Tuesday, November 26, 2013

French Hunter’s Dinner—Retro Recipe

This post follows up on my previous one. It’s a recipe from Leota Busch’s personal cookbook, and she got it from my dear friend, the late Maryfrances (Schwartz) Ridgeway. I had to make it—for personal reasons. Because, I suppose, it connects me in a tiny way with someone who’s gone. Someone I miss.

The recipe itself? Well, at a glance you might think it’s one of those midcentury “culinary atrocities,” with the chop suey vegetables and such.

Somewhere, this recipe got pretty far away from anything French. (Unless French hunters shoot cattle and mix it with Italian spaghetti and American Campbell’s tomato soup!) It is what it is. As they say, boney patoots! (—Or something.)

But you know what? It’s pretty darned good! It’s kind of like a pre–Hamburger Helper hamburger helper. Unlike the prepackaged stuff, you control the sodium and fat. And it tastes much better.

It’s hearty, tasty, and good! Perfect for this time of year, as the weather gets cold and colder, and we get busy and busier. It makes a lot, and the leftovers are even tastier the next day.

I give you two versions: first, the original as it appeared in Mrs. Busch’s recipe book. Then, my interpretation. (No, I didn’t change it too much.)

French Hunter’s Dinner
(Original Version)


Garlic buds
1# hamburger (twice ground)
Suet (about a cup, diced)
1 medium onion
Chili powder
1 box spaghetti*
1 can lima beans (medium)
(Seaside brand at Piggly-Wiggly)
1 can tomato soup
1 can mushrooms (Sutton, or sliced; may be omitted if desired) (20¢)


Boil & blanch one box of spaghetti, while hamburger is being prepared. Rub bottom of skillet with 1 or 2 garlic buds. Render suet & remove “cracklings.” Brown hamburger, & stir constantly to keep particles segregated. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of chile powder in. Add salt & pepper (about teaspoon of each). Dice onion, & stir into browned hamburger. Stir into this the spaghetti. Then the can of tomato soup. Let cook for a while. Add lima beans. Mushrooms.

* One can of spaghetti in tomato sauce may be used in place of “fresh” spaghetti.

This serves 5 or 6.

One can of “vegetables for Chop Suey” makes it extra good and increases the portions. these vegetables have to be sliced or diced, as they are large-sized in the can (Delmonico).

Serve with hot rolls, relish, coffee, and dessert.

Prepare in advance, & re-heat for serving, for best results.

--Maryfrances Schwartz

My mom is always quick to correct people when they say they’ve used “So-and-So’s” recipe but then admit that they’ve changed things. To Mom’s thinking, if you changed it one tiny bit from the original, it’s no longer “So-and-So’s” recipe.

But who’s so anal to follow instructions to the letter, especially when casserole-like dishes are concerned? Also, since apparently all of the brands specified in the recipe are defunct, there’s already no way to follow the directions completely.

Plus, prices and packaging have changed, so quantities must be interpreted. And if you’re gonna go that far, might as well make a few other changes for modern cooking methods. Like, get rid of the lard, and use the whole two cloves of garlic, pressed.

So, here’s my rendition. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t have made it. And what’s closer to the original recipe: tweaking it for 2013, in my kitchen, or never cooking it at all?

French Hunter’s Dinner

1/2 of a 16-oz. package of spaghetti
1 lb. ground chuck or ground round (beef; get the lean kind)
1-2 tsp. chili powder (to taste)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed, crushed, or minced
1 16-oz. can lima beans (frozen and thawed would be fresher-seeming)
1 10-oz. can condensed tomato soup
1 4-oz. can mushrooms (drained)
1 14-oz. can chop suey vegetables (“Fancy Mixed Vegetables” or “Stir-Fry Vegetables”) (drained)

Start the spaghetti and prepare according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan with a lid, start browning the meat (if using lean beef, you might use a little vegetable oil). Sprinkle in the chili powder and add salt and pepper (about 1 tsp. of both; to taste). As meat begins to brown, stir in onions and garlic. When the meat and onions are cooked, stir in the can of tomato soup. Then add the (drained) spaghetti and stir gently to combine. Cook, half-covered, to meld flavors. Then add lima beans, mushrooms, and (if using) chop suey vegetables. Cook a little longer to heat through.

Oh yeah! And serving with hot rolls and relish, and ending with coffee and dessert, as instructed, is pretty darn good!

(—Boney patoots!)

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