Mystery House

Nancy Drew’s Corn Pudding

Most of my kitchen experiments are about the recipes — things that I really want to try — but some are definitely all about the cookbooks.  See, I collect cookbooks not simply because I love to cook, but also because I enjoy them as books, and as cultural artifacts.  Some I buy just for the fun of it.  Like the Nancy Drew Cookbook.

Nancy Drew Cookbook

Isn’t that a ridiculous cover?  I mean, if I had designed this book, I would have put one of those great, classic Nancy Drew illustrations on the cover, with her in the kitchen trying to solve a turducken mystery or something.  Not some generic early 1970’s tablesetting with pineapple rings.  It’s fabulously tacky.

The recipes all have mysterious names, of course:  Black Key Mystery Patties, Invisible Intruder’s Coconut Custard, Sleuth Soup.  I had to try one, and making the choice was the hard part.  I wasn’t in the mood to try a breakfast thing or a dessert thing, so I picked a dinner thing.  You know, I should have gone for the breakfast thing.  But sometimes, I have to push my luck and try a recipe that’s truly a cultural artifact in itself.  Why do I do this?  I don’t know.

The concept behind Mystery Corn Pudding is basically sound.  (And the name is perfect!)  A good corn pudding involves corn.  And milk, eggs, usually cheese and other seasonings.  This recipe has all that stuff.  But the form of the corn….it’s a mystery why the recipe writer would choose this ingredient, such a cunningly mysterious mystery that I was driven to try it and see what would happen.  Follow along…

Mystery Corn Pudding, adapted from the Nancy Drew Cookbook, 1975 edition

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat 3 eggs.

MRC ND Corn Pudding 1

Yep, those are eggs.  I know, not the most exciting photo.

Add other stuff:

3/4 cup milk (I used skim)
1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
a couple Tbsp. onion, minced
a couple Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I couldn’t resist)

And then, the secret ingredient:

MRC ND Corn Pudding 3

I’m not kidding.  This was why I had to try it.  It’s just so odd.  And I had — unbelievably, I know — experienced creamed corn used to good effect in a Chinese-American recipe, so I wasn’t opposed to trying it again in something else.  Check out the article by Mark Bittman here.  It’s worth reading, and worth trying.  (Actually, it’s too bad I didn’t go back and read that article again before making this, because the trick he used with that recipe might have worked here, too.)

No complicated techniques, just pour in the corn and stir it all together.  Who’s that little green guy behind the bowl, you ask?  Why, that’s my helpful little tiki cup.  Helpful because he contained some very nice ruby port.  Cook assistance, as it were.

MRC ND Corn Pudding 4

Dump the mixture into a buttered casserole dish.  Then, Nancy advises that you crumble cheese crackers over the top before baking it.  Well, I decided to put them on closer to the end of cooking so they wouldn’t burn.  Because I just couldn’t crumble them.  They were too cute.

MRC ND Corn Pudding 5

This recipe just isn’t getting more sensible, is it?  I really had to go for broke here, it’s true.

Bake at 325 degrees for an hour.  This gives you plenty of time to put a nice spice rub on some pork chops, and to prep the last brussels sprouts of the season.

It all came out looking very pretty.  The bunnies were so cheerful.  We were hopeful.

MRC ND Corn Pudding 7

But it really wasn’t a proper corn pudding.  Sorry, Nancy, I love you, but you haven’t got a clue how to make corn pudding.  The creamed corn had the mysterious effect of making the whole dish bland and sort of quichelike.  In fact, creamed corn has such intense powers of blandification that we couldn’t even detect the cayenne.  Worst of all, it really didn’t taste all that much like corn.  Which a corn pudding should certainly do.  And the bunnies eventually got soggy, which was rather sad.  It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t anything to get excited about, either.

And that’s the real mystery.  How a dish with what seemed to be proper ingredients can turn so boring with the addition of just one unusual thing.  I think I’ll wait until late summer, when I can get my hands on some real corn, and take a crack at solving The Secret of the Real Corn Pudding myself.  Without help from Ms. Drew.


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  1. * cursingmama says:

    I tried a corn pudding from Cooking Light that was darn good – it used both regular & creamed canned corn. Also – all creamed corns are not the same – brand is very important. I come from a bland background so I know my creamed corn 😉
    (we always buy butter kernel brand)

    Posted 9 years, 4 months ago
  2. * Amy says:

    A shame indeed, to waste those good Annie’s bunnies.
    I sure wish I could find some of the plain whole-wheat bunnies. No one seems to carry them anymore.

    Posted 9 years, 4 months ago
  3. * Guinifer says:

    That cover photo! Not a veg to be seen!
    Yep – I always combo frozen Green Giant with the Creme variety if fresh is not to be found.

    Posted 9 years, 4 months ago
  4. * Kayla says:

    I LOVE the word – blandification! Wonderful!
    I was excited to see you use the word turducken (sp) as I made a lovely turducken roll within the last 6 months. It was a first for me. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t really like it either. Ummm – kind of the same feeling you had about Nancy Drew’s corn pudding.

    Posted 9 years, 4 months ago
  5. * kitkatknit says:

    Are those some kind of carmelized brussels sprouts on the left? Drool drool.

    Posted 9 years, 4 months ago

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