I have a friend who has a marked difference in level of taste with her adopted family (in laws). These folks are perfectly nice, lovely people who simply have a different expectation about holiday events. This person, whom we shall call Sarah, like many of us, have the idea that holiday meals are special and require attention to detail. Maybe not Martha Stewart attention to detail, but something more special than dinner on a busy Tuesday night when the kids have practice after school and the husband is running late after having the oil changed in the cars and you had to squeeze in a dentist appointment between your 10am meeting with your best client and a status meeting with your boss. Darn, I need a nap after that imaginary day.
Sarah has no issue with the members of her new family. She celebrates their life victories and shares her genuine sorrow when things like death or illness occurs. She is a good person and sees that they are good people. However, their idea of a “good time” for the holidays is a massive pot luck where everyone is asked to bring a dish (hot or cold) to feed everyone with enough for leftovers. Her experience has been family gatherings with a savory turkey, or prime rib and flavorful sides with discernable vegetables, hand crafted desserts and nice wine. A large table filled with dish after dish of “whatever feeds 30” does not scream holiday extravaganza to her (or to me for that matter.)
I am an evil friend and when she vented that the idea of whipping up a hot dish for 20 with enough for leftovers made her stomach churn I started a quest looking for 1950's casserole recipes that she could bring. Here are a few that I have found:
Beans & Meatball Casserole
1 lb. ground beef
2/3 c. soft bread crumbs
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 c. sliced onions
1/8 Tbsp. catsup
1/2 c. evaporated milk
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. shortening
1 lb. can baked beans (2 cups, if homemade)
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
Mix ground beef, evaporated milk, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Wet hands and shape into 16 balls. Brown in skillet in 1 tablespoon shortening with onions. Cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes. Add mixture of baked beans, 1/8 teaspoon salt, catsup and dry mustard. Cover and heat on top of stove.
Casserole - Ham Roll Ups
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup cracker crumbs
6 slices boiled ham
3/4 cups pineapple juice
Fill slices of ham with mixture and roll up. Place in casserole, pour pineapple juice over all. Bake 350 for 20 minutes.
2 Tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tall can of milk
4 cups diced potatoes
1/2 pound frankfurters, sliced in thin rings
3 tablespoons buttered bread crumbs
Melt butter, blend in flour, salt and pepper. Stir in milk, stirring constantly in sauce - thickens and boils for 1 minute. Add potatoes and franks, heat to boiling. Transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle with crumbs. Broil quickly to brown.
I also recommended that if she didn’t want to double or triple these recipes to feed the masses then she could serve the traditional Oyster recipe that Rico’s mom brings to all events. It contains whole oysters, saltine crackers in some mystery cream sauce. (I’ve talked about this before – they look a lot like the genitals of women) . It is a small dish, but most people see it on the table, gag and then move on to a more appealing looking dish. Thus you have an easy to make, simple to transport dish that “serves 20 with guaranteed leftovers.”
Part of my coercion was to explain how much fun she could have by sitting back and seeing if people were confused, repulsed or excited by the mystery 1950’s casserole dish she brought. The danger is that the dish might be a complete hit and she will forever be hounded to bring Frankfurter Casserole to every group event from now until the time that the entire family keels over from heart disease.
Self Disclosure: I am a fan of hearty and easy food. I have been known (in the last week) to whip up a Tater Tot Casserole to feed my people – but in no way do I think of it as special or holiday worthy.
To be truthful Sarah will likely knock herself out and cook something fabulous and savory for the event. It will be delicious and probably not appreciated by 70% if the attendees. However, there will be pockets of family members that will be scanning the table of potato based dishes and jello salads and their eyes will land on her dish and they will think to themselves “oh, thank God for Sarah!” They will fill their plate with her dish and be thankful that the others skipped over it in favor of the taco pizza. She will have to endure comments like "Who brought this strange Butternut Squash Stuffing?" but she'll know in her heart that it was good - REALLY good. Heck, maybe she'll bring it my house.