Chili Stack (adapted from Sunset Cook Book, 1949)

Chili Stack is an out-of-the-ordinary savory pancake main dish with the flair of the American Southwest.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it before or since.  Adapted from the 1949 Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes, Chili Stack is  a meal of thin cornmeal pancakes and a smooth, spicy chili.  The pancakes and chili are……

Curry Spaghetti (Missouri, 1964, adapted)

Curry Spaghetti is one of those recipes that I made out of sheer curiosity.  It is exactly what it sounds like – spaghetti served with a curried tomato sauce – a combination that I had never seen in the wild and, to be honest, didn’t seem terribly appetizing.  The only thing I had to commend……

Mock-Steak Joubey (adapted from The Smart Shopper’s Cookbook, 1972)

Mock-Steak Joubey is one of the more entertaining recipes in The Smart Shopper’s Cookbook.  To some degree it captures the essence of the cookbook – making elegant meals with ground meat or inexpensive cuts – but very few of the recipes take that charge quite so literally.   Mock-Steak Joubey actually fashions a ground meat patty……

Chili Wheat (Oklahoma, 1978, adapted)

Let’s be honest – Chili Wheat is not a particularly appetizing name for a supper dish.  It sounds like it ought to be a snack food or some kind of hipster breakfast cereal.  Or maybe even a bad joke.  The truth is more mundane:  think Chili Mac but with wheat instead of macaroni.   To understand……

Bisquick Taco Pie (Indiana, 1992, adapted)

Bisquick Taco Pie is a nifty little weeknight casserole from a 1992 cookbook compiled by the Hebron Indiana Order of the Eastern Star.  I’m not sure whether Masonic traditions involve potlucks, but this is a brilliant old-school potluck dish. It’s a variant on a biscuit-topped shepherd’s pie, jazzed up with some Americanized Mexican flavors.  In……

Polish Porcupines (Indiana, 1984, adapted)

Nearly every church cookbook I own from the 1960s – 1980s has some form of recipes for “porcupines”.   They are usually little more than meatballs mixed with uncooked rice.  As they cook the meat contracts and the rice expands to form “quills” on the surface of the meatball – hence the porcupine.  Truth be told……

Meat Balls in Dill Sauce (Tennessee, 1978, adapted)

Meat Balls in Dill Sauce is a hearty meal unto itself, delivering a one-two-punch of meat and potatoes.  There are plenty of ground beef and condensed soup dishes out there, but the dill lends enough character to make this one feel almost fancy.  It pairs well with egg noodles, rice, or hot buttered rolls and a leafy green vegetable.

Hollywood Chicken (Ohio, 1960s)

A recurring theme in my older cookbooks is the role of ground beef as the “baseline” protein; a blank slate ingredient on which the rest of the dish is constructed.   I’ve waded through hundreds of casseroles that are some variant of ground beef and onion smothered in cream of chicken soup, and another hundred versions……

Chin-Chin-Charlie (Wisconsin, 1988, adapted)

Chin-Chin-Charlie is a meat-and-canned-soup casserole dressed up with traditionally Asian ingredients. This particular recipe comes to me by way of  A Book of Favorite Recipes, a 1988 community cookbook from a Catholic parish in Krakow, Wisconsin, but these sorts of “Chinese” recipes show up frequently in older cookbooks. Like the Tuna Cashew Casserole, a traditional……