Welcome to another fun episode of the Mid-Century Menu. This week we picked a recipe from The Day Before Cookbook, which was published in 1968. We picked this recipe because, well, it looked pretty weird.
Not to say the whole book was weird. The cookbook is based on a good premise. Cook your dinner party the day before and have more time to spend with your guests when they arrive. Sounds like a good plan, right?
It is. If the food is good. But, since this is the MCMenu, the chances of the food actually being good are slim to none.
On the positive side, the cookbook has detailed directions for every recipe and I like how all the cooking equipment you will need is listed in the end of the recipe. But there are a few things that are a little fishy about the book right off the bat. The first is the blurb on the front flap, which tells the story about how the author made a fool out of herself at one of her dinner parties by talking smack about a cookbook that was written by the sister of one of her guests. Somehow, that was what caused her to write this cookbook. I never quiet understood how those two things came together to be a coherent story.
Another thing is the number of recipes in this book that use alcohol. There were over 40 that I counted while I was just flipping through the book. And not just a little bit of alcohol, either, but cups of it. I am not sure if that differs from a normal cookbook significantly, but that may explain the little “story” on the front flap pretty well.
Oh, and then there was this recipe.
Yeah, that’s right. 5 cups of water. 5!!!! I know the spaghetti is uncooked, but come on. I think someone was drinking a little too much of the cooking sherry when they came up with this one.
Artistically photographed recipe! (Which doesn’t make the recipe any better, but at least it looks pretty.)
You know, slighty off topic, for some odd, indefinable reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, making this recipe reminded me about how much I hate overcooked pasta.
My loathing of gooey pasta started young.
I remember when I was a kid, I used to love Kraft Mac & Cheese Dinner. (Don’t hate, okay? It is what it is.)
And Mom would make it for me, but I always had to watch her like a hawk because she would let it the macaroni cook for the recommended time on the box. Which was great except for the fact that the amount of time recommended on the box was clearly too much cooking time.
I mean, really. 7-10 minutes?? You have to be joking. If you leave it that long it gets all gluey. You have to drain the noodles at exactly 5 mins, otherwise when you add them back to the pot to mix it with the cheese sauce the noodles are too mushy. And then you get a broken apart and nasty mess instead of a neon-orange bowl of deliciousness.
By the way, this is what happens when you add 5 cups of water to a sauce.
You get soup.
So, I normally apply the Kraft Mac & Cheese principle to most directions (this translates to checking noodles for done-ness two or three minutes before directions say too), but this casserole bypassed my principle entirely with a clever ploy that involved not cooking the noodles at all. Therefore ensuring that they will NEVER be soggy and mushy.
This was also a new ploy. Adding a sauce so runny that ladling it was actually a waste of energy.
Dumping it was much more effective.
First layer of pasta, sucessfully ruined.
This part is where I turned to Tom and said, “I don’t care how much uncooked pasta is in here. This is waaaaaay too much water.”
And he replied, “That smells really good. Can’t we just bake it now and eat it tonight?”
And I said, “This is never going to work.”
See how well we listen to each other?
But, sadly, Tom didn’t get to eat it that night. We have to follow the directions, here. It’s the MCMenu rules.
So it spent the night nestled in the fridge with Tom roaming around, opening the fridge door every few hours to stare at it while he complained about the leftovers we had for dinner.
The next day the pasta had soaked up a lot of the water, but there was still enough around it to make it look runny.
It’s trip to the oven didn’t get rid of the water, either. But at least it came out looking good.
And it smelled good. At this point, Tom’s excitement was at fever pitch. I was actually starting to think I might be wrong, and this might work after all.
And here it is plated.
At this point, things took a turn.
By now, most of you guys will have noticed that 1) The spaghetti doesn’t look right, 2) It is still really watery (I served it with a slotted spoon), and 3) The spaghetti doesn’t look right AT ALL.
But Tom wasn’t scared. He was excited. All he could think about was how good it smelled the day before. So he dug in without hesitation.
Tom mugging for the camera, because it tasted awful.
Tom’s actual expression of disgust and disappointment, because it really did taste awful.
The Verdict: Gross. I was right to be worried about the amount of water in the sauce. Because it didn’t work. At. All. The spaghetti noodles became a soggy mess that basically just dissolved in your mouth. It was disgusting. I couldn’t even choke down my plateful. On top of that, the resulting dish was still watery. So pretty much a disaster all around. Tom ate his portion, ate some of the meat out of the HUGE casserole dish full of this stuff, and after that it was pretty much over.
This dish has the distinction of being one of few Mid-Century Menus that were not eaten as leftovers! The rest of it hit the trash!
But at least you learned the right way to make Kraft Dinner. Only 5 minutes for the Mac & Cheese noodles! I’m serious, here!