Au Gratin Potatoes, Mac and Cheese, and Corningware

27 May

If you were a child of the Seventies like I was, chances are your mom cooked with Corningware Blue Cornflower cookware. These glass and enamelware dishes and pots were ubiquitous in the Seventies. It was produced betwen 1958 and 1987, and practically every household had them.

My mom cooked Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes in the casserole dish. She and my dad made their morning coffee in the Blue Cornflower percolator. That familiar percolating sound greeted me every morning as I came down for breakfast before going off to school. My mom actually used that percolator up until the early 2000s for Christmas breakfast, when she needed to make more coffee than her 8-cup Mr. Coffee machine would allow. It would probably still work if she plugged it in today. Because if the world were destroyed by a nuclear bomb, only cockroaches and Corningware would survive.

Ad for Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes, 1965. My mother must have seen this ad, because she always served Betty’s Au Gratin potatoes with hot dogs.

One particularly “Seventies” piece of Corningware that my mom had was the Blue Cornflower electric frying pan. It looked like a large, shallow square casserole dish with handles. It set into a base that acted as a hot plate. When it was plugged in it would heat up the dish and you could cook in it, then take the dish off the base and set it on the dinner table. My mom always used it to make beef stroganoff and stuffed veal birds – two particularly Seventies dishes that you don’t see much of these days. We used to have them all the time when I was growing up, but even my mom hasn’t made them in thirty years.

My mom also used her blue cornflower casserole dish to make macaroni and cheese. And no one made mac and cheese better than my mom. When I try to make it myself, it just doesn’t taste as good as hers. She got the recipe off the side of a Ronzoni macaroni box. Here it is:

    1 lb. box of Ronzoni elbows #35
    4 cups sharp cheddar cheese – shredded
    3 tablespoons butter
    4 tablespoons flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    3-1/2 cups hot milk
    1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

    Cook macaroni as directed on side panel of box. Melt butter in saucepan, blend in flour, salt, and pepper. Add hot milk, simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 3-1/2 cups of cheese, stir until smooth. Combine drained macaroni with sauce in buttered baking dish. Top with 1/2 cup of cheese and 1/2 cup of bread crumbs. Bake uncovered in 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

I’ve tried lightening it up with skim milk and low-fat cheese, but it doesn’t work. Skim milk just isn’t as creamy as whole milk, and low-fat or fat-free cheese doesn’t melt properly. The oil in low-fat cheeses separates and the cheese sauce becomes a congealed mess. So I bite the bullet and make it the way my mom made it. She still makes it this way when I go to her house for dinner. That first bite always reminds me of my childhood.

What retro items from your childhood do you collect? And if anybody knows a good low-fat macaroni and cheese recipe, I’d love to know.

Corningware ad from the late 60s. The coffee percolator and the electric frying pan that my mom had can be seen in front of the lady.


One Response to “Au Gratin Potatoes, Mac and Cheese, and Corningware”

  1. pillowsalamode May 28, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    I have these! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: