Local Cookbooks

Every so often, I refer to some local cookbooks I’ve inherited for inspiration.  The Southern ones invariably use lots of butter, heavy cream, etc., unless they’re for BBQ, or something deep-fried.  The Midwest ones typically use ground beef, some sort of pasta or rice, and lots of canned goods, often with things like prepackaged taco spice mix.

Tonight, I’m trying out one from the Stevens County Cookbook.  Stevens County is in western Minnesota.  It’s for something called Big Catch Casserole.  It doesn’t involve a can of creamed corn or creamed spinach (which I never buy), but it does call for canned salmon.  I don’t have any.  As much as I love salmon, canned is disgusting.  I suppose I could have substituted canned tuna, but I have a side of salmon that I had bought fresh, then cut into thirds and froze.  One of those ought to be roughly the same as “a large can of salmon, drained, and boned.”  Salmon thaws quickly, and it only takes about 20 minutes to bake in a medium oven.  Then, when it cools, I can easily flake it.  I do have some tins of canned soup, which I never consume as soup, but are such a common ingredient in these casseroles, that I keep a few on hand.

There’s a problem with this recipe, though, which is very common in these ones that are contributed by women who are not professional chefs.  The directions at the end tell me to mix in the onion?  What onion?  That’s not on the ingredients list.  What size onion?  Sautéed first, or raw?  I’m going to go with a medium sized one, sautéed.  It also calls for “salad dressing.”  It’s possible the author meant Miracle Whip or its equivalent, but I’m going to use mayonnaise.  If she had meant sour cream, she would have said so.

I’ve made enough of these recipes, not necessarily following the directions exactly, to make a good guess what the author meant, or choose an appropriate substitute, and if I get it wrong, it still comes out pretty tasty.

It’s obvious that so many of these recipes were created back in the days when fresh produce was only seasonally available, not everyone had a refrigerator/freezer, and it was a real time saver to open a can of cream of something soup than make it from scratch.  The “newer” recipes call for a lot of frozen stuff — spinach, broccoli, etc.  I’ll buy it fresh and cook it myself, rather than use frozen, with the exception of peas and corn kernels, which freeze beautifully, and are some of the few veggies that we can’t get fresh off season.  Carrots also freeze well, but they’re available fresh all year, and they’re inexpensive.

We’ll see how this particular casserole turns out.  It sounds a lot more appealing than your average ground beef and macaroni with a “packet of taco seasoning” hot dish slop that kids would love.

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