Tuna-Mushroom Scallop

Posted on Sep 9 2009 - 10:12am by RetroRuth

Spry001Welcome to this week’s Mid-Century Menu, the “fun” feature on the blog in which I get to pick a recipe from my collection of vintage cookbooks, make it, and then feed it to my husband for dinner.  Poor Tom!

And this week it really is poor Tom, because I am cooking out of a Spry cookbook.  This particular Spry book was published in 1949, and I think is one of their earlier cookbooks. Now, I am not sure if you guys are familar with Spry cookbooks, but Spry was a vegtable shortening product, similar to Crisco, and the spokeswoman for Spry was “Aunt Jenny“, the universal older aunt who looked like your grandma and had never had any children of her own, so she could spend time baking you 15 kinds of cookies and cakes.  I had one of those aunts. Everyone has one of those aunts, which makes Aunt Jenny believable and comforting. 

To a point.

Now, Aunt Jenny hosted a radio show and had her own line of cookbooks promoting Spry to housewives everywhere, and was a memorable and successful spokeswoman.  She is also incredibly scary. She is really excited about Spry, and not afraid to show it.  Even if we are afraid to look.  She also is famous for lines like, “With Spry, we can afford to have cake oftener!” and “Start enjoying fried foods today!”

For example, here is Aunt Jenny showing “Bride” (who apparently doesn’t deserve a name, even though her husband gets one) the secret to “Cake Success” using the Spry method.



Scary, isn’t it?  At least Jack’s boss is impressed with Nameless-Wife’s cake.  Whew. What a relief.

Aaaanyway, there are also other recipes in the Spry book that aren’t cake but still have a ton of Spry in them. Fried chicken seems to be #1 in the cookbook, but didn’t seem crazy enough for the Menu.  Then I stumbled upon this little beauty:


It looks like a version of tuna noodle casserole, except instead of noodles you just use potato chips.

What? What!?!?! 

And did you know that three cups of crushed potato chips is almost an entire large bag of chips?

You had better believe I found a winner!

Oh, and I also made one of those crazy Spry cakes to round out the menu. I mean, I had to, right?

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The assembled ingredients. Check out the bowl of crushed chips. Yipe!

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Four tablespoons of vegetable shortening, melting in the pan.  I have never made a white sauce with shortening before, and I had no idea how it was going to taste.

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The flour, added to the pan.  As a side note, the flour immediately started frying as soon as I added it. Yum.

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Adding the milk/mushroom liquid mixture.  As a side note, this is the second time I have used the liquid from canned mushrooms in the Mid-Century Menu, which is strange because before that, I don’t think I had EVER used it!

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Here is the nice, smooth white sauce without a single lump. Huzzah! Also, the parsley and grated onion.

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Now, the layering begins. A cup of crushed potato chips is spread on the bottom of a dish. So many, many chips.

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The tuna and the canned mushrooms go down.  Yes, there are some fresh mushrooms in there.  I had them in the fridge and I wanted to use them up, so I thought I would throw them in there.

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Pouring white sauce over the whole thing. Oh Lord.

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The casserole, all layered ending with the potato chips.  I tried to get a shot of the layered look, but I don’t think it was distinct enough for the camera to capture it.

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And here it is!  Fresh from its 35 minute stay in the oven.  I took the cover off for the last 5 minutes so the chips on top could brown a little. I am not sure if it made a difference, but I tried!

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Here is the table, ready for dining. Tuna-Mushroom Scallop, fresh beans, rolls, milk and a Chocolate-Mallow Cake!

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Taking the first bite…and….

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It’s good!!!

“Really?” I asked, “Is it really good?”

“Well, it tastes like a pile of potato chips with tuna on it.  I love potato chips!”

I took a bite.  Ugh. It was so, so, so salty.  He was right, it tasted like potato chips with tuna on it.  The white sauce made everything kinda gooey, and didn’t really add much flavor.  It mostly tasted like canned mushrooms.

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But when we were almost done, I noticed a change in how Tom was eating.

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“I can’t eat any more of this.  Blah.”

The chips had finally gotten to him. Finally.

The verdict:

Tuna-Mushroom Scallop: Strangely good, but not by any means healthy.  Like eating a giant pile of potato chips with sauce slathered over them.

Mallow-Nut Fudge Cake:  A little dry, but still pretty good.  The fudge frosting was interesting, but just ended up tasting like fudge. The cake could have used some real icing. The whole thing was very, very sweet!


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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit in...to the 50's. I have a passion for vintage recipes and an enormous vintage cookbook collection that I keep testing, even though by now I should know better. Creator of Mid-Century Menu (www.midcenturymenu.com), No Pattern Required (www.nopatternrequired.com), and I Ate The 80's (www.iatethe80s.com).

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13 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Retro ReDesign September 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Lol… I think my husband would have had the same reaction! He gets to try out all my crazy recipes too!

  2. Sara in AZ September 9, 2009 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Holy bleeeeeep!!! Almost a whole bag of chips!!!!! That is so….so…weird! You are right, it is like a tuna casserole but without the noodles. This is like the most insane recipe ever, chips and white sauce with mushrooms??? Who wuuda thunk it! You picked a GREAT one this time Ruth. Ok, now what I want to know is how did all the women of the 50s stay so very, very thin with recipes like this??? Please, when you figure it out let me in on the secret!

    PS – I love that last pic of Tom, but he does look a little bleak. 😉

  3. Alex September 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Sara, I don’t think they ate. Between serving everyone at the dinner table, sipping martinis on the fly, and smoking lots of cigarettes, I bet they didn’t eat much. 😉

    That cake is beautiful!

  4. Sara in AZ September 9, 2009 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Alex – I’ll bet you are right, the old cigarette and martini diet, it works every time! Too funny girl!

  5. Maggie September 9, 2009 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Jeez, I’m getting thirsty just looking at the pictures!

    Ever since I started reading your Mid-Century Menus, I’ve been trying to find a recipe I cut out of a 1954 Better Homes & Gardens so I could scan and send it to you. It was for a “Crown Roast of Frankfurters” — yes, a circle of sliced hot dogs arranged vertically to resemble a Crown Roast of Pork (standing rib roast). After I gave up searching for it, I just Googled the phrase and lo and behold — 3,540 links to that exact recipe, some with cabbage-stuffed centers, some with baked beans. And all stupefyingly weird.

    A photo of one on Flickr:

    And even, heaven help us, a version in a ’50s-era cookbook from the Culinary Institute of America!

  6. Maggie September 9, 2009 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Ooops, my mistake: that book’s from the Culinary Arts Institute, NOT the Culinary Institute of America. But still….

  7. RetroRuth September 9, 2009 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Tell me about it, Sara! That cake had so much sugar in it, you wouldn’t believe it. At least three cups of granulated sugar. On top of that, a bag of chips for dinner. Maybe they needed so much sugar and salt because they were all smoking?? 🙂

    Thanks, Alex! It was by far the easiest cake I have ever decorated. The marshmellows in between the layers was inspired. I know what you mean about the smoking/drinking. After making that casserole, I needed a martini… 🙂

    Holy flaming…that is really something, Maggie! I wonder how the heck you get hot dogs to tie together like that?? Hmmm….if you want to make this and do Mid-Century Menu guest post go right ahead! Ha ha, that looks worse than this potato chip nightmare! I will have to put this on the “to make” list….

  8. Sara in AZ September 9, 2009 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Wow Maggie, that ‘Crown Roast of Frankfurters’ sure is something! Thanks for sharing. Kinda funny that the Flickr link recipe pic is for Weight Watchers, I would not picture something like that for Weight Watchers! Maybe they just all looked at the ‘Crown Roast of Frankfurters’ while drinking martinis! 🙂

    Ruth you should so totally make this!!!!!!

  9. sablemable September 9, 2009 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    Holy Tuna Casserole! I have that same cookbook, Ruth.

    Since Spry no longer exists, did you use Crisco?

    LOL, Alex with the cigarettes and martinis!!!!! I’m beginning to believe that the cooks in these test kitchens were smoking something more than regular tobacco to come up with these meals!

  10. Sara in AZ September 9, 2009 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    I think you are right on the whole ‘smoking something else’ thing Sable! 🙂

  11. Amy September 10, 2009 at 12:22 am - Reply

    lol your husband is really brave, mine would’ve looked at me like I was nuts lol. But at least the cake looks good.

  12. RetroRuth September 10, 2009 at 9:47 am - Reply

    Hi Sable! I used some shortening by Spectrum that I keep on hand for baking. Not sure if it was the right kind, but it ended up sort of ok! With all the chips I don’t think you could really taste a difference. And I agree with you about the smoking.

    Hi Amy – Yep, Tom gets excited about eating things no one else would eat. 🙂

  13. Mary-Frances Main September 13, 2009 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    First! LOVE the sale in the other post – wow, great stuff.
    Second, YOU GUYS CRACK ME UP! ha ha. I”m sure it was tasty like the tasty you get when you eat through the cupboard when your parents aren’t home. Did he have a tummy ache?

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