I’m going totally retro this week. I had a flashback to the 1960s, when my grandmother would ask the family over for dinner and serve some kind of casserole that had sliced hot dogs in it — in a silver chafing dish. The only other recipe in her repertoire I recall was really dry, tasteless meatloaf that kind of scared me because it had, of all things, olives in it.
My mother was appalled (she put on a good face) by the idea that her mother-in-law would fix hot dogs for dinner, especially since we were rarely invited over. She thought of them as lunch food. We kids devoured the casserole, but what did we know? We loved franks, in any form. I remember eating them raw, carrying one around in my hand while playing outside.
On the other hand, the meatloaf we did our best to get down. Thank goodness for gravy — and mashed potatoes. That’s where I hid the olives I picked out.
I know my mother’s bit of snobbery was the result of her mother being a dynamic cook, who could take very little (they didn’t have much money back then) and stretch it into something delicious and filling. My grandmother with the silver and linens had money, but that didn’t help her cooking skills (or her menu choices).
So, comfort food done right has been on my mind. I came across a ’60s recipe for corn chowder with hot dogs in it! Bill Daley, a food writer for the Chicago Tribune, said you can gussy it up with a more grown-up sausage, but like him, I vote for franks.
The second recipe, for meatloaf, is a bit of a makeover for the cheese-stuffed variety popular in that era. Instead of Cheddar inside and on top, provolone is used. I’m pretty sure you can use any good melty cheese, though, such as mozzarella.
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Corn chowder with franks
1 large potato
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cups water
1 cup corn kernels
1 can (14 3 / 4 ounces) creamed corn
1 can (12 ounces) unsweetened evaporated milk
4 hot dogs, thinly sliced
Heat potato, onion, water, corn, creamed corn, and unsweetened evaporated milk to a gentle simmer in a large saucepan. Cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Add hot dogs; cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter; season with salt, if desired. Makes 6 servings.
Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune
Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf
3/4 cup cracker crumbs
1 can (18 ounces) French onion soup
1 1/2 pounds extra-lean (at least 93 percent) ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 slices (1 1/2 ounces each) provolone cheese
Hot cooked mashed potatoes, if desired
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, stir cracker crumbs and 1 cup of the soup until well mixed; let stand 10 minutes.
2. Add beef, salt, thyme, pepper and egg to cracker-crumb mixture until well mixed.
Spread half of beef mixture into an ungreased 8-by-4- or 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
Cut 3 slices of the cheese into 1/2-inch strips. Arrange strips in center of loaf to within 1/2-inch of sides and ends of pan. Top with remaining beef mixture covering completely to sides of pan.
3. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is in center of loaf. Bake uncovered 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until beef is no longer pink in center and thermometer reads 160 degrees.
Arrange remaining cheese slices, overlapping, on top of meatloaf. Top cheese with 1/4 cup of the remaining soup (making sure to get onion pieces). Bake an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes; remove from pan. Heat remaining soup until hot, serve with meatloaf and potatoes.
Makes 6 servings, each with 380 calories, 22 grams fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 1,160 mg sodium, 10 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams protein. Exchanges:1/2 starch, 4 very lean meat, 1 high-fat meat, 2 1/2 fat, Carbohydrate choice: 1/2.