Tag Archives: American cheese

TATER-TOT-STUFFED FRIED BALONEY CUPS

Many years ago, I worked at a hospital named (I’m not making this up) Confederate Memorial Hospital. It was a teaching hospital, so there were many young nursing students and resident physicians. Nearly all of the patients were poor and uninsured. With all those mouths to feed, it is not surprising that the food was particularly uninspired. As you might suspect, the menu included a lot of fried okra, corn bread, greens cooked into oblivion, and grits. Even at that, everyone dreaded the weekend beginning on Friday night and extending into Monday morning. The kitchen staff was all off, except for a skeleton crew. Disposable cardboard trays were used, and the plates and utensils all were changed to plastic so that staff on the wards could clean up by dumping everything in huge trash barrels.

The entrée at Friday dinner, even for patients on special diets, was almost always fried baloney cups.  Now, fried baloney cups are a common Southern delicacy, but they usually are filled with creamed chicken or vegetables. That was not the case at the hospital. The baloney cup came on the middle of a plastic plate with nothing else. It rolled around on the plate, so that for a sick, bed-ridden patient it was difficult to spear with a flimsy knife and fork that often broke in two.

Bologna lunch meat can be transformed by frying, especially when it is cooked with the cellophane rind still intact. The slice of meat puffs up in the middle on the hot skillet and the rind shrinks a bit so that you wind up with a cup-shaped vessel just begging for filling. Of course, any cook worried about finesse will remove the cellophane rind before serving. The interesting thing is that frying enhances the flavor of the bologna.

Well-made bologna is much maligned because of confusion with the super market version that I will call baloney.  Along with its close relative, mortadella,  the real thing can be quite delicate and delicious. The stuff called baloney is what you want to use for this dish. These days, you will have to look around a bit to find baloney with the cellophane rind intact, but even without that, a thick slice of the sausage will puff up in the middle so that you can stuff it.

This version incorporates some other standbys of Southern cooking: tater tot potatoes, American cheese, fried eggs, and mustard greens. It is clear that the dish will not help your cholesterol level, but hopefully it will bring back memories for those of us who spent some of our lives in the South.

RECIPE

Tater-Tot-Stuffed Fried Baloney Cups

Ingredients

  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 bunches mustard greens
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce (or to taste)
  • 8 thick slices bologna (baloney) with cellophane rind
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 12 tater tots
  • 2 teaspoons Louisiana hot sauce (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 slices American cheese
  • 4 eggs

Method

  1. Wash the mustard greens, remove large ribs, and chop coarsely. Place the chopped greens in a medium non-reactive covered pot over low temperature with a tablespoon or so of cooking oil and the vinegar. Cook until wilted. Adjust the seasoning with Louisiana hot sauce, salt and pepper. Drain, and arrange  as “nests” in the middle of 4 serving plates.
  2. In a medium frying pan over medium high heat, fry 4 of the slices of baloney, rind on, until lightly browned. Transfer from the frying pan, remove the rind, and arrange on top of the mustard greens.
  3. In the same frying pan, heat another tablespoon of oil. Add the chopped onions and stir until lightly browned.
  4. Remove the rind from the remaining 4 slices of bologna, chop coarsely, and add to the frying pan. Stir until lightly browned. Then stir in the tater tots, breaking them apart with a  fork or wooden spoon. Stir in the  hot sauce and flour. Cook for a few minutes until the flour is incorporated to remove any raw taste. Add the milk, bring to the simmer, and stir until the mixture is thickened. It should not be soupy, but just moist enough to hold its shape.
  5. Fill the baloney cups with the mixture. Top each with a slice of American cheese. Run under a hot broiler until the cheese melts.
  6. In the meantime, fry the 4 eggs. Top the melted cheese with the fried eggs. Serve.

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CHUNK O’CHEESE BREAD

One of our family’s favorite breads is Chunk o’Cheese.  The original recipe was developed by Mrs. Richard W. Ojakangas from Duluth, Minnesota. With it she won Second Grand Prize in the ninth annual Pillsbury Grand National Bake-Off. The recipe was published in Best of the Bake-Off Collection, Book Publishing Industries, Inc., 1959, page 21. Since then, the recipe has been reprinted numerous times in various cookbooks and recipe collections as well as on the internet.

Chunk o'cheese loaves fresh out of the oven

Chunk o’cheese loaves fresh out of the oven

During a recent visit to Los Angeles, I made the bread with my grandson, who had a great time pushing the little chunks of cheese into the dough. That is a very important step, because cheese on the surface of the dough melts in the oven. It can make a big mess. For that reason, be sure to line your baking pans with aluminum foil Also be sure to remove the foil from the finished loaves while they are still cooling. Otherwise you will wind up with pieces of aluminum foil stuck in the cracks of the firmed-up bread.

All it needs is some butter

All it needs is some butter

The basic recipe is really the very old-time American classic, anadama bread, but the cheese sets it apart.  The original recipe called for American cheese. (That and Velveeta were the kinds of cheese found in most American kitchens in the 1950s.) I prefer to use sharp Cheddar, but you can choose your favorite so long as it melts easily. Monterey jack, Muenster, Swiss, mozzarella, or provolone will also work. You can even try a mixture of cheeses. I have also added a little whole wheat flour to make the loaf even more flavorful and crunchy.

RECIPE

Chunk o’Cheese Bread

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups lukewarm water (110°F)
  • ½ cup cornmeal + more for shaping loaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable shortening
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 4½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound cheddar cheese, cut into ¼ to ½ inch cubes

Method

  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine 1 3/4 cups of the warm water, cornmeal, and salt. Stir until smooth. Then place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to stir until thickened, about 5 minutes after it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat.
  2. Stir in molasses and butter or shortening. Cool to lukewarm.
  3. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the remaining ½ cup of warm water. Add the cornmeal mixture and blend thoroughly.
  4. Stir in the whole wheat flour until well combined. Then, one cup at a time, stir in 3½ cups of the all-purpose flour to form a sticky dough.
  5. Spread the remaining 1 cup of flour onto a clean work surface. Place the dough on the flour and knead until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.
  6. Return the dough to the washed, dried, and greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean cloth, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in volume.
  7. Turn the risen dough onto a work surface sprinkled with cornmeal, and work the cheese cubes into the dough by flattening the dough, sprinkling with about ¼ of the cubes, and folding over the dough, then repeating the process until all of the cheese cubes are incorporated.  Make sure that all of the cheese cubes are covered.
  8. Divide the dough into two equal pieces.
  9. Shape into two round loaves. Place in two 8 or 9 inch cake pans tightly lined with well-greased aluminum foil. Make sure the cheese cubes are well covered. Otherwise they will melt during baking and make cleanup difficult.  Cover the shaped loaves with a clean cloth and let rise until doubled.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 1 hour. Test for doneness.  When the loaves are baked, remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Remove any bits of aluminum foil that cling to the loaves while they are still warm. Otherwise you will have a hard time removing the foil.
  11. Cool completely before slicing. although you will be tempted to try an early sample.

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