Revealing secrets. What could be more fun?
|Evelyn ‘Pinky’ Proffitt with her senior center hamloaf. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
And today's Cook's Corner is one to cut out and save for sure, as Evelyn "Pinky" Proffitt is revealing not one, but two, long-held secret recipes in Wood County.
The first is the recipe for that crazy-popular hamloaf that is regularly served at the seven senior centers in Wood County. That one is Proffitt's to give away, since she's been on the staff at the Wood County Committee on Aging's Production Kitchen for the last quarter of a century.
But the second recipe is offered with a bow to her mother, Louise Pultz McGiffin, who gained local fame for the "Louise's Dressing" recipe she developed during the decades she worked as a cook for the former Kaufman family restaurants in Bowling Green. See the sidebar story on this page for the details of McGiffin's illustrious career, which began way back at the old Bowling Green Holiday Inn.
Proffitt herself worked at Kaufman's "for eight years, off and on," and, in the same way the Kaufman's restaurant owners were a family production, so were many of the loyal employees who came on board over the decades. "My two sisters and my nieces worked there, my stepbrothers worked there."
Tony Kaufman himself, during a recent visit with Proffitt's mom at the nursing home where she now resides, said of McGiffin with affection, "she raised me."
Proffitt's sister Jewel was the one who developed the tasty twice-baked potato recipe that soon showed up on the menu as Jewel's Potatoes.
But it's been at the county senior center where Proffitt has found her ultimate food family.
'I've been at the senior center for 25 years," she said. "I love the seniors; I love to cook for 'em. Being around them, talking to them" never gets old.
"Growing up on Dill Street" in Bowling Green, "I never played with the neighbor kids." Instead, "I went down to the lady and guy down the street and would swing on their swing" and be invited inside to help them with projects.
"Another lady had cancer and I'd go look in on her weekly. So I've always loved seniors - and loved food."
It was not only her mother who was an accomplished cook while Proffitt was growing up.
"My dad was a wonderful cook. He was in the Navy. He would make his soup with everything fresh from the garden of my grandparents." Their farm was located on the land that is now behind the Bowling Green Kroger supermarket.
Proffitt recalls how one day after they were all grown, her sisters asked her to make a pot of vegetable soup. When they sampled it, one sister exclaimed, "It tastes just like dad's."
That was meant as a high compliment.
"I said 'yeah, I watched him from the window and saw how to do it,'" unbeknownst to their father. Wanting the kitchen to himself, he had told young "Pinky" to go outside and play and never realized she was taking careful mental notes on his soup-preparation method the entire time.
"We always had big meals at home, lots of people over.
"I can't cook small. I had a family with three boys and they were big like football players."
That's probably why she's happiest cooking for a large crowd, which she certainly does at the senior center.
Many of the seniors probably wouldn't mind it if hamloaf was on the menu three days out of every five.
"If we serve 700 people a day, 400 to 450 would (request) hamloaf and the rest" the other entree offered.
She thinks the seniors like this particular hamloaf because "it's a very sweet recipe. It's really good."
She and the other cooks had tried other hamloaf recipes over the years, "different ones, and they just weren't going, when we hit this one."
They knew immediately the search was over.
"I love it. I make it into meatballs at home and freeze them to eat later" as a snack.
1 pan = 8 servings
2 pounds Hamloaf Mix (½ ground ham & ½ ground pork - (from Belleville’s)
1 cup Graham Cracker crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 whole egg
Mix ingredients listed above, form into a “loaf”, cover with foil, and bake for 30-45 minutes at 325 degrees. Drain and top with sauce mixture (below). Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.
The meat temperature should be 165 degrees when you get done with it.
1 10 ¾-oz. can of tomato soup (no water added)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 TBSP. vinegar
1 ½ tsp. dry mustard
Mom’s signature salad dressing was permanent fixture on Kaufman’s menu
If Pinky Proffitt hadn't turned out to be a wonderful cook, it certainly wouldn't have been her mother's fault.
That's because mom, Louise McGiffin, is known far and wide as the woman who developed two enormously popular recipes that became signature items on the menus at the Bowling Green Kaufman's Downtown and Kaufman's at the Lodge restaurants for decades.
In fact, both are named for her. One is Weezie's (or Louise's) Dressing and the other is her namesake Louise's Chili.
"Mom worked for the Kaufmans for 30-some years and retired at age 73," said Proffitt. "She started cooking for them when I was 5."
"Louise's Salad was on the menu too. The dressing went with that salad, and it became the house dressing" by popular demand.
The Kaufman family knew what gems they had in McGiffin and in their other long-time cook, Margaret Miller, the genius behind "Margaret's Chicken" which also brought many a hungry visitor to the family restaurants on East Wooster or South Main. Miller shared her chicken recipe with Cook's Corner readers back in February, at which time she insisted that McGiffin also deserved her own column.
Unfortunately McGiffin, now 82, is presently residing at Bowling Green Manor, so she's no longer cooking. But her daughter was happy to mix up a batch of the famous house dressing and to offer up the mystery recipe that so many diners yearned for during the 1980s and 1990s.
The only problem McGiffin faced was figuring out how to rejigger the recipe to feed a regular-sized family, instead of an entire restaurant dining room.
"That recipe made five gallons, and she had to make it twice a week," that's how popular the dressing was, says Proffitt.
Cutting down a recipe meant for industrial or commercial use isn't so easy to do.
"I had to change the house dressing recipe" as first submitted to the newspaper "because we reduced it down from like a five-gallon tub" and Proffitt realized, belatedly, that the ingredient amounts weren't all quite right in the small portion.
Further intensive experimentation in the kitchen yielded the correct combination, so you can trust the recipe as written here today.
But there is one huge cautionary note that wouldn't be evident from reading the recipe alone, says Proffitt.
"You cannot use anything aluminum on it, not even aluminum spoons. It's a very touchy recipe."
She herself made the mistake of using an aluminum pan the first time out.
"My first batch turned to glue," she warned.
With that warning out of the way, it's clear sailing, she said of the two-step recipe that includes bringing the mixture to a full boil.
"It's very easy, done in 10 minutes, and then you just refrigerate it."
Weezie's House Dressing
3 1/2 cups White Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Dry Mustard
¼ tsp. Celery Salt
¼ tsp. Garlic Powder
1/2 cup Corn Starch
¼ cup Dried Onion
Mix the above ingredients together then add the following:
2 cups Cider Vinegar
2 cups Corn Oil
Put into a kettle and cook on medium heat until it comes to a boil. Turn down heat and continue cooking until thickened.