Retro Recipe: Frankfurter Casserole

There's a reason why they drink more than they eat on the first few seasons of Mad Men: The 1950s and early 1960s weren't exactly the high point of America's culinary history. An emphasis on overcooked meat, candied cherries and canned soup as ingredients gave rise to some pretty funky dishes.

Looking at old pictures or illustrations of wacky entrées always makes me wonder, "Did people really enjoy eating this?" And I think, actually, the very simple answer is yes. For better or for worse, many members of the post-World War II generation were A-okay with these monstrosities. And, heck, maybe I would be too if I had spent the past four years on butter and sugar rations.

Particularly fascinating to me is the plethora of recipes that feature hot dogs in stews, pies and, my favorite, casseroles. For fun, I decided to do some historical culinary re-enactment.

I found a model recipe on this lovely website and modified it slightly:

Frankfurter Corn Casserole

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups canned whole kernel corn, drained
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1/4 cup fine panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 8 all-beef hot dogs
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat; add garlic and onions and cook until the latter are transparent. Stir in flour. Add salt and pepper.
  2. Lower temperature and gradually stir in milk. Cook until sauce thickens significantly.
  3. Remove from heat and add corn. Fold in beaten eggs. Pour into 1 1/2 quart buttered casserole dish or pan.
  4. Mix melted butter and panko crumbs. Sprinkle mixture liberally on top of casserole. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven, place hot dogs on top of casserole, and bake 15 minutes longer.

At the last minute, I panicked about the possibilities of having an entire vat of corn and hot dogs to eat throughout the next week (I hate throwing out food) and briefly considered making a smaller batch in case the casserole was absolutely wretched. But once I poured the mixture into the pan, I realized it was already a modest serving. At worst, I could feed it to, um, all those hot dog-loving wild ponies that graze around my apartment complex.

Well, the casserole wasn't absolutely wretched, but it was rather salt, with a texture that reminded me of that sort of "mystery mash" commonly served in school cafeterias. If you really, really like corn, you will enjoy the frankfurter casserole immensely. For those who aren't maize maniacs, it's going to be entertaining for one small serving but rather blah at the second helping.

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