“Condo Cooking with Duncan Hines” — Our Adventures in Good Eating and in Good Cooking, part 3

Our Adventures in Good Eating and in Good Cooking
“Condo Cooking with Duncan Hines”
Part 3 in a series of 3
 (with recipes for Welsh Rabbit & Quick Brown Sugar Drop Cookies)

            During our month long stay in south Texas we certainly had our fair share of adventures in good eating as we sampled the local cuisine and that of some of our condo neighbors. But, our adventures also included some cooking adventures in our own condo kitchen.
            We knew our condo had the basics, but we prefer our own equipment and tools so that meant storage boxes packed full of pots, pans, cooking utensils, cookie sheets, bread pans, spices and the condiments.
OVERLOAD! Yes, we are guilty of overpacking, usually way too many clothes, but in this case, way too many pots, pans, knives, tools, you name it!
            As we planned our trip, I figured that while Barry played golf, it would be an ideal time for me to try out at least a few of the recipes I’ve pinning on Pinterest or that I have clipped from the internet. Then, when I received two cookbooks for Christmas that only added to my list of recipes to try.
             Adventures in Good Cooking” and “The Dessert Book” are both reprints of two of Duncan Hines’ original cookbooks, Christmas gifts from his great niece, Cora Jane Spiller of Bowling, Green, Kentucky.
            For those who are unaware—Duncan Hines is more than just a face on a box of cake mix, he was, indeed, a real person. A connoisseur of good food, he traversed the roads of the U.S. during a time when many travelers died of food poisoning especially at eating establishments along highways and in small towns. In an effort to avoid what Hines referred to as "dirty, greasy spoon" food he began jotting down the names of places to eat in a little “red” book. As he shared this list with fellow salesman and friends, his reputation grew and in 1936 he published his first of many restaurant guides, “Adventures in Good Eating.” Eventually he offered metal sinage – “Recommended by Duncan Hines” – that was available to those eating establishments that consistently earned high ratings.  
            Then in 1939 he put began asking restaurant owners to share recipes in order to satisfy the public’s demand for a Duncan Hines cookbook. Many of the recipes were first tested in his sister’s kitchen; all had to be approved before making it into the book which also contained some or his own recipes and some from family, friends and his dinner detectives (volunteers who gladly sent suggestions and checked that area restaurants were maintaining quality standards).     
            During our time in Texas, our cooking adventures were quite varied but mine did include some of the recipes from Duncan Hines’ cookbooks. Here’s a couple that I’d like to recommend:

Welsh Rabbit
Source: Mrs. Duncan Hines, Bowling Green, Kentucky
My Notes: When Hines was home he liked to dine on simple, everyday fare. As far as the origin of this recipe, it seems to date back to the 18th-century with variations coming out of England, Scotland and Ireland. Popular in taverns, one legend claims that Welsh peasants were not allowed to eat rabbits caught in hunts on the estates of the nobility so they used melted cheese as a substitute. Some more modern day references refer to this dish as “rarebit.” I have attempted to retype the recipe as it appears in “Adventures in Good Cooking,” however I have added a few notations along the way (they appear in parenthesis).

1 tablespoon butter
1 ½ tablespoons (all-purpose) flour
½ teaspoon cayenne (pepper)
½ teaspoon salt
2 lbs. sharp American cheese* (I used sharp Cheddar)
1 cup milk, sweet (sweet referring to not sour; I used whole)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1.  Melt butter in double boiler (I just used a sturdy pan set at medium heat).
2.  Mix dry ingredients together (flour, cayenne, salt) and add to melted butter. Stir.
3.  Cut cheese up into small pieces (I grated mine) and add gradually to above mixture until all cheese has been used as is beginning to melt.
4.  Heat milk slightly and add to above, stirring in thoroughly. (For ease, I heated the milk in the microwave on low.)
5.  Beat eggs together and add the Worcestershire to the eggs. Gradually stir this mixture into the above, and cook until smooth. (You can also temper the eggs first—add a little cheese sauce to the beaten eggs, stirring as the sauce is added.)

6.  Serve on think toast or crisp crackers.
The success of your rabbit, as a general rule, depends upon the quality of the cheese used. Poor quality cheese sometimes will make the rabbit stringy instead of smooth and creamy as it should be. Be sure to use a rich, well-aged cheese.

*Cheddar is a hard cheese, an English cheese, while we tend to think of American cheese as a smooth and creamy processed cheese (aka Velvetta®). So did Mrs. Hines use an American made Cheddar-style cheese or a cheese such as Velvetta? Because of the added note about using “a rich, well-aged cheese,” I’m assuming she used an American made Cheddar since there is no aging involved in the production of processed cheeses, and it is the traditional cheese for this dish.

Quick Brown Sugar Drop Cookies   Makes 7 dozen
Source: The Hearthstone, Winnetka, Illinois (as it appears the 1939 edition of “Adventures in Good Cooking” with the exception of my notes that appear in parenthesis.)
1 lb. butter (4 sticks; soften at room temperature)
2 cups (packed) brown sugar
2 egg yolks
3 ½ cups (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
(2 to 3 tablespoons milk or just enough to make the dough cohesive)
1 (to 2 ) cup(s) chopped nuts (it took about twice as many as the recipe called for; pecans were my nut of choice since pecan trees abound in Texas; we literally filled our pockets, picking up the excess on streets and sidewalks during our daily walks)

1.  Mix all ingredients, except for the nuts, together. (If the dough is dry, add some additional milk to make it cohesive.)
2.  Drop mixture from the end of a teaspoon into the nuts. (I scooped out some dough, rolled it in a ball and then rolled each ball in pecans; it would take less if just the top of the ball was dotted with pecans but we liked the excess.)
After rolling the dough into balls, I then rolled then in chopped pecans .
3.  Place on a baking sheet (it didn’t mention whether or not to grease the sheet but I did spray it and I left several inches between the cookies).
4.  Bake in (preheated) 400° to 450· F. oven for (8 to)10 minutes. (400° was plenty hot! Maybe ovens weren’t as hot in the 1930s!)

            And, speaking of recommendations, I highly recommend Louis Hatchett’s current reprints of Duncan Hines’ cookbooks plus his biography about the man whose name eventually became synonymous with cake mixes:

1.  “Adventures in Good Cooking” by Duncan Hines, edited by Louis Hatchett  (University Press of Kentucky, 2014) and “Adventures in Good Cooking and the Art of Carving in the Home by Duncan Hines, edited by Louis Hatchett (Mercer University Press, 2002)  —a collection of dishes that restaurant owners across the U.S. shared with Hines, beginning in 1939.
2.  “The Dessert Book” (University Press of Kentucky, 2014; Mercer University Press, 2002) – original printed in 1955, this cookbook is full of delicious sweet treats.
3.  “Duncan Hines: How a Traveling Salesman Became the Most Trusted Name in Food” by Louis Hatchett  (University Press of Kentucky, 2014) or his earlier edition: “Duncan Hines: The Man Behind the Cake Mix” by Louis Hatchett (Mercer University Press, 2001). Both books chronicle the life of a man whose love of good food led to his name becoming one of the most recognizable brand names on grocery shelves of America, and whose influence is paved the way for cleaning up the food service industry and was instrumental in creating today’s food safety and sanitation standards.

1st article in the series: 

“Independent Eating (and drinking) Establishments in South Texas— Our Adventures in Good Eating

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