Howard Campbell would never have gotten into the candy business had it not been for a serendipitous contract: A small candy company went out of business, leaving the local bank with its inventory. The bank turned to Campbell—a peddler who hawked goods from horse and wagon in downtown Nashville—to sell the surplus. To Campbell’s surprise, the candy—made from quality ingredients—virtually flew off the wagon. That experience led Campbell to found the Standard Candy Company in 1901. Working with business partner and plant supervisor, Porter Moore, it took Campbell several years to perfect a chocolate confection with caramel, marshmallow nougat and roasted peanuts. He called it the Goo Goo Cluster, and it was a smash hit–the first candy bar to market containing more than one primary ingredient.
100 years later, Goo Goo is enjoying something of a revival. Spun off as a standalone business by Standard Candy in 2011, Goo Goo Cluster, LLC, went through a makeover including a step-up to improved ingredients and package design. Celebrating the new look, revamped recipe, and big birthday, Goo Goo organized several centennial events. Our favorite? A Nashville-wide restaurant dessert promotion. With Goo Goo’s chocolate-peanut-marshmallow heart as inspiration, 44 Nashville chefs created their own goo-gooey desserts. This one—a candy-like bar-cookie from chef Audra Dykes, did very well at Nashville’s “Coffee, Lunch” restaurant. Featuring a buttery oat crust with Goo Goo Cluster shards, marshmallow, caramel and chocolate, this dessert is sinfully sweet and rich, so cut into teensy bars—just right to cap an all-day outdoor family picnic. NOTE: Be sure to keep well chilled until right before service.
The waitress at Ernie Risser’s family restaurant in Womelsdorf, PA, agreed with me: the “gravy” that came with the Mennonite-baker-made corn pie was not great. “I like to eat corn pie with hot milk,” she whispered conspiratorially, whisking away the gravy boat and returning with a little pitcher of hot milk. Not bad! But how to make it even better…
Corn pie, a simple, savory Pennsylvania Dutch dish that puts corn and often potato and hard-cooked egg in a pie crust, is simple, hearty fare. Asked whether corn pie recipes varied, my waitress said, “Oh yes! You can put bacon or ham in there. And corn pies are really the very best when you make them with fresh sweet corn, right from the garden.” That got my own creative wheels spinning.
Back home with armloads of beautiful, fresh-picked Illinois sweet-corn, I shucked away and set about making this pie. For the crust? A flaky, all-butter recipe seemed right. And for the filling? Loads of sweet-corn kernels cut from the cobs and simmered in a peppered white sauce with uncured smoked bacon, onion and a little sweet red pepper. Perfect. We think this pie pairs wonderfully with fried chicken and a green salad. (Try arugula, or mache!) Some vinegary pickles would be welcome on the side, too.
Since its 1971 launch at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Tonga Toast–a cinnamon-sugared chunk of deep-fried, banana-stuffed breakfast bliss–has never left its spot among the top-three sellers. Originally at the resort’s Old Coral Isle restaurant, Tonga Toast is now served at the Kona Cafe. Disney chef Michael Thompson, who was a Polynesian Resort chef for seven years, says he can’t give exact numbers on the volume of Tonga Toast sales, but sums: “Let’s just say we receive our bananas by the pallet load!”
To make the dish, Disney’s cooking team tucks bananas into thick slices of sourdough Pullman bread (a sourdough version of square-loafed Pain de Mie), dunks the stuffed bread in eggwash, deep fries to toast and then liberally coats the golden result in cinnamon sugar. Served with strawberry sauce and choice of breakfast meat, “Tonga Toast is a “Wow!” item that now has a legacy following,” says Thompson.
When they first shaped the dish, Thompson says Disney chefs tried stuffing the toast with marinated peaches, mango slices and other fruits, “But bananas won out.” Individual chefs over the years have put their own spin on the dish–adding banana liqueur to the batter, for example. But the recipe below is the standard. NOTE: Disney didn’t provide their strawberry sauce recipe, so, we’ve paired the toast with simple, macerated (sugar-tossed) strawberries. A dollop of yogurt or sweetened sour-cream is a nice finishing topper, too.
Originated at Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant and named for its owner, Robert Howard Cobb, the Cobb Salad is the original chopped salad. A mix of finely chopped watercress, curly endive, Romaine and iceberg lettuces topped with crisp bacon, hard boiled egg, tomato, chive, chicken breast, Roquefort cheese and avocado, the original was served with house-made French dressing–something more akin to red wine vinaigrette than the sickly-sweet orange stuff you might find on the salad bar.
There’s some dispute about whether the first Cobb salad was made by Cobb himself, rummaging through the restaurant’s cooler to throw together a late-night snack in 1939, or, by the restaurant’s executive chef Robert Kreis, who created it for the restaurant’s 1929 launch. Either way, the Cobb is one of America’s longest-standing salad favorites, inspiring dozens of different renditions. We like the simplicity of the original, not weighed down by too much extra meat or cheese.
In the melting pot mix that our kids represent there are many nationalities. Among them? German, Irish, Danish, English, Swiss, Armenian–and Greek! As an ode to that Middle-Eastern strain, I once mixed up a meal combining favorite ingredients: lemon, lamb, artichoke hearts, spinach, rice, pine nuts and feta in one dish. The result has become a family favorite.
I’m on my way through Allentown, PA, next week, which made me think of this legendary pie. We published the recipe for it in our earliest version of Lost Recipes Found three years ago, and it’s still a top reader-favorite! Reported to be the pie that made Hess Brothers’ department store of Allentown, Pa, famous, it’s miles-high, mounded with gelatin-sweetened fresh strawberries, and topped with whipped cream. “Hess’s pie was just plain legendary,” says Michael Lisicky, who writes about department story history, and provided the recipe: “Hess’s was always about retail theater, and this pie fit that.” When the store closed in 1996, a long line of shoppers queued up to have their last piece. Thanks to Lisicky’s aunt, who knew the person who used to make Hess’s pies, you can now make your own at home.
With warm weather pushing all things into bright blossom, we’re packing the truck with lawnchairs and contemplating the picnic basket. This salad is a favorite bring-along; renditions of it were especially popular in the ’80s and ’90s. It makes great use of any roast chicken you have hanging around, and is brightly spiced with the sweet heat of Indian chutney, turmeric & curry powder. The added crunch of celery, apples & toasted almond, and the chew of zante currants makes for textural perfection.
Gel-O! We mixed it up vintage-style with marshmallows and cream, adding bing cherries and a chocolate-laced chocolate cookie crust below. This pie is patterned after 1930s and 1940s marlows: desserts made by melting marshmallows in milk, cooling and whipping with cream. This one’s for you, Dave! (…and here’s our Lime Marlow, to try later!)
Whoopee pies are just too dang cute! My youngest, Charlie, couldn’t wait for the dark-chocolate little domes to finish baking so he could jump up on a stool to help me pile on the marshmallow whip frosting. While in most peoples’ minds these soft, sandwich-creme-filled “pies” have a vintage 50s feel, they go back farther than that. Pennsylvania foodlore expert William Woys Weaver tells us that whoopees were not invented in Pennsylvania, but actually derive from an 1800′s Viennese pastry called Wienerkrapfen. The “Whoopee” name popped up in Boston in 1928 after the epoynymous Broadway musical. The recipe became more widely known in the 1930s when Lynn, MA-based Durkee-Mower, maker of Marshmallow Fluff TM, published a Whoopie Pie recipe in its first “Yummy Book”, including the now classic marshmallow whip filling. The recipe we’re featuring here is a sample of the work of Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell, from their book, Whoopie Pies.
Was Derby pie named for the hat or the horse race? Well, the horse race–but a hat does figure in the naming of this rich chocolate nut pie. First created in 1950 at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky, by Walter and Leaudra Kern with some input from their son George, the pie–originally made with chocolate and walnuts–sparked debate in the family, with each family member wanting to name it something else. To resolve the conflict, everybody tossed their favorite name into a hat: The slip that got plucked was inscribed, “Derby Pie.” A huge hit, the pie anchored the Kern family baking business, lasting long after they sold the Inn. Protecting their rights to the pie, the Kern’s copyrighted the name in 1969, and still sue usurpers. But many home-baked chocolate-nut pie creations have safely circulated under different names in the intervening decades.
We baked several renditions, tweaking and experimenting as we went: some we made with corn starch and bourbon in the mix, others with flour and vanilla. Some with walnuts; others pecans. All are enriched with chocolate. While the version made with cornstarch had a lovely, meringue-like cookie crust on top, Our favorite tested version (below) uses flour instead of cornstarch, plus high-quality chocolate, toasted pecans and vanilla. If you still want that Kentucky bourbon spike? Whisk a little into the whipped cream garnish.