It’s called the The Casserole Cookbook (© 1952). My mother-in-law Irene cut her culinary teeth on that book, learning to cook by following its simple, easy to use recipes and menus. Looks like she picked a good teacher – over half a century later, it’s listed by Saveur as one of its favorite cookbooks.
Over the years, the recipes in The Casserole Cookbook became Mr TBTAM’s family’s standards. Recipes like Shephard’s Pie, Pastistio, Veal Marenga (Irene substituted chicken livers in that one), Onion Soup, Meatballs Stockholm, Charleston Shrimp and Rice Pie, In a Hurry Baked Salmon (silly name, apparently delicious), Creamy Macaroni au Gratin (that’s Mac and Cheese to you and me), Spare Ribs, and the delicious soup I tasted last weekend – Corn Chowder.
I can’t say that I married Mr TBTAM for his mother’s cooking, but it sure sweetened the deal. And even though I have had 22 year’s worth of Irene’s cooking, I have never quite gotten over the envy I feel when I imagine the meals I missed by not growing up in that family. I don’t blame my Mom, who had to get dinner on the table every night for 9 kids, but let’s just say that Hamburger Helper was one of our family standards…
A few years ago, Mr TBTAM’s sister Nancy somehow convinced Irene to give her the Casserole Cookbook, and she’s been hoarding it ever since. If the condition of the book is any evidence, I’d say she’s been using it almost as much as Irene did. The paper cover is gone, as is the frontispiece and much of the introduction.
But who cares? What’s left is pure gold – recipe after recipe of tried and true standards, all easy to make and all delicious. Many, of course, have been tweaked and updated by Irene, and her handwritten additions and modifications make Nancy’s edition priceless.
We’ve been talking for years about how to get the recipes to all of us, but no one seems to have the time to type them all up. But today, I checked the web and there are 7 copies of the book out there – 6 on Alibris and 1 on E-Bay. Enough for Irene, myself and Mr TBTAM’s sisters, with a few leftover for my family. Now I just have to borrow Nancy’s copy so I can add in Irene’s modifications.
You see, some parents want their kids to have the education they missed, or the house they could never afford, or the freedoms they never had.
I’m just making sure my kids don’t miss out on the food.
Southern Corn Chowder (from the Casserole Cookbook)
Nancy made this in a cast iron stock pot, and it was delicious! It’s a great way to use frozen leftover corn. Of just buy frozen corn and cook it before using. If you don’t want to use the pimento, use red instead of green peppers. Add a diced carrot for even more color.
1/4 lb salt pork (It’s healthier these days to use olive oil)
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp chopped green pepper
2 medium potatoes, cut into cubes
3/4 cup diced celery
1 1/2 cups boiling water (I like to use chicken stock)
1 cup whole-kernel corn, cooked
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper
1 cup undiluted evaporated milk, hot
2 tsp butter
2 tsp flour
1 tbsp chopped pimento
Cut pork into small pieces and fry slowly until crisp in a 3 quart Paris-style casserole (I have no idea what this is – ?La Creuset) Add onion and green pepper and cook 5 minutes. Add potatoes, celery and boiling water or stock. Cover and simmer slowly until the potatoes are tender. Add corn, seasoning and evaporated milk.
Melt butter in a small pan and blend in flour. Gradually stir into the chowder, stirring and cooking slowly until thickened. Garnish with chopped pimento. Serves 4.