Saturday, August 2, 2008

Casserole Cookery: One-Dish Meals For The Busy Gourmet; Stuffed Eggs Au Gratin

You spoke, I listened; this week, we'll look at Casserole Cookery: One-Dish Meals For The Busy Gourmet, by Marian & Nino Tracy. First published in 1941, revised in 1946, and coming to my shelf in a 1949 edition. I'll go into the funky pride it takes in its binding in a later post, because, it's just that much fun. But first, let's look at how things change due to war:
A Note for the 1946 Edition

This book was first compiled in the happy days when the only shortages were due to a lack of money or inaccessibility to good markets, and a casserole for four using a pound and a half of meat was called a "meat-stretcher." We all have learned to readjust many such ideas as that about food. Recipes for casserole cooking are pleasantly flexible and the proportions of the major ingredients may be varied according to what is available. Less meat may be used, with more potatoes, rice, and green vegetables added to make more bulk.

If you use fresh foods instead of canned or frozen foods, more time and more liquid must be allowed unless the food has been parboiled. The list of equivalents below will be helpful on this. Solid or liquid fats may be used interchangeably in cooking but never in French dressing. Seasonings are more important than ever in giving zip to an otherwise restricted diet.

Aaaah, rationing. It ended in the U.S. in 1946, but clearly, after the book went to press.

The cooking magazine, Saveur, has named Casserole Cookery one of its favorite casserole cookbooks:
The chatty royals of the casserole kingdom acknowledge their own laziness and offer 150 no-fuss recipes for like-minded home cooks.
Chatty they are. Nearly every recipe has not only a suggested menu to accompany the casserole, but also a story which may or may not have anything to do with the recipe in question. For this week, I've mostly tried to stay clear of the veal and offal recipes, though there's a lot to learn there, so one or two might sneak in. Today, though, we'll start easy (and use up any of the remaining eggs you have on hand from The Pooh Cook Book):
Stuffed Eggs Au Gratin

Time: 45 min.

6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar
olive oil, enough to make a smooth paste
(anchovies or anchovy paste, Smithfield ham, capers may be used in the stuffing)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon basil
grated cheese
salt and pepper

Hardboil the eggs. Peel and halve them. Remove yolks to bowl and mix with mustard, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever else you care to use. Stuff mixture into halves of whites. Place in bottom of shallow buttered casserole. Make a cream sauce with butter, flour, and milk, and pour over the eggs. Sprinkle top with grated cheese. Bake in oven at 350° for 10 minutes. Serves 4.

Stuffed eggs au gratin
Raw vegetable salad (carrots, cauliflower, onion, green and sweet red pepper, all chopped) and French dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part garlic vinegar, salt and pepper)
Melba toast

The "whatever else you care to use" may make you wonder why you paid for this book, but the real point is that the casserole lends itself to many individual tastes.

Yes, it assumes you know how to make a cream sauce. If you don't know how to make a cream sauce, shout out, and I'll do a how-to.

There's a few lines for "cook's comments" on each page, so you can add, subtract, or alter as you see fit.

I find the use of the term "French dressing" interesting here; clearly, it doesn't mean the gloppy red sweet dressing you can buy by that name in the grocery store today. All of a sudden, the pickled peach liquid in French dressing mention back in The Savannah Cook Book makes a lot more sense.

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