Something that you very rarely see in modern recipes is menu suggestions. If you look up how to cook an entree for your upcoming party, you aren’t also told to have on the table “cantaloupe & orange sections, sweet potatoes and apples, piquant beet & onion salad, chocolate cake, coffee, milk” alongside your Vegetable Surprise Baskets.
You don’t see many recipes named Vegetable Surprise Baskets, either…
2 1/2 cups green beans, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 frankfurters, cut in 1/4-inch slices
3 cups medium white sauce
32 slices white bread
1 egg white
2/3 cup milk
Cook beans and celery in small amount of salted water. After 10 minutes add sliced frankfurters and cook till vegetables are tender. Add drained mixture to white sauce. Heat thoroughly. Serve in baskets made as follows: With large cookie cutter, cut bread into rounds. With smaller cookie cutter, remove centers from 24 rounds. Place 3 rings on each of the 8 rounds. Brush tops and sides with egg white and milk beaten together. Place on greased cookie sheet, brown in hot oven, 400°F., for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Fill with creamed vegetables. Serve immediately.
This recipe is the sort that assumes you’re going to handle the basics on your own, trusting that you’ve had a basic home economics class (or at least have a good cookbook). It’s definitely worth learning; you can get canned white sauce, you can buy a packet and add water to it, but there’s a world of difference between either of those options and a good roux-based homemade sauce. So pop over to Mid-Century Menu and learn how to make a white sauce!
We had a lot of fun attacking a loaf of bread with a cookie cutter. It was slightly too short, so there was a bit of crust still showing at the top and bottom of the circle.
I had a hard time “brushing” the tops and sides with egg white and milk; the liquid just dribbled off. I ended up dunking the edges into a bowl to get it even slightly moist, enough that the individual slices could hold together and get nicely browned in the oven.
While those toasted, I started working on steaming the vegetables so there would be something to put in the baskets.
I added some hot dogs, the staple meat for adding quick protein to retro cooking. I assume this is the “surprise” of the recipe’s name (you thought this would just be vegetables, SURPRISE!)
And homemade white sauce mixed in for the final touch, ready to put in its basket.
Creamed vegetables with slices of hot dogs is a tasty enough meal (as long as you’ve got a decent white sauce). I would never consider this fancy or party food, although I guess I’d feed it to guests if I knew them pretty well and didn’t have many other recipes in my repertoire. The hardest part is assembling the bread baskets, which is ironically the least interesting flavor on the plate even though it is a cute presentation. It’s worth trying once, though.
A&P’s 1945 recipe is now available online at the Gallery of Graphic Design