Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.) Today, we will be testing a recipe from a versatile leading man.
Think silent leading men were all sheiks, comedians and male flappers? Richard Dix probably is not what you had in mind. With his craggy features and intense stare, he specialized in rugged adventures and dramas. Dix also made the jump to sound, starring in The Whistler movie series.
Dix’s silent work was diverse. He played one of the men vying for Eleanor Boardman’s love in Souls for Sale, the good son in the original version of The Ten Commandments and a Navajo man battling racism in the provocatively titled Redskin. As mentioned before, sound and Richard Dix got along just fine. He earned his only Oscar nod for the 1930 western, Cimmaron.
(You can read a lot more about Dix’s diverse career over at Immortal Ephemera, which has one of the largest selections of Dix movie reviews on the web.)
So, we know that Mr. Dix could act but could he cook?
Like most of the male stars featured in the cookbook, Mr. Dix chose to stay in the meat category. His recipe is for Toad in the Hole, the English version. (Some parts of America use this name for the dish Eggs in the Basket but the recipes have nothing in common.)
Here is the original recipe:
This is where I noticed something odd. Toad in the Hole is generally reckoned to be a sausage dish but here were are with one of the leanest cuts of beef. Further, sausages would add their herbs and spices to the flavor of the dish but this recipe calls for nothing stronger than salt and pepper.
Oh well. Here goes nothing.
As you can see, this is a very plain dish. Classic Toad in the Hole is served with gravy but this is just plopped onto a plate, per recipe instructions.
So, how was it?
Here is my taste test video:
My rating: 3 out of 5. It’s basically just the sum of its parts, no more and no less. The biggest sin of the recipe is attempting to cut down on the fat. However, in a dish with limited ingredients, every single one counts and the biggest contributor of flavor in a meat dish is the fat. If Dix had opted for a fattier cut of meat or the traditional sausages, the recipe would have been far more successful. Photoplay’s twee proclamation of “yum, yum” seems a bit overstated.
That being said, if you cook meat, butter and batter in the oven, you are never going to end up with something inedible. That’s just how food works. So even though this recipe is as bland as they come, it is still not terrible and, anyway, isn’t this what the salt shaker was invented for?
Can it be improved: Yes. Either using a fattier beef cut or the traditional sausages would improve matters greatly. More spice and an onion gravy would take this into the realm of true comfort food. A vegetarian option could easily be obtained by substituting mushrooms for the beef and bumping up the fat content (either with butter or olive oil) to compensate. Alternately, soy sausage could be used but be sure to really oil the pan. Those little suckers are sticky!
Was awake at 4 am this morning, couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up and watched a Richard Dix movie I had tivoed off of TCM last week. Shooting Straight, from 1930, a talkie. Not a bad film, but the sets looked very worn to my eye. When you mentioned Toad in a Hole, I thought you meant the fried egg sitting in a piece of grilled toast. My husband’s family made those when he was a kid, but called them “One Eyed Egyptians”!!!! My kids think that’s horrible and call them “Bulls Eyes” as that’s what Paula Deen called them on one of her old cooking show episodes that my kids had viewed.
Bulls Eyes is a much better name. I think it’s all a matter of regionalisms as I have always thought of Toad in the Hole as sausage in batter. I call the egg in toast variation the Egg Toast Thing. Not poetic but it gets the job done. Both versions are delicious, though. 🙂
I must confess I was afraid of the “toad” part, but it went out better than I expected. I’m sure it could be better, but, oh, well.
Yep, we sure know how to come up with appetizing names 😉
It looks like an Army-issue beef cake circa 1925. Wait… Beefcake! “Yum yum” says the crowd. Cabana boys for everyone! Fatima, peel them all some grapes 😀
Yes, quite spartan, I must say.
I completely agree with your analysis of beef + butter + batter. You can’t go wrong. In fact, I think it’s one of the secrets to happy marriage.
Someone should write a book on that 🙂
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