Aunt Mary’s Breakfast Casserole

EMELYN HEADSHOT 1

I’m very, very excited to welcome my guest today. Emelyn Rude is a food writer and culinary historian. Her first book, Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America’s Favorite Bird, was published last year by Pegasus Books. Tastes has been written up in Nature, the scientific journal, and has received great reviews from The Boston Globe and Kirkus, as well as mentions in The New York Times and on NPR.

While remarkable that Emelyn has already published a book, I actually came to know her name when Mayuk Sen of Food 52 wrote an article about a Kickstarter campaign started by a woman trying to fund a magazine focused on food history. Obviously right up my alley, I wanted to find out more about the magazine, and Emelyn herself.

First of all, I was very interested in how and why Emelyn got interested in food writing in the first place. “My career in food writing started when I took a class in college called ‘The History of Dietetics,'” she said, “which was essentially the history of what people did to be healthy. I think my first paper was an exploration of how the phrase “You are what you eat” changed throughout history, and I was hooked. How I got into more popular food writing was more of a pragmatic thing. After I graduated from college, I started working for restaurant groups and was barely scraping by. I noticed a job posting by VICE saying they were looking for freelance food writers, so I pitched a story and they took me on. The rest of the writing gigs grew from there.” Amazing.

This, of course, led me to ask why exactly she wanted to write a book about the history of eating chicken specifically. She told me, “The subject was actually the topic of my senior thesis, which was inspired both by that class on the history of dietetics and by the fact that I have never been a fan of eating chicken. (Ironic, I know!) I must say that the only thing more entertaining than chickens are people interacting with chickens, so it’s an oddly fascinating subject.”

Her love of food history and writing eventually led her to the idea of a food history magazine. Originally called “Repast,” Emelyn had to change the title because the same name was already used for a magazine published by the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor. “EATEN is a food history magazine intended for a popular audience. I personally love food history and really enjoy researching and writing articles in the field, but I noticed a certain divide in how food publications deal with culinary history. These kind of pieces either get highly academic in food studies journals or become kind of shallow for more popular mainstream glossies. But these stories are interesting and important, so I wanted to create a popular platform on which to share them. A few emails and a Kickstarter later, EATEN was born!”

Emelyn explained to me that the plan is for each volume of the magazine to have a theme. “EATEN Volume 1 is themed ‘The Food of the Gods.’ I am super excited about some of the articles we have lined up for this. Scholar Ken Albala wrote a very entertaining piece entitled ‘What Did Jesus Eat?’, butter historian Elain Khosrova wrote something on the ancient rite of Tibetan butter carving, a wonderful young woman in France named Alice Spasaro interviewed Trappist monks reviving ancient beer brewing traditions. Some exciting things!” When I asked Emelyn how she was able to get such talent to participate in the magazine, she said that she did the same thing I did to get her–she shot them an email. Sometimes it’s best just to ask!

I was so pleased when I reached out to Emelyn and she said she’d be happy to participate in a post and while we were chatting on the phone, Emelyn was already brainstorming a possible recipe that we could use. “My family doesn’t have too many recipes that we share and pass on. My mother is not a big cook and I don’t think my grandmother was either.” The casserole she chose is the exception. “I almost never eat cottage cheese but I enjoy it in this casserole. It is also one of the few recipes that I would call a ‘family recipe’ of ours.”

Food runs in the family, even if recipes don’t. “My mom may not have cooked all that often, but she was always interested in food. In fact, she met my dad when the pair of them were both getting their master’s in Agricultural Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She looked at food as more of a commodity and thing to trade while I have become more fascinated by the culinary aspect of things.”

The casserole that she chose was a recipe from her grandmother’s sister, Mary. “Mary was a military wife and had to do a whole lot of entertaining,” Emelyn told me. “This was one of her go-to brunch dishes when she had guests. It was absorbed by my side of the family the year that Aunt Mary’s husband was away in Vietnam. She spent Christmas that year with her sister (my grandmother’s) family and made this dish for Christmas breakfast. It was such a hit with everyone that it became a Christmas tradition.” In addition to Christmas, Emelyn said that it has also become a New Year’s tradition for her family.

Breakfast Casserole5

Aunt Mary’s Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients:
10 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of cottage cheese
4 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 4 oz cans of green chiles

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the eggs and add the cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, and chiles. Mix until fully combined.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the egg mixture and mix until fully combined.

Bake for 1 hour, until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Breakfast Casserole4

Breakfast Casserole2

Keep in mind, this is a recipe to serve a crowd, but it’s easily halved for a smaller group. And I have to admit: Cottage cheese? Green chiles? I was skeptical. But after I made it I had to write Emelyn and tell her how good I thought it was. Her response was, “It’s kind of creepy, but weirdly delicious…” Emelyn says that for her the dish means “family and presents and holiday cheers and lots of hot sauce, English muffins, and orange juice to go along with it.”

If all goes well, Emelyn hopes to have the first volume of EATEN ready to ship on November 17th. If you’d like to pre-order the magazine, you can do that here. The plan right now is to release one volume quarterly.

In addition to the magazine, Emelyn also hopes to write more books in the future. “I definitely do intend to write more. I just have to find a subject worthy of all that effort!”

Thank you so much for sharing your story and your recipe, Emelyn!

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Spudnuts with Basil Sugar and Lemon Curd

Spudnut, what’s that? Spudnuts were first created in the 1940’s by two brothers in Utah. After visiting Germany, where they had tasted doughnuts made from potatoes, they attempted to recreate the dessert in the United States. In the mid-1940’s, the brothers’ spudnut shop had become a chain with franchises popping up all over the country, though few remain today.

I first had a spudnut about two years ago on Mother’s Day. My mother-in-law was in Chicago and we treated her to a Ramos Gin Fizz and a spudnut at Scofflaw. It made such an impression that now, more than two years later, I am trying to recreate it. I seem to remember they topped their spudnut with an herbed sugar and lemon curd. For my recreation, I chose basil sugar with lemon curd, but really, you can choose whatever you like. They’re just like doughnuts, so go nuts with it… See what I did there?

Reading about the history of spudnuts, partially on Wikipedia, of course, it says that there were several incarnations of the recipe involving both mashed potatoes, potato flour, and a “dried potato mix” (um, yum…?). The brothers developed this dried potato mix because it made it easier to recreate the flavor in their franchises. However, I’m not going to buy special potato flour for this recipe and I’m going to try to maintain my streak of never, ever, buying dried potato flakes, so mashed potatoes it is!

Turns out, today is National Potato Day. I can only imagine whoever created such a day had spudnuts in mind. I mean, what truer form is there of a potato than cooked, mashed up, fried with some sugar and other ingredients, dipped in more sugar and covered with a sweet, lemon sauce? Clearly the potato flavor is going to shine through brightly. Right? No. No, it doesn’t. You likely won’t even be able to tell that there is a potato in there.  You could probably even make them and serve them to your friends without telling them that there are potatoes involved and they would never even guess it. Unless one of your friends has a potato allergy. Then you should tell them there are potatoes in the recipe!! What are you thinking?! Be a better friend!

Spudnuts with Basil Sugar and Lemon Curd3

Spudnuts with Basil Sugar and Lemon Curd2

Spudnuts with Basil Sugar and Lemon Curd8

Spudnuts with Basil Sugar and Lemon Curd
A variation of this recipe from Saveur.

Ingredients:
1 large potato
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tsp. lemon juice
Vegetable oil
1/2 cup lemon curd (I like Dickinson’s)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup sugar

Instructions:
Peel and cube potatoes. Rinse potatoes a few times. Boil potatoes for about 25 minutes.When soft, rinse and mash with a fork.

Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a separate, larger bowl, mix together the potatoes, sugar, eggs, milk, butter, and 1 tsp. of lemon zest. Stir until just combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until there are no more streaks of flour mixture. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Spray a large piece of wax paper with cooking spray and lightly flour. Scoop the dough out onto the paper. Lightly spray the top of the dough with cooking spray. This dough will be very sticky. Roll out the dough with your hands to 1/2 inch thick. For spudnut holes, cut the dough into 12 relatively equal pieces, rolling each into a ball. You can also make regular-shaped spudnuts by using a doughnut cutter, but be sure to lightly spray the doughnut cutter with cooking spray first.

Fill a large saucepan with oil, approximately two inches up the side of the pan. Heat the oil until a thermometer reads 350 degrees.

Without crowding the pan, drop 2-3 spudnuts into the pan at a time, for about 4 minutes apiece, turning each spudnut in the oil about halfway through. When done, remove from the oil and allow to cool on a cooling rack over a baking sheet.

While letting the spudnuts cool, melt the lemon curd, water, 2 tsp. of lemon juice, and a tsp. of lemon zest together in a small saucepan.

In a food processor, pulse 1/4 cup of fresh basil and 1/2 cup of sugar together.

Sprinkle still-warm spudnuts with basil sugar and drizzle with lemon curd mixture.

Spudnuts with Basil Sugar and Lemon Curd9

It might not be intuitive to add mashed potatoes to your doughnut mix, but I do hope you give this recipe a try. The spudnuts are more similar to an old fashioned cake doughnut, rather than the yeast doughnuts that you might be used to. And, if you can even imagine it, they come out of the hot oil slightly sweet and surprisingly light, with a slightly crisp exterior. They’re yummy, they’re the perfect way to celebrate National Potato Day in style, and you get to say “spudnut,” so it’s really a win-win-win. Enjoy!

A New Home

Welcome to The Hungry Genealogist’s new home. I’m so happy you are here!

If you visited me at my old site, you can look forward to things being a little different in this new space. What can you expect? More food, more genealogy, more history, and more stories. Exciting things are coming. Exciting things for sure. In May, I will be starting a genealogy certification program through Boston University. If you ask me now how I feel about that, I will answer that I’m very excited and it is going to be awesome. Check with me again when I’m reading up for my tests! My answer may change.

If you never visited before, we can kick this thing off together, brand new, as friends. It’s going to be great. Welcome, welcome! I hope you enjoy it here.