Next to my computer keyboard, I have three pamphlet-style cookbooks. One is the 21st Edition of the Calumet Baking Powder Company’s “Reliable Recipes”. Today I learned that cookbook was published in 1922, and is a minor collectible. The second is a publication of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1950, called “Family Fare: Food Management and Recipes”. Both these I got from my mother; it’s likely that she got the Calumet cookbook from her mother.
The third is a Greek cookbook I bought sometime in the mid- to late 70’s, at a Greek Festival at the Greek Orthodox Church in Memphis. That one is where I got my recipe for moussaka, and there has never been a better recipe. I remember the first time I made it–I was a little shocked that there was cinnamon in the meat sauce, and even more shocked to find that it makes the dish. And I’m not even a fan of cinnamon. At Greek Fest here in Tallahassee, they don’t use cinnamon in their moussaka, because “most people don’t like it”. Wimps. It takes forever and a day to make it, but it’s worth it.
One of my favorite cookbooks ever was one called “Good, Cheap Food”, which I can’t seem to locate. It has my recipe for black beans and rice. Like the moussaka, it takes forever to make. First you soak the dried beans. Then you boil them for a couple of hours with spices. Then you combine them with a meat sauce and bake them for another couple of hours. As an aside, I always serve them with yellow rice. White rice reminds me of maggots.
I’ve saved the best for last. The Calumet cookbook has the recipe for bread pudding that I still use, with tweaks. I’m a fanatic about bread pudding. I loved it as a child, and was delighted to learn it’s one of the signature desserts in New Orleans. I tried it everywhere. The worst bread puddings are those that add things like raisins, and God forbid, fruit cocktail. Bread pudding should be plain, enhanced with a sauce. The best bread pudding I ever had was at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. They bake it in individual serving dishes, topped with meringue, and just before you eat it, the server pours warm whisky sauce on top.
Here is the bread pudding recipe, complete with tweaks.
1 small loaf stale bread, 1 quart milk, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 level teaspoons baking powder, 2 eggs well-beaten, 1/2 level teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup melted butter.
Remove soft part from loaf and grate on coarse grater. (No, no, no. Don’t do this, use French bread and keep it in small chunks, crust and all.) Scald milk, pour over bread. Let stand until cool. Beat eggs, add sugar, salt, and baking powder, mix well. Add to bread/milk mixture. Add vanilla and butter. Bake in a buttered baking dish 1 hour, in a slow oven (whatever that means. My guess is 250-300).
You’re on your own for the whisky sauce. You can use rum, but I prefer whisky.