As a sort of Julie & Julia-type project for Voracious, I took on the mighty recipes of the United Methodist Church of Urbana, Ohio. Every Tuesday, I whipped up one of the Midwestern classics and chronicled the cooking process, while offering up the recipe for you to give it a try at home. Having been brought up on mostly Persian cooking, I ventured into an entirely new genre of homemade cuisine.
After more than a month of testing out American homemade delicacies, it's my time to hand the United Methodist Church's Cherished Recipes cookbook to another willing experimenter. For my final cooking trial, I decided to be a bit overdramatic and cook a casserole.
From what I've seen (in movies, of course), this type of dish is traditionally cooked and presented to families dealing with a loss, usually the death of a loved one. Since I am cooking this during Memorial Day weekend, and it is so unceremoniously drizzly and cold, along with the fact that this will be my last cooking adventure for Voracious for now, I decided a casserole would suit the situation quite perfectly.
I may have eaten a casserole once or twice in my lifetime, and I think it was around Thanksgiving. But I wasn't really in the mood for anything too meaty or veggie-filled, so I went with a sweet potato casserole to serve as a sugary dinner side dish. There were a few to choose from, all under the same name, but I went with the one that looked the best to my inexperienced eyes.
--3 c. mashed sweet potatoes
--1 c. sugar
--1/2 c. milk
--1/2 stick margarine
--1/2 tsp. salt
--1 tsp. vanilla
--1 c. brown sugar
--1/2 c. flour
--1/2 c. margarine
--1 c. pecans
Mix all ingredients and pour into a casserole dish. Mix topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of sweet potatoes. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
I felt a bit spoiled with my other recipes when I started cooking this one. Again, I felt like there needed to be some footnotes or something to help explain some of the steps that may seem simple to many, but a tease for improvisation for those like me. Just the part about mixing the four topping ingredients together proved to be a daunting task, since I didn't know exactly how the butter was supposed to be mixed in and all I could assume about the desired final texture came from the word "sprinkle." These little mishaps proved again that this cookbook was probably created from a housewife for a housewife.
But lo and behold, the casserole came out steaming of sweet, enticing Midwestern perfection. The taste and the texture made it such a comforting dinner accompaniment, making me feel like I'm sitting under a down comforter watching a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic classic while enjoying my creation.
The crunchy top and sweet potato base counter each other almost as well as the entire dish counters a hearty main dinner entrée. And as a leftover, the casserole is easy to re-prep and enjoy. No wonder there's an entire section in Cherished Recipes for casseroles. I'd take one as solace for a loss any day.
It seems that with this final success, I could actually fake it well as an Urbana church-going, homemade meal-cooking housewife after all--just with some slips of profanity and piles of messes here and there.