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Classic Retro Inspired Dishes

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We have had a thread on vintage pie, vintage cake, vintage stews and braises and nostalgia seems to be of interest. So in the spirit of what is classic what retro inspired dish recipe do you have or want to see on your plate? I just saw a cooking show that featured sweet and sour meatballs as a classic retro inspired dish.

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  1. Chicken Divan

    11 Replies
    1. re: monavano

      I have never made this but looked up a recipe and that is something I would absolutely make=comfort food. I found a recipe in link below, is this similar to what you make?

      1. re: Ruthie789

        I'm a little dubious about the cheddar, and think something gruyere-ish would be more retro, but go for it.

        1. re: sr44

          I'm old enough to have been served chicken divan unironically, and can back up sr44 here: use a Swiss type of cheese, not cheddar.

          1. re: ellabee

            Obviously, there were some variations. I, too, am old enough to have served this the first time around and my original recipe (still on a food-stained index card) calls for cheddar.

          2. re: sr44

            I always made it with cheddar- no gruyere in the grocery stores in the seventies.

            1. re: Berheenia

              No gruyere, but there was always "swiss cheese". Holds up better to heat...

          3. re: Ruthie789

            If you read the poster's commentary on the food.com website about the Chicken Divan recipe, you'll see the phrase "no mayonnaise, no cream of whatever." That's because the recipe that got shared in the late 60s called for those two ingredients. Of course, Chicken Divan goes back even farther than the 60s and the original version probably looked a lot like what is posted in the food.com web site.

            What's fascinating is that those of us who were learning how to cook and the value of good, natural ingredients by watching Julia Child's first programs were simultaneously making recipes which called for all sorts of shortcuts and substitutions.

            The version of Chicken Divan that most young brides cooked from that era used the following ingredients:

            2 pkg frozen broccoli
            2-4 whole chicken breasts
            2 cans cream of chicken soup
            1 cup mayonnaise
            1 teaspoon lemon juice (or more to taste)
            1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (or more to taste)
            1/4 cup soft bread crumbs made into crumbe
            1 tablespoon melted butter
            1 teaspoon curry

            1. re: Indy 67

              I have never tried this recipe before, but like that it is drenched in cooking liquid as I find chicken dry, especially skinless and boneless. I am going to make it for dinner this week. Thank you for posting your recipe and I appreciate all contributors to this topic.

              1. re: Ruthie789

                I find skinless chicken is always dry so I cook it with the skin on and either remove it before serving or just leave it on especially if it is nicely browned.

                1. re: subrosa39

                  I agree. Sometimes I cannot even find chicken breast bone in, skin on at the store. The chicken on sale is often packages of boneless, skinless.

            2. re: Ruthie789

              My husband has been making a dish that he calls "chicken divan" for more than 20 years from a recipe he free- lanced that starts with sautéed boneless chicken breasts that are coated in Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs, uses a basic homemade cheese sauce made from sharp cheddar, and blanched broccoli, or asparagus. A real comfort dish.

          4. Chinese Butterfly Shrimp with Bacon

            1 Reply
            1. re: Hopefulone

              Bacon and shrimps combined together definitely a retro dish.

            2. We are currently eating beef stroganoff and green beans with toasted almonds! Retro night and very delicious!

              1 Reply
              1. re: sandylc

                That sounds very retro and delicious.

              2. Turkey A La King is a favorite.

                5 Replies
                1. re: monavano

                  Especially when someone knows a good recipe and knows how to cook it.

                  1. re: monavano

                    In the 60's my prize recipe to serve my parents was Joy of Cooking chicken a la king served in puff pastry cups. The sauce had an egg yolk incorporated and a little sherry.

                    1. re: Berheenia

                      That sort of thing is delicious.

                    2. re: monavano

                      That is some delicious stuff if done correctly. My late mother always added pimento for color and I just loved it.Luxurious...creamy and so comforting.

                      1. re: monavano

                        Chicken a la King is a favorite of my husband's. Having never eaten it growing up, I was only familiar with it from canned food commercials. It is quite delicious made from scratch.

                      2. Steak Diane,,,, yum!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: treb

                          Oh, yeah....yummy

                          1. re: treb

                            Steak Diane was the first though on my mind when I read the thread title. So I'll go with.... Beef Bourguignon or maybe Lobster Thermidor!

                            1. re: CapeCodGuy

                              It would have been first on my list but I already mentioned it on vintage stews and braises. I love this dish.

                            2. re: treb

                              Totally, so good.

                            3. Some observations from vintage cookbooks and magazine articles I have on the food of different decades:

                              Turn of the Century: Oysters Rockefeller, Waldorf salad, Salisbury Steak. Ice cream cones, hamburgers and iced tea were all a big hit at the 1904 World's Fair.

                              1910s: French 75 cocktails, Crab Louis, Vichyssoise, Red Flannel Hash

                              1920s: Caesar Salad, Jello salads (Jello was introduced in the 1890s and by the 20s electric refrigeration made it very popular, in 1920 only 10,000 refrigerators had been sold- by 1929 annual sales had risen to 800,000.) Cake making was a big fad, as was marshmallows and Rocky Road was very popular.

                              1930s: "Making due" in hard times... baked macaroni and cheese, meatless meals, cheap meats were stretched with beans in chili, waffles served with ice cream and syrup were a popular dessert. Cream of Mushroom soup was introduced in 1933. 'nuf said.

                              1940s: meat was rationed, Victory gardens were all the rage. Chicken vegetable soup, meatloaf stretched with bread. By the end of the decade Americans were indulging again and flirting with "gourmet" dishes like Strawberries Romanoff. Chiffon cake was invented in 1927 by Harry Baker but he kept it a tightly held secret until he sold it to General Mills in 1947.

                              1950s: Beef Stroganoff gained popularity in the US in the 50s, Lipton onion soup dip, "oriental" glazes on spareribs, grasshopper pie, tuna noodle casserole, food that fit on toothpicks.

                              1960s: duck a la'orange, green bean casserole, cherries jubilee, many Americans tried gazpacho for the first time at the World's Fair in New York in 1964 and the love affair with Julia Child started.... Boeuf Bourguignon and chocolate mousse.

                              1970s: French food became accessible (again, largely thanks to Julia,) chicken liver pate, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971 and popularized goat cheese, interest in Middle Eastern food grew (vegetarianism gained popularity,) and tabbouleh and feta became popular, quiche hit the mainstream, Nixon's reestablishment of relations with China inspired interest in making Chinese dishes at home, Greek dishes like Moussaka became better known.

                              1980s: crab cakes, Wolfgang Puck redefined pizza at Spago and pizza toppings became more interesting and "sophisticated." Bread pudding saw a resurgence.

                              1990s: a resurgency of "comfort food" but with upscale twists... short ribs, rosottos, upscale tex-mex and southwestern. Wraps. Stuff on "fancy" breads like lavash and focaccia. Salsas that incorporate fruits. Polenta. Creme Brulee.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: weezieduzzit

                                That is quite an observation. On other vintage threads some have asked what is considered vintage. It is interesting to send food trends from one decade to the next. Thank you for posting this.

                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                  You have the perfect avatar for these vintage threads. :)

                                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                                    Thank you. I love vintage and comfort food so the casseroles do represent well.

                                2. re: weezieduzzit

                                  Very cool. Thanks for the reply!

                                3. My Mom used to make Beef Wellington, it was always good.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Ruthie789

                                    That was the first thing I ever made for the man.... it worked. :)

                                    1. re: Ruthie789

                                      A lovely dish.

                                    2. Baked Alaska.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Yum. I remember one I had several times as a teenager. It was a browned disc of shredded coconut, topped with rich vanilla ice cream, covered in flamed meringue. Served with hot fudge sauce. I thought it was heaven.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          I'm having Baked Alaska at an old haunt of mine next Sat.

                                          1. re: treb

                                            Lucky you!

                                        2. No one makes tomato aspic anymore, and maybe that's not regrettable for many people, but I miss it. With deviled eggs, biscuits and country ham, and cold asparagus -- the staple buffet of my 1950s childhood.

                                          16 Replies
                                          1. re: ellabee

                                            Count me in the population of tomato aspic fans. My very-cool-aunt set me on a lifelong love affair with aspic when I was a child. I'd likely find the exact dish she served a little lacking today, but as a six-year-old, tomato jello with shrimp salad rocked my world. These days, I generally riff on it by gelling gazpacho and serving it with shrimp, avocado and a bit of mayo. Not a summer goes by without this making it to our table on a regular basis (we generally have a never-ending supply of gazpacho due to my admitted addiction to the stuff).

                                            Really, any gelatin extravaganza really floats my retro boat, especially on the savory side.

                                            1. re: ellabee

                                              Ellabee I have heard that aspics are fashionable again. We always had one on the table at Christmas with a green aspic concoction as well. In Vankleek Hill Ontario, the church ladies have a dinner in November and serve a cold plate with many of the items you mentionned and a plate of sweets with tea. It is delicious. Thank you for posting, it brings back memories.

                                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                                :: aspics are fashionable again ::

                                                Oh good! But I suspect those are parties I won't be asked to. <g>

                                                The young people seem to be enthusiasts of cocktails and whisky, like my parents' generation. They too, then, can benefit from the protective powers of the spread that included aspic, along with deviled eggs, ham biscuits, and (how could I have forgotten these earlier?) cheese straws.

                                                1. re: ellabee

                                                  Ellabee put a spread of the above, plus some ham, or cold salmon and everyone partakes in the celebration. I would rather have a beautiful cold buffet to sushi (sorry sushi lovers) anyday!

                                                  1. re: Ruthie789

                                                    Everyone but the vegans, who didn't exist in the 1950s.

                                                    I think the nibbles that would serve the same function for them today involve avocado -- maybe little masa mini-tarts with guacamole filling, and a black bean/corn/pepper salsa.

                                                    These threads are making me hungry!

                                                    1. re: ellabee

                                                      Ah the vegans! I have bought two vegan recipe books, am amazed at how the recipes are unhealthy in terms of baked goods.

                                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                                        That's interesting, Ruthie - unhealthy how so?

                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                          Well I bought Chloe's kitchen. All the fat let's say butter is converted to a vegan source such as 100% vegetable shortening. The recipes have just as much sugar. Perhaps I should not have said unhealthy just equivalent to a regular recipe in terms of fats and sugars. One of the vegan fat products that I have contains palm fruit oil, canola oil, olive oil but the product resembles a butter, to me is an indication that it is now a saturated fat. I feel mislead but do understand that it is about not consuming animal sources of food.

                                              2. re: ellabee

                                                I am told my Grandmother loved tomato aspic. Though the texture kinda freaks me out, I would like to attempt it just to try. Any tried and true recipes I should use?

                                                1. re: Tehama

                                                  Somewhere in a box I put away a local community cookbook from the late 1940s that appears to have been my mother's first cookbook. It has a recipe from someone whose aspic I enjoyed every Easter for many years, so I'll dig it out.

                                                  It shouldn't be as stiff as jello, or the clear aspic that surrounds terrines, just enough to hold together on the serving plate. A good number of the tomato aspics of my youth contained sliced stuffed olives, something I would not recommend.

                                                  1. re: Tehama

                                                    Found the box. The tomato aspic recipe is from the wife of our family doctor, so not my godmother's (her contribution was spinach supreme.)
                                                    Paraphrased, with comments by me in brackets:
                                                    Soak 1/2 box worth of gelatin in 1 cup cold water in a mixing bowl for half an hour. [? Have not cooked with gelatin, but something tells me it's probably been sold in the same size packages forever.]

                                                    Simmer together in a saucepan for 15 minutes a chopped stalk of celery, a slice of onion, and 1/2 can of tomatoes. [Pretty sure the reference is to the standard big can of whole tomatoes; a 14-oz can of diced tomatoes would work well.]

                                                    Pour the tomato mixture over the gelatin and add a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of lemon juice, a half teaspoon of paprika, and a teaspoon of tarragon vinegar.

                                                    Strain and pour into mold. Chill. As it begins to firm up you can add finely chopped celery, scallions, green bell pepper, etc. [The additions would sink to the bottom/eventual top if you add them right off.]

                                                    Okay, while we're at it, let's consult the 1953 Joy of Cooking, which has three recipes -- regular, quick, and "jiffy". Here beside the quick version are a bunch of notes in my mother's handwriting, apparently the math to convert this for a larger crowd. Will stick to the original, which serves 8:
                                                    Soak 2 tablespoons gelatin in 1/2 cup cold tomato juice.

                                                    After a half hour or so, dissolve it in 3 1/2 cups hot tomato juice or tomato and vegetable juice [Mrs. Rombauer is referring to V-8, I believe.]

                                                    "Tomato juice varies. It is wise to taste the aspic to see whether additional seasoning is required. Lemon juice is good, so is a teaspoonful of chopped herbs, preferably basil."

                                                    Pour into mold, chill, [add chopped solid ingredients when it is about to set if desired]. Unmold and serve with mayonnaise, boiled dressing, or cream horseradish dressing.

                                                    I'm off to the grocery, will look for gelatin. (Spelled 'gelatine' in both Joy and the community cookbook.)

                                                    1. re: ellabee

                                                      Wow -- that is awesome. I am going to give it a try. I'm just going to channel my Grandmother and try to forget the texture of it! Thank you so much for such a thoughtful reply!

                                                      1. re: Tehama

                                                        You're most welcome, Tehama; it was fun researching this.

                                                        A word on gelatin, gleaned from searching web discussions: Knox and other brands of unflavored gelatin available to home cooks are sold in boxes holding 4 packets of 7 grams each (about 1 3/4 tablespoons).

                                                        With that in mind, I believe that of the two recipes above, the first would be much more like savory jello -- clearer and relatively stiff -- while the Joy result would be the soft, cloudier aspic of my memories.

                                                        1. re: ellabee

                                                          So thoughtful! Thanks!

                                                  2. re: ellabee

                                                    We do tomato aspic several times through out the year...Still good eats. Usually serve with sliced avocado.

                                                    1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                      Oh, now I have to make some. We are getting great avocados lately.

                                                      Does your recipe involve starting with tomatoes, or juice, or... ?

                                                  3. Prime rib with Yorkshire pudding.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: ItalianNana

                                                      Yum, yum. Do you have a good recipe for Yorshire pudding?

                                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                                        The Joy of Cooking's is solid. The 2 keys are beating the batter sufficiently and getting your shortening ( we used rendered suet) really hot.

                                                    2. Oh yeah, chicken Cordon Bleu.

                                                      1. Tournedos Rossini - butter based filete mignon medallians served on top of a crouton then topped with quickly seared foie gras and sauced with a demi-glace.

                                                        Very popular in the 50s/60s and early 70s. The crouton was often replaced with an artichoke heart and the demi-glace with less labor intensive beef based sauces

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                                          Tornedos Rossini, quite a decadent dish.

                                                          1. re: Ruthie789

                                                            And I forgot to mention that there should be truffles on it too, altho' I don't think I ever saw truffles on the dis in SoCal.

                                                        2. I remember veal Oskar being big in late 60s early 70s. Along chicken tetrazzini, but it was always different so I have no idea what it was supposed to be. I think of the Original NYT Cookbook as a compendium of dishes that fit in the category of classic retro dishes.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: tim irvine

                                                            Yep, Veal Oscar. The dish was created to honor Sweden's King Oscar. Sauteed veal cutlet topped with crabmeat and bernaise sauce and garnished with asparagus spears. I don't remember it ever being that good, but we did think we were the epitome of sophistication when we ordered it.

                                                            Turkey (or chicken) Tetrazzini just reminds me too much of dorm food...i.e. mystry meat + canned mushrooms + indeterminant cream sauce mixed with pasta then topped with cheese and baked until it melted. The original might have been good, but not necessarily in the hands of dorm cooks

                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                                              veal Oscar...Had it at Skandia in LA...talk about classic retro! Agree to tetrazzini. It makes me think of the freeze dried version, backpacking food, where ANYTHING tastes good!

                                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                I was just remembering shrimp cocktail the other day. I loved it when shrimp was just a luxury, or treat food. The sweet tomato sauce made it seem divine to me.

                                                              2. re: tim irvine

                                                                And Veal Orloff!

                                                              3. Seafood Newburg. I've been dying to make this.
                                                                Shrimp Cocktail. I never, ever tire of it.
                                                                Ice burg wedge salad with blue cheese dressing.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: ChervilGeorge

                                                                  A few years ago, I sold all my shrimp cocktail vessels in a yard sale. I really regret that one.

                                                                  1. re: ChervilGeorge

                                                                    Funny that the iceberg wedge has come back...

                                                                  2. Stuffed cornish game hens, rumaki apps, sole rollades stuffed with shrimp and margaritas were what we ate in the 70's.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Berheenia

                                                                      My Mom often bought cornish hens on sale for a ridiculous price. They were always so good, but I have not been able to cook them as well.

                                                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                        The ones I have seen are much bigger but everything is much bigger these days.

                                                                        1. re: Berheenia

                                                                          I wonder why, what have they been feeding on.

                                                                          1. re: Berheenia

                                                                            Yep - they're more like small chickens.

                                                                            1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                              They are just that....

                                                                      2. I`m going to throw this one in, a classic burger with a milkshake. A common combination way back way, not often seen today.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                          Ruthie, you need to come to San Diego. We are overrun with burger joints and they all serve a shake of some sort.

                                                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                            Unless you go to MacDonald's milkshakes are not that common on menus here in Montreal. Burgers yes not so much shakes. San Diego sounds great, it's snowing here in Montreal, we need some sun!

                                                                            1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                              Come on down, the weather is great. Clear and warming up, it's supposed to hit the mid 70s by mid week :-)

                                                                              San Diego has had this colossal invasion of burger chains in the last 5 years. I would think our weather also contributes to the presence of shakes on our menus.

                                                                        2. I would like to eat Chicken Pot Pie again. It was one of the few things my mother made that made me happy. Her dish was topped with biscuits. The sauce was creamy and filled with diced chicken, peas and carrots. I believe the biscuits were made with a mix, but they were not taken from a can. (My memory might be misleading me here.)

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                                                            Chicken pot pie is a fave here. We do a pie crust and fill it with chicken, carrots, celery, onions, and mushrooms in a cream sauce (velouté) with plenty of pepper and a little Sherry. crust on top. Yum.

                                                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                                                              Cooking light has several chicken pot pie recipes on their website. I make mine with a biscuit top as well and did get my recipe from their magazine years ago. True comfort food, I like using poultry seasoning in the mix. A puff pastry crust is also a quick solution and see some recipes using rotisserie chicken.

                                                                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                The problem for me is the carb load of such a dish.

                                                                                The warm creamy sauce and the biscuits are just too much. But pot pie, or old fashioned chicken and dumplings, are dishes for which I mourn.

                                                                            2. Meatloaf, true comfort food. Here are a few from an old cookbook called East Whittier Junior Woman's Club:
                                                                              Sweet and Sour Spareribs, sukiyaki, stuffed green peppers, beef chunks polynesian(this one had a good note next to it). Also a fish mold made with tuna or shrimp and this had a little note indicating, to serve with asparagus and that it was perfect! Written in 1966, with no holds on sugar, salt, fat, and convenience foods.

                                                                              1. My favorite retro dish is coquilles St. Jaques. In the shell, though. Not all this served in a ramekin stuff I see.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: alliegator

                                                                                  One of my favorites too and in a shell loaded with shellfish, and mashed potatoes.