and cook until it’s all smooth and hot. I confess, I used sharp cheddar instead of the called-for sharp American because I already had a bag of shredded cheddar for the porcupine (and I like it better).

That’s it for my recipe, but theirs has one more step. You mix an envelope of hollandaise sauce mix with some water, cream, and lemon juice bring it to a boil. Pour over the bananas and bake 5 minutes more.


Here’s a gratuitous picture of the chef with the finished product. My taste-testers wrote “This is something I will get a craving for in the future. So great!” and “Awesome combo. Maybe need more salt or sharpness but this is one of those surprising flavor combos I’m glad I tried.” Those who liked bananas really liked the bananas. They were nice and creamy and had transformed from “hot banana” into something very tasty. Those who liked ham liked that too, especially the part that was above the cheese sauce, as it got crispy and brown. The part of the ham that was completely submerged in the sauce was not as good, since it never browned. The mustard flavor didn’t blend well with the ham & banana and was a touch assertive. The cheese sauce was a little bland.

If I were to make this again, I’d add some dry mustard to the cheese sauce (and salt & pepper), shred the ham and sprinkle it on top of the bananas, instead of wrapping it around. It doesn’t make for as nice, tidy, and midcentury a presentation, but it solves all the problems above while keeping the good parts.

I’m not surprised that the Buzzfeed version got low marks. To start I think they followed the recipe to the letter and used boiled ham and yellow mustard. Although their bananas cook at a higher temperature, it’s for half the time. They probably didn’t get creamy and slightly caramelized like mine did. Also, they were cooked without the sauce, just having been seasoned with lemon juice, which I think was totally unnecessary. I doubt the bananas were going to get oxidized in the short time from peel to pan. Perhaps the recipe was deliberately trying to amp the lemon flavor. Also, I think brushing the exposed banana bits with butter in my recipe improved the flavor and helped them brown.

Lastly, and most importantly, I think their hollandaise sauce was a loser from the get-go. Maybe it could have been okay with an actual freshly made hollandaise, but a mix was right out. I’m sure adding extra lemon juice to an already lemon-flavored sauce mix didn’t help. I’m not sure why the recipe creator thought ham, banana, and lemon was going to be delicious. I know hollandaise was pretty popular in the ’70s. I’m sure it was seen as more chic than a pedestrian cheese sauce.

It probably deserved the reviews of “It’s kind of like a banana split made a baby with a hot dog? Oh, it’s very sour!” and “Even the bits of banana that graciously don’t have slop on them have absorbed the scent of lemon and mustard in a very aggressive way.”

So don’t every try the 1973 version with hollandaise, but the 1950 version with cheese sauce is actually worth making.

banana rolls cooked
Here’s the original recipe, straight from Chiquita:

Ham Banana Rolls with Cheese Sauce
4 thin slices boiled ham
Prepared mustard
4 firm bananas (all yellow or slightly green-tipped)
1 1/2 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Cheese Sauce

Spread each slice of ham lightly with mustard.

Peel bananas. Wrap a slice of prepared ham around each banana. Brush tips of bananas with butter or margarine.

Place Ham Banana Rolls into a greased shallow baking dish, and pour Cheese Sauce over them. Bake in a moderate oven (350°F) 30 minutes, or until bananas are tender… easily pierced with a fork.

Serve hot with the Cheese Sauce from the baking dish.

Serves 4

Cheese Sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoon butter or margarine
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups grated sharp American cheese

Melt butter or margarine in saucepan; add flour and stir until smooth. Stir in milk slowly. Add cheese and cook, stirring constantly until sauce in smooth and thickened.
Makes about 1 cup sauce.

I’ll need to throw another party soon to try some of the other recipes.

M2

Published in: on 16 December 2015 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Olive-Cheese “Porcupine” (1963)

Dear Constant Reader,

Recently Eva (she played Blanche in The Wrathskellar) pointed me at a Buzzfeed article where the authors cooked and tasted some “vintage” recipes (ranging from 1955 to 1973) and found them disgusting. Knowing my love of the midcentury, Eva called on me to defend the honor of these maligned dishes. I’m going to do my best.

Since we were having a wrap party for The Wrathskellar, that seemed like a perfect opportunity to inflict serve some of these tempting treats. First up the Olive-Cheese “Porcupine”.

I’ve made cheese balls for parties before and I wasn’t quite sure how this could be bad, unless you used poor-quality cheese. Because the party was just cast and crew, I made a half-recipe. I probably could have made a quarter. It’s a generously sized cheese ball.


I gathered my ingredients: cream cheese, crumbled blue cheese, shredded sharp cheddar, onion (not pictured because I’m a dimwit), Worcestershire sauce, chopped walnuts, and parsley. The onion and parsley got chopped finely and the walnuts toasted (nuts are always better toasted). The cheese was allowed to come to room temperature. The recipe didn’t say how much parsley, so I added about a tablespoon. Everything was tossed in the mixing bowl and combined. I ended up smushing it together with my hands.


Then it was molded into a rough porcupine shape, wrapped in plastic (like Laura Palmer) and stuck in the fridge for a few hours.


Here’s the little darling in all his glory, sprinkled with paprika and adorned with olives. I used multicolored toothpicks for extra festivity and Spanish olives, as the recipe called for, and not those nasty black olives in a can like the Buzzfeeders.

My taste testers universally liked it and left comments like “tastes good”, “almost too cute to eat”, “stinky, but in a good way”, “so good!”, “de-lish”, and “Yummy! Would go well with almost anything – fruity, nutty, cheesy. What’s not to love?”

It was indeed tasty, if a bit bland, which I suspected was going to be the case, tasting most strongly of the blue cheese. If I were to make this again, I would stick with the ratio of cheeses, but up the quantities of the onion, Worcestershire sauce, and parsley. The walnuts were probably about right. Also, I might add a dash of Tabasco. The olives were only there because the recipe was trying to sell Imported Spanish Olives. I think they could be left off without any harm. Also, if it were a larger party, I think multiple small porcupines instead of one big one. It’s cuter.

What do I think of the report that started this all? Not much.

The description of the dish by the Buzzfeed people was “Underneath all those olives, it’s literally just cheese. Mostly blue cheese. Melted and molded lovingly by hand into an animal with a face.”

Well, it’s a cheese ball; of course it’s just cheese. Had they never encountered a cheese ball at a party before?

It’s not “mostly blue cheese”; blue is the least of the cheeses (1 part blue cheese to 2 parts cream cheese to 4 parts cheddar), although the most pungent of the three. I can see how this would not appeal if one didn’t like strongly-flavored moldy cheese. Most of the comments from their tasters bear this out: “Just a big ol’ fungus ball.” “I didn’t want to eat it because a) the smell…” “It’s fouler than foul: like a roadkill porcupine that has been roasting on hot tar for several hours.”

I’m also not sure why it says “melted”. The cheese should not be melted, just brought up to room temperature so everything can be combined, chilled to let the flavors mingle, and then brought up to room temperature before serving (most cheese should not be served cold). If they actually melted the cheese, I can see why the results would be unappealing

One person said: “How do you even ruin cheese?” How did they? This is a super-simple, if plainly flavored, cheese spread. My only guess is that none of them knows how to cook and that they used cheap crappy cheese. On a different dish they noted with pride that they used the cheapest imitation crab they could find instead of the shrimp the recipe called for.

I would consider Olive-Cheese “Porcupine” to be redeemed.

For those who want the recipe in easily readable form. This is as writ from the original:
Olive-Cheese “Porcupine”
4 oz. blue cheese
8 oz. cream cheese
1 lb. shredded sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Spanish Green Olives

Allow cheese to soften at room temperature. Mix with parsley, onion, Worcestershire sauce, nuts. On waxed paper form mixture into oval shape. Refrigerate 2 hours. Roll “porcupine” in paprika. Let stand at room temperature 1/2 hour before serving. Garnish with Spanish Green Olives on wooden picks for “quills”. Serve with crisp crackers.

Lest you think the Olive-Cheese “Porcupine” was invented by the Spanish Olive Council, here’s a cheese porcupine from 1964, made of cream cheese and butter, flavored with beer, decorated with breadcrumbs and pretzel sticks for quills.

I’ve got one more recipe that I made at the party to report on and I’ll be trying even more as soon as I can find an occasion and an audience.

M2

Published in: on 10 November 2015 at 2:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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