This week, I decided to try my hand at being a 1950s midwestern homemaker after digging through the recipe box and finding something that made me think, “Sounds weird!”. Below is what I learned while making a dish my grandmother titled: Broccoli Corn Bake. The name is oddly accurate.
First, I went to the store closest to my house and immediately encountered the problem of being unable to find cream of corn soup. To my mind, this was an ingredient close to chicken noodle soup and should have been easy to locate. After a trip to two other stores, I gave up and decided to try something else. I opted for cream of chicken soup, assuming it would taste like nothing (ie an unseasoned chicken breast). I figured I would just dump six-ounces of frozen corn into my ten-ounce can and make cream of corn soup. I know. STOP JUDGING!
I also got a red onion, because they were on a crazy good sale and I figured the whole point of a bake was to save money, so even though the recipe probably called for a white onion, this was in the spirit of the dish.
Once I decided I was willing to take the risk, I also committed to eating a shelf of Mint Milanos before cooking, so if things got weird, at least I had a pretty great cookie dinner. Once I got going, I was immediately confronted by what is actually a steep learning curve to budget cooking as a 50s housewife. The process of creating this dish forced me to a) confront my west coast cooking privilege and b) question the conventional wisdom that says “Midwest” and “baking sensibilities” go together.
First, and foremost, the big issue is that it turns out there was actual chicken in cream of chicken soup, messing up my plan to make cream of corn soup out of cream of chicken soup. Second, I was lucky enough to grow up on the west coast, where produce is cheap and easy to get year round. Avocado in January for $1.50–HA, HA, VICTORY! But, that means I have no sense of what it is to cook with canned soup as the primary liquid in what is essentially a casserole. I found myself second-guessing the texture and cutting technique for foods I thought I knew well.
Unclear on what sort of dish would house a Broccoli Corn Bake, I went for a medium size dish and was immediately proven wrong (apparently the only way I recognize a quart is in ice cream format). After cackling at myself and getting another glass of wine, I popped this bad boy in a smaller dish and into the oven.
Like a lot of my grandmother’s cooking, 40 minutes is a very rough estimate. After grabbing a fork and trying a mouthful, I decided that I couldn’t be sure the eggs had cooked through and figured the soup was still too soupy. So I threw it back in and waited an extra 25 minutes. At which point, I was able to confirm that, yes, the dish should cook off all the liquid and have a quiche-like texture.
Three thoughts. First, before my grandmother was a surgeons’ wife, she was a medical students wife with five kids to feed and a tight budget. She threw down in the kitchen with more creativity that I gave her credit for.
Second, Broccoli Corn Bake is a dish that tastes better than it looks. I’m sorry I judged you Grammy.
Third, Broccoli Corn Bake is weird, despite the better-than-expected taste. And, this my friends, is why you should not add the phrase, “Let’s try it!” if the first thing you think about a recipe is “weird”.