Get Cooking: Recipes that won't die


Certain recipes just won’t die.

They’re not exactly zombie recipes; they’ve never been killed. Despite periodic polling to ascertain just how many Americans truly despise the Campbell Soup Company’s 1955 recipe for “Green Bean Bake” (universally known as “the green bean casserole,” made from cooked green beans, canned mushroom soup and fried onions), an expected 20 million American homes will cook and serve it this year on Nov. 22.

These recipes aren’t Lazarus recipes —  dead for awhile, then resurrected for some reason. We have had one-pot meat stews since we were able to throw a clay pot or hammer out an iron one. Science is iffy on the commencement date, but count the cooking in thousands of years.

The recipes that refuse to die are more like Mel Brooks’ 2,000-year-old man recipes. They’ve just been around forever and will continue to be, because they are interesting and fun and delicious. They’ll never die.

Internet searches — of both the sort, on various cooking sites, of “Our Most Popular Recipes of All Time,” and those “most googled” by the general cook — turn up constants.

The surprise is the number of pastry (especially cookie and cake) recipes; it’s like starting dinner with dessert. Chocolate chip, sugar and peanut butter cookie recipes will be with us always; so will chocolate (especially so-called “Devil’s Food”), carrot and cheesecake. Recipes for brownies, apple pie and lemon meringue pie also seem ageless.

By and large, the sweet tooth isn’t as much an overbite in other countries. The “most popular recipes” — in both cooking sites and “the history of” searches — for France, Italy and Spain, to name just three, return a predominance of what we call “savory” over “sweet” preparations.

Indeed, and characteristically, Italian cooks seem more constant in their pride in the never-die recipes that they have given the world than those that they cook themselves. Nonetheless, in 2017, while the Italian home cook did prepare a lot of “carbonara” and “caponata” — yep, they’ve been around a while, both the many cooks and the recipes — the most sought-after recipe of the year was for a sweet, Migliaccio Napoletano, sometimes called in English “semolina cake” but traditionally made after the New Year with millet.

An aside here: I can’t stop loving the Italian over the English, “la ricetta più googlata,” “the most Googled recipe.”

On the savory side, Americans have long been cooking — and have been cooking long — many variations on roasted or wet-cooked (braised) chicken thighs; pork roasts (both tenderloin and simple loin, as well as braised or long-cooked versions of shoulder); the ubiquitous and eternal pot roast, in both Dutch ovens and slow cookers; and as many types of mac ‘n’ cheese or pasta as could be imagined by only Italian-Americans and their ever-ravenous audience.

In truth, all things chicken — not limited to the thighs, please — make up America’s most consumed, most-cooked meat. (According to sources as diverse as Chowhound, the World Atlas, and the USDA, we ate nearly twice as much chicken as beef in 2017.)

Chicken also sports the most recipes, many of longstanding use, due perhaps to its flexibility. Parts is parts.

The high-elevation recipe here for Devil’s Food Cake comes from former Denver Post food editor Helen Dollaghan and first appeared in the newspaper in 1967. Kristin Browning-Blas, who was food editor there from  May 2002 until July 2014, said she received requests for this recipe “right up until I left.”

The devil don’t die.

Devil’s Food Cake

Helen Dollaghan's Devil's Food Cake.
Helen Dollaghan’s Devil’s Food Cake.

Fills a 9-inch tube pan or two 8-inch layers with batter left over for 6-9 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 3 cups sifted flour (sift, then measure)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups ice water

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch tube pan or two 8-inch layer pans. In large bowl, cream butter and sugar together thoroughly. Add vanilla and eggs, beating until smooth.

In another bowl, sift dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients alternately with ice water to creamed mixture, mixing well after each addition. End with dry ingredients and beat well.

Turn batter into greased pan. Bake 45-50 minutes for tube pan, 30 minutes for layers. Cool and frost with chocolate frosting or your preferred icing.

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