Q. I am looking for a 1950s Congo bar recipe, made very sturdy for mailing to soldiers in the Korean War.
Congo bars — a dense, moist bar cookie made with chocolate chips, nuts and often coconut — certainly predate the Korean War. If there was an adaptation for overseas shipping, it may have been to omit the coconut, which would not have had as long a shelf life.
I was unable to find any evidence that the recipe changed during wartime, though there are lots of testimonials to both the bar cookie’s popularity with troops and its ease.
It is easy to tweak this recipe. Besides omitting the coconut, you could use different chips — white chocolate, milk chocolate, toffee — and switch the nuts to match. My sister makes them with white chocolate and macadamia nuts, swirls fudge sauce on top, and calls them Overload. Enough said!
Sylvia was incredulous when a party hostess refused to part with her recipe for “oysters in some sort of cream sauce in a chafing dish, which was scooped out into a small pastry cup.” She had looked for the recipe for years before turning to Cook’s Corner for help. Our industrious sleuths had no trouble finding the answer.
Mikey B. says “rich and creamy oyster stew is a variation on traditional brown oyster stew and is a Christmas showpiece in New Orleans, perfect served in flaky layers of puff pastry.”
Marjorie Sayre had a different take: “Why would anyone ruin good oysters by putting them in a cream sauce?”
Nonetheless, she continued, “I found a recipe in a Boston cookbook for creamed oysters. Unfortunately part of it was missing, but the main part said to use a white sauce and celery salt.”
Coincidentally, I happened upon a recipe for creamed oysters in a fascinating and quirky cookbook, Eating with Uncle Sam: Recipes and Historical Bites from the National Archives (Giles, $34.95), which features recipes from presidential libraries, the Depression-era Works Projects Administration and the fictitious wife of Uncle Sam, who shared recipes via a radio program for the Department of Agriculture beginning in 1926.
Aunt Sammy had good common sense advice you could see in her recipe. For example, “cook the oysters . . .until the edges begin to curl.” And the why of cooking the roux: “to do away with the starchy flavor of the flour.”
The book contains many photos from the National Archives including candid shots of former presidents — John F. Kennedy and his young family at Hyannisport, President Eisenhower and former President Hoover grilling steaks in Colorado — plus decades of posters and historical bites.
I am always intrigued, and often amused, when I am given a recipe for a Cuban dish, and find it not quite like anything I’ve tasted in a Cuban restaurant or at a friend’s home. So I will pass along this take on a Cuban sandwich, from the seasoning gurus at Spice Islands, who also have come up with a Cuban spice mix. It’s a bit different from a typical Cuban sandwich — and certainly needs to be on crisp Cuban bread rather than a Kaiser — but it at least lets the rest of the country know how to imitate the real thing.
Merianne Kaye of North Haven, Conn., wrote in response to a request for a biscuit dough to keep in the refrigerator. “My late mother-in-law used to make a dough and keep it on hand in fridge (maybe freezer) for delicious strudel: 1 pound butter, 1 pound cream cheese, 1 pound flour. How easy is that!”
Elisabeth Shaw of Miami responded to the Overnight Salad made with fruit, marshmallows and cream. “The recipe encouraged great memories. Whenever my family served turkey — Thanksgiving, Christmas, High Holy Days — a version of this ‘salad’ accompanied it. Our base was apple sauce and cranberry sauce mixed, then pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges, halved red seedless grapes and walnuts were added. I still enjoy it, as do my guests.”