If you consider yourself to be a sophisticated cook who routinely uses ingredients like fish sauce, beef short ribs and Thai red chile paste, should you be embarrassed that you routinely give some love to the cream of mushroom soup in your pantry? I think not.
Mark and I were considering this as I unashamedly mixed a can of cream of celery coup, with a can of beef broth (it’s not real beef, I assure you) and a packet of Lipton Onion Soup mix together for a country fried steak sauce. Yes, I know these are highly processed foods that are bad, bad, bad for you. But I don’t care, care, care. Every child of the 1950s ate this stuff routinely and most of us aren’t dead…yet.
So we made a list of the top 5 things we might be embarrassed to have in the pantry. Here goes (don’t judge me):
1. Cream of (fill in the blank) soup. You can make a Bechamel sauce and add flavorings, but I promise you it will not taste as good as cream of (fill in the blank) soup with a little doctoring. My Chicken Divan is a triumph of culinary excellence in part because I use not one, but two, types of cream of (fill in the blank) soup.
2. Velveeta. Yes, my beloved Velveeta, which I know is not actual cheese. It is a “cheese product” and I think it should just hold up its head and be proud of that. It is essential for making macaroni and cheese. I’m sorry, but when I see a recipe for mac and cheese that involves real Cheddar I just cringe. Rubbery. That is all I have to say on that subject. Velveeta is also what makes my squash casserole worth the price of admission.
3. Stovetop Stuffing. Be honest. You cannot make stuffing better than Stovetop. And it takes five minutes! Just look on the back of the box, try the recipe for the chicken breasts with Stovetop Stuffing and cream of (fill in the blank) soup and tell me it isn’t divine.
4. Ritz Crackers. You never know when you’re going to have to add a crunchy, buttery topping to something. You can saute some panko breadcrumbs with butter, but why bother when you have all the essential ingredients in that beautifully golden Ritz cracker.
5. Rice-A-Roni. Do not follow the package directions! They are wrong. The directions say to add two cups of water to the rice after you saute it with the butter. Add a cup and a half. You will end up with soggy rice if you ignore my advice. I do not understand how the Rice-A-Roni people have not figured this out. And Rice-A-Roni is terrific in cold rice salads. Here’s a recipe.
So those are my guilty pleasures. What are yours? Tell me the top 5 things you have in your pantry that you would not want Food Network to know about.
Smothered Country Fried Steak
4 cube steaks
Salt and pepper
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can beef broth
1 package Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix
Liberally sprinkle steaks with soy sauce and let sit for 30 minutes. Put the flour in a gallon bag, add salt and pepper to taste and coat steaks liberally with the flour. Heat about a ½ inch of oil in a skillet over medium high heat and fry the steaks until a deep golden brown on each side.
Mix together the soup, broth and onion soup mix. Put the steaks in a 9-by-9 pan (or whatever fits) and cover with the soup mixture. Cover the pan with foil.
Back at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Serve the steaks and sauce over mashed potatoes for the maximum effect.