Glamour 1950s Style: Dior and Skillets

Some of the best gems when it comes to old recipes are those put out by companies trying to sell their foodstuffs. Who hasn’t used a back of the box recipe (Toll House chocolate chip cookies are still my favorite.) or the company web site (I’m guilty)?

Apparently back in the 1950s, skillets were the thing to have. Wesson Oil jumped on this fad and published a cookbook dousing everything in your skillet with gobs of oil. They called it, The Skillet Cook Book: The First Complete Guide to Glamorous Skillet Cooking. My cousin found this masterpiece at an estate sale and sent it along (thanks!). And, I must say, it is everything that the subtitle implies. Nothing says glamour like this:

Three Burgers in a Skillet

I did not end up making the above recipe, because I am not a fan of olives with pimentos—especially on top of a sizzling piece of beef half submerged in oil. I’m not sure if you can tell, but that oil is bubbling with no apparent heat source. Wesson Oil is magic!

But, it did get me perusing the meat section with its chapter title, “Ground Beef … New Heavenly Ways.” The next bit of text really sealed it for me: “It’s a horn-tooting tribute to American inventiveness—all the delectable dishes women have concocted with ground beef. Now, with new sauces, new flavor variations, new additions and its own light delicacy, Wesson Oil adds a bright new dash of glamour to skillet ’burger dishes.” When someone says glamour, I will no longer think of fashion runways or chic European cities, I will think hamburger in a skillet.

This is the first time I have ever made burgers in a frying pan. I’m a bit disturbed by the results.

Hamburger Steak in Mushroom Gravy

4-6 servings (four small burgers… not six… unless you like your burgers slider-size)

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ C breadcrumbs
  • ⅛ t pepper
  • 1 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 package dehydrated onion soup mix
  • 2 T Wesson Oil (or brand non-specific oil is fine)
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 C liquid (juice from mushrooms and water)
  • 1 can (4 oz) mushrooms

Combine the meat with egg, crumbs, and seasonings, and half the onion soup mix. Shape into patties and fry in Wesson Oil. Remove browned hamburgers. Add flour to fry pan; stir while it browns lightly. Blend in liquid, stirring vigorously until smooth. Stir in remaining onion soup mix and mushrooms; cook 5 minutes. Return meat to skillet; cook slowly 5 minutes. Serve with rice or buns.


Can you feel the sodium come over the interweb and through your screen? This is salty. And, strangely lovely at the same time. The gravy is drippier than I expected. Not really gravy consistency, but more like flavored water. A thick water with mushroom bits. I served this on an herb focaccia bun and the “gravy” just soaked into the bread. I also threw in some steamed green beans because they are my favorite 1950s vegetable. (Now, that you think about it, they ARE very 1950s, aren’t they?) Of course, I hate green beans, so I didn’t actually eat them. I just passed them over to Paul.

The reason that I say this gooey mess is lovely is that it somehow brought back some sense memory of some kind. Now, perhaps my mother always cooked burgers with onion soup mix, but it seemed to be something more. Like, I kind of miss this flavor profile—meaty, earthy, salty without a lick of vegetable to be had. So wonderfully unbalanced.

Hamburger Steak in Mushroom Gravy

Oh, the odd, brown, familiarity of canned mushrooms.


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