The Anachronistic Chef: Harvest Casserole

This is one in a series of posts in which I sample recipes from the days of yore (i.e., not the 1990s). The dishes featured were mainstays of 19th-, 18th- and even 17th-century tables, but for one reason or another (unusual taste, archaic ingredients), have fallen out of culinary fashion.

For a recent Mad Men-themed party, my cooking colleague Sophie and I made an assortment of period foods, including a ginormous pecan-covered cheese ball and a "Harvest Casserole." While this dish is not nearly as old as others we have reviewed, the copious amounts of beef, canned cream of mushroom soup, and Velveeta cheese required certainly scream retro. This recipe, which is attributed to a Mrs. Floyd Olsen, can be found at Retro-Housewife.

Harvest Casserole

  • 3 lbs. hamburger
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 c. celery, chopped
  • 1 8-oz. pkg. egg noodles
  • 1 can evaporated milk (or 13 ozs. rich milk)
  • 3 10 1/2-oz. cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 3/4 lb. Velveeta cheese, grated

Cook hamburger and onion together. Cook celery in a small amount of margarine over low heat. Cook noodles as directed on package; drain grease from meat. Add all ingredients together and put in one large casserole or several small ones.

Bake at 350° until bubbly. This casserole makes approximately 1 gallon. It freezes well either before or after cooking in oven.

Mrs. Olsen wasn't kidding about the size of this entree, which could be used to feed an entire nursing home, although that's probably not a good idea because of the high sodium content. The high proportion of dairy, meat, and white pasta to vegetables certainly suggested the Harvest Casserole would be intensely hearty - it also made me wonder whether Velveeta or onions were the main crop for 1960.

Very similar to beef stroganoff, the Harvest Casserole is a satisfying stick-to-your-ribs-and-maybe-never-come-off sort of meal that should only be sampled in small, singular helpings...or else you'll need at least five dirty martinis to wash it all down.

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