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Going Fishing for a Tuna Casserole That Was a Popular Dish in the ‘50s

Times Staff Writer

Dear SOS: I recall, but can’t find, a recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies using egg whites and peanut butter. It may have been a My Best Recipe. It would be perfect for our cholesterol-free diet. Hope you can help.

--BARBARA

Dear Barbara: You are on target. It was a My Best Recipe back in 1969 and the recipe is a good one for a cholesterol-free diet.

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

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1 1/2 cups peanut butter

1 cup sugar

2 unbeaten egg whites

Combine peanut butter and sugar and blend well. Add egg whites and mix thoroughly. Roll into walnut-size balls and place on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with fork. Bake at 375 degrees 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from pan. Makes 3 dozen.

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Dear SOS: I am looking for a tuna casserole recipe that was popular in the 1950s. Everyone at the time was making it--noodles, potato chips, mushrooms . . . . I hope you can find it. My childhood memories have a taste for it.

--MIRIAM

Dear Miriam: You’re not the only one with ‘50s fever these days. Another reader requested the same, using a jar of pimiento cheese spread. Remember that? Here is a Tuna Casserole in one of its many variations used at the time that we hope will satisfy both of you and many others.

TUNA CASSEROLE

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4 ounces noodles

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

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1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup milk

1 (5-ounce) jar pimiento cheese

1 (6 1/2- or 7-ounce) can tuna

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1/4 cup chopped ripe olives

1 to 1 1/4 cups crushed potato chips or cornflakes

Cook noodles in boiling salted water until tender, then drain. Melt butter in saucepan. Add onion and celery and cook until tender, but not browned.

Add soup, milk and cheese and heat until cheese is melted, stirring occasionally. Stir in drained and flaked tuna and olives. Place noodles in 2-quart casserole. Add sauce and mix well. Sprinkle with potato chips. Bake at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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Dear SOS: Please send me a copy of Beggar’s Chicken published about two years ago.

--LINDA

Dear Linda: Here we are. This Chinese recipe, which appeared in a United Press International story in 1983, is a complicated one. But if you are game, why should we complain? The Oriental food products used in this recipe can be found at any Chinese grocery store or super market. The Chinese sausage, if used, also is available at many Chinese grocery stores. If not, use ham or other dry sausage. BEGGAR’S CHICKEN

1 (4-pound) chicken

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1/4 cup dry Sherry

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/2 cup glutinous rice or 1/3 cup long-grain rice

Dried lotus leaves or dried bamboo leaves, optional

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2 tablespoons dried black mushrooms

1 to 2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons minced Chinese sausage or ham

1 can Sichuan vegetables, chopped, or 1/4 cup sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained

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1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

2 tablespoons pitted chopped Chinese dates or raisins

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

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2 tablespoons shredded canned bamboo shoots

2 tablespoons drained canned lotus seeds, optional

Place chicken in plastic bag with Sherry and chopped green onions. Remove as much air as possible from bag, then fasten securely. Set bag in bowl and marinate overnight in refrigerator, turning occasionally.

Next day, if using glutinous rice, soak 3 hours in water to cover. Soak lotus leaves in warm water 1 hour or longer to soften. Soak dried mushrooms in warm water 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms by lifting from water with slotted spoon.

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Heat oil in deep saucepan and stir-fry ham, sausage, pickled vegetables seasoned with cayenne, dates, nuts and mushrooms briefly.

Drain glutinous rice, if using. Add rice and 1 1/4 cups chicken broth to stir-fried mixture. Bring to boil and cook, covered, until all water has been absorbed and rice is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, adding additional broth, if needed. Stir in bamboo shoots and lotus seeds. Set mixture aside to cool to room temperature.

About 3 hours before mealtime, set chicken, neck end down, in large bowl or pot. Stuff lightly with most of rice mixture. Sew opening shut or secure with skewers or wood picks and kitchen twine. Tie legs together and twist wings under.

Lightly stuff neck cavity, then fasten with lacing skewers or wood picks. If using leaves, pat dry and wrap around bird from side to side, tying each leaf with kitchen string. Wrap other leaves around lengthwise, then tie.

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Place in greased baking dish with tight-fitting cover. Add about 1/4 inch chicken broth or water and bake at 350 degrees on bottom rack of oven about 3 hours. When done, chicken should be so tender that flesh can be removed in bite-size pieces with chopsticks. If it is not at that stage after 3 hours, add more liquid to pan, if needed, and continue baking 30 minutes or longer. Remove string and skewers and let each diner serve self with chopsticks. Spoon stuffing onto plates. Makes about 4 servings.

Dear SOS: The caramelized apples served as dessert at Chinese restaurants are delicious. Any chance of getting the recipe?

--LESLIE

Dear Leslie: The recipe is fairly standard, so here is a slightly Americanized recipe from our files with a note that you must serve this dessert within an hour of cooling. You will notice that the dessert is made to order at Chinese restaurants. That’s because the glaze tends to liquefy upon standing. If you want to vary the fruit, try strawberries. APPLES IN CRYSTAL

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2 cups sugar

1 cup boiling water

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 to 3 tablespoons sesame seeds

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4 or 5 apples, cut into wedges

Ice water

Combine sugar, boiling water and cream of tartar in 1-quart heavy saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat and boil, without stirring, until syrup registers 300 degrees on candy thermometer, or until syrup just begins to turn light caramel color. Turn heat off and stir in sesame seeds.

Working quickly, dip apple wedges, which have been speared on forks or skewers, in syrup, then dip quickly in ice water to crystallize. Apple wedges should be dipped 1 at a time. If syrup becomes too thick, heat until thin enough for dipping.

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Apples should be served at once after cooling and never longer than 1 hour after they are glazed. Serve as dessert. Makes 8 to 10 servings.


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