Experiment #15: Three-Layer Christmas Mold

  WE'RE IN PAIN   ♪ 

Just look at that tablescape. Eat your heart out, Williams Sonoma.  

Merry Christmas, everyone! Did all of your wishes come true? Was one of your wishes eating a triple-decker congealed salad stuffed like Santa's sack with cream cheese, hazelnuts, eggnog, and Inscrutable Melon? 

Us neither. 

Today's Star Wars Congressional Club Holiday Special comes to us care of Marjorie Wylie, the enterprising wife of serial congressman Chalmers P. Wylie (R-OH).

Wylie served a walloping THIRTEEN TERMS as a U.S. Representative from Ohio's 15th District, during which he introduced 183 bills. 

Wylie's political impulses were, for the most part, Republican Classic. Over the course of his 26-year career, The Chalm sponsored balanced budget bills and tax code adjustments, proposed a Constitutional amendment criminalizing the "desecration of the flag," and, perhaps most importantly, introduced legislation commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Ohio State University marching band (go Brass Bucks!) 

Incidentally, the "P" in "Chalmers P. Wylie" stands for PANGBURN. We're not making this up. 

Chalmers Pangburn Wylie was born in Muskingum County, Ohio.

Everything about this man is a great Scrabble hand. 

JD from Harvard. BDE from Pangburn. 

After retirement, Pangolin Wylie 
graciously lent his name to the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus, OH, which appears to provide both decent health-care services and, according to one intrepid Yelp reviewer,
a pretty good Coney dog. 

Marjorie would be proud. 

Little known fact: Marjorie's Three-Layer Mold actually played an important role in the Christmas story. Reenact the following scene with your family this Yule:


Please. My wife is extremely pregnant.

Why, come on in! There's plenty of room! I'll boil several gallons of water!

Thank you. Boiled water is very important for baby-having.

Not for the whelp, you great galoot! I'm making a congealed salad! Three whole layers! Some angel told me I needed three for symbolism. Come in, come in. The name's Ezekieth C. Pangburn. And you? 

(shuts door, backs wide-eyed into street. Turns to Mary.) 
Sorry, sweetie. No room in the inn. 

Step 1. The Melon in Winter
we are breaking the rules with this fresh fr00t. *revs motorcycle*
Look, there's a whole junk drawer of ingredients here we don't have time to comment on, but the strangest one might be the "1/2 cup frozen melon balls, thawed and well drained." 

We drove to every grocery store in a 10-mile radius and couldn't find anything close to frozen melon balls. It doesn't help that Marge doesn't specify the kind of melon. 

In the end, we just bought a whole damn honeydew. The melon's for the green layer, after all. Plus, everyone's expectations for honeydew are already so low that seasonality seems like a tertiary concern.

Honeydew Melon: "You've Never Eaten a Ripe One."

Forgive them, Father Christmas. They know not what they do. 

The Wily Wylies start out sensible enough: make lime Jell-O! We weren't sure The Harbinger had the requisite Christmasisity, so we p
rocured a special Nordic Ware CHRISTMAS BUNDT PAN just for the occasion.

Nordic Ware®: "We'd Really Prefer You Used This for Cakes."

Still, nothing out of the ordinary here. Ordinary Christmas colors, ordinary color-based flavors. What could possibly go wrong? 

The mulp is back, baby. 

While that lime Jell-O firms in the fridge, Marjorie instructs you to "fold" a half-cup of coarsely chopped Christmas Melon into some softened cream cheese.

Then she tells you to shape that melon paste into teaspoon-sized balls.

...and drop those balls on a cookie sheet covered in chopped nuts.

...and roll those sticky McMulp Nuggets around like an overcaffeinated Bingo caller.

The verbs here are confusing—"roll," "shape." This process was less like coating a cheese ball and more like dropping a half-melted ice cream cone scoop-first onto some sand, picking it back up, and proclaiming it solid food.

Look, we did the best we could. But when Marge instructed us to "carefully place balls in gelatin, positioning evenly," well...

Beginning to get a bad feeling about this.

Same, pineapple. Same. 

Things really go off the rails in Layer Two. Margie-Pang asks you to drain a can of crushed pineapple, pour a packet of unflavored gelatin into the syrup, and then add the dessicated pineapple back in along with a cup and a half of egg nog. 

As we whisked, we heard the faint, drunken strains of Bing Crosby crooning Mele Kalikimaka into an active volcano.

The pineapple nog mix smells truly repellent, with the post-traumatic texture of Joan's Blue Cheese Mold.

*jiggles threateningly*

The nog layer is, of course, the thickest, because Marjorie wants to make sure the youths of tomorrow have strong bones and teeth. 

Step 4. Reconstruct the crime scene 
From producer Dick Wolf.

The final layer is insultingly straightforward after all that Frosty Nonsense: just frozen raspberries in raspberry Jell-O. This would be fine on its own. Here, it looks like the Act 1 break of every episode of Law and Order: SVU.

We let the FINAL LAYER set overnight before we decanted it, which was probably overkill. This thing squicked out of the Nordic Ware with all the sonic elegance of tap dancing on a hog lot.

Step 5. Serve with Sham Pain
We decanted Hamm's into champagne coupes because Christmas is for fancy. 

The recipe ends with this puzzling advice:

"Note: Serve with Crown Roast of Pork."*

*Pork not included. 

Since this mold took ALL DAY to make, we suspect you're not going to have time to find and slaughter the Hog King. Instead, we suggest slopping this on a cake platter next to some candles and a crèche. Bitches love crèches.

We've gotta give Marjorie a little credit here. The flavors were better than we expected, but the texture was truly horrifying. The nog layer was impractically thicc, full of pineapple bits with the wet crunch of rain-decayed twigs. Just when you've adjusted to your new and disturbing textural realities, a nutty melon cheeseball bursts across your palate like Krampus dropping off a wet sack of naughty children's bones.

We might have finished a slice, were it not for the sinister synergies of crunchy pineapple nog and cheesy nutmelon. 

...as with most things in life, the whites were the problem. 

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Three-Layer Christmas Mold
By Mrs. Chalmers P. "Marjorie" Wylie
Adapted from the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book

Green Layer: 

1 3 oz pkg. lime gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup frozen melon balls, thawed and well drained
1 3 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup chopped nuts

White Layer:

1 8 oz can crushed pineapple
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups canned or dairy eggnog 

Red Layer: 

1 3 oz pkg. raspberry gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 10 oz pkg. frozen raspberries, thawed

Hamm's Layer:
2 12 oz cans Hamm's Lager Beer

Green Layer: Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add cold water. Pour into 6 cup mold. Chill until slightly thickened. Meanwhile, pat dry melon balls and chop coarsely. Fold into cream cheese. Spread nuts on waxed paper and drop teaspoonfuls of cream cheese mixture onto nuts. Roll and shape into balls. Chill in refrigerator while gelatin congeals. Carefully place balls in gelatin, positioning evenly in mold. Let chill until very thick, but not completely set. 

White Layer: Drain pineapple, reserving syrup. Soften gelatin in syrup and heat until dissolved. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Combine with eggnog and drained pineapple and chill until slightly thickened. Pour over lime gelatin in mold and chill until thickened but not fully set.

Red Layer: Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in raspberries. Chill until slightly thickened. Pour over white layer in mold. Chill until completely set. To serve, unmold onto plate. Garnish with frozen melon balls and two cans Hamm's, if desired. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Note: Serve with Crown Roast of Pork. Or don't.

Experiment #14: “Hanky-Pankies”

Today, we have a dish for you that is somehow as satisfying as it is rubbery, as shiny as it is suggestive, and as square as the head of the man who (we think) inspired it. 

When we set out to “work” on one of these recipes, we usually pore over the Ancient Texts with teeth gritted and loins girded, preparing our senses and our stomachs for a culinary assault straight out of the darkest depths of the 20th century. Imagine our surprise (and relief) when we happen across a recipe that’s dated and strange enough to be worth our reader’s attention (hi, Becca!), yet composed of a seemingly edible and compatible set of ingredients. By jove, might Bobbi Powell’s “Hanky-Pankies” actually be…kind of good?

Hanky-Panky is short for Hankerton Pankration III.
This week’s culinary muse / object lesson in Strong Republican Jaws is Rep. Walter E. Powell (R-OH), who represented Ohio’s 24th and then 8th congressional districts from 1971 to 1975 (the 24th district was eliminated after 1973). He retired after two terms at the ripe old age of 43, telling the New York Times, “I’m really not happy doing what I’m doing.”

*looks directly into camera*

Extreme “still talks about being the high school quarterback” energy.

Powell’s still kicking it, so in deference to his living memory, we will simply say that he seems like a bit of a shit heel. While in Congress, our boy Walt cosponsored bills to make abortion a federal crime and to prevent families from getting food stamps if any member of the household was on strike.
But ol’ Wall-E could also be magnanimous, signing on to a bill that sought to extend Medicare coverage to breast implants. One of the few bills he introduced on his own was for the financial relief of “Fred Mushroom Canneries,” an Ohio company that had been hit hard by a recall when several of their mushroom cans tested positive for botulism.

Bail-outs for negligent poisoners: that’s the American Way. *shreds electric guitar with eagle talons*

At first, we thought Powell’s wife, Bobbi, was trying some low-key poisoning of her own. Bobbi’s contribution to the CCCB, “Hanky-Pankies,” are essentially coagulated canapes seasoned with a comically large amount of oregano and a comically small amount of Worchestersirhampshire sauce, all held together in a concretion of pasteurized processed SimCheese.

We have since seen the light. 

You may be wondering: why are these called “Hanky-Pankies”? Because these guys fuck. We don’t often have the gumption to finish a Clog creation, but we Hanked all of these Panks. You may well find yourself wanting to do the same, though we believe Surgeon General C. Everett Koop would advise against it.

Step 1: Throw a Party (Rye)
in some cultures, oregano is hailed as a vegetable

The crux—cruces, really—of the recipe are the two loaves of “party rye” We traveled to three different grocery stores looking for the alleged “party rye” and finally found it at a Kansas Hy-Vee. If you can’t find it, just cut some regular rye bread into quarters while blasting Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction." 

Eagle-eyed readers will note that there are TWO DIFFERENT SPICES at play here, which we're pretty sure is a Congressional Club first. 

Step 2: Make Most of a Maid-Rite
For Entertainment Purposes Only. Do not brown snake meat. They hate this. 

Bobbi’s only instructions are to “brown, then drain” the meat. You’re going to want to do it up in batches unless you want steamed, frostbite-gray loose meat. We’re not making a Runza here.

Step 3: Season Your Cheesin’
sheen level: Emilio Estevez

Bobbi’s assembled the Atomic Age hors d’oeuvres equivalent of a pound cake here: a pound of beef, a pound of pork, a pound of Velveeta.

It had been a while since we’d purchased Velveeta and we were a little taken aback by how…dry the jigglable cheese brick is. The lactic loaf was the smooth, supple texture of a Pink Pearl™ eraser.

Pink Pearl™: the only choice in Large Pink Erasers. (Please sponsor our blog.) 

Again, the instructions are pretty spare. Bobbi commands you to “add the Velveeta and the seasonings”—garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, oregano.

We tried to get clever and “deglaze” the pan with the Worcestershire, but APPARENTLY a teaspoon of liquid is not enough to transform a fond of dessicated beef bits into a glossy pan sauce.

We feel this is rude. A teaspoon is a rude amount of Worcestershire for two pounds of 80/20 and a brick of quasi-government cheese. Lea & Perrins did not die in a tragic anchovy-thrashing accident so we could not taste their wares.

Fortunately, there’s a back-up spice (the sixth-best Spice Girl). Fortunately, Bobbi Powell believes that the bottom of the food pyramid should be devoted not to grains and cereals but to an Ohio-sized trough of oregano.

we believe the youths would call this "schwag"
We cannot remember another time in our lives in which we had cause to measure out a tablespoon of oregano. But it undeniably gives the proceedings a nostalgic, late-'90s pizzeria quality. 

Step 4: Get the Party Started
 Party rye is in the houuuse toniiiiight.  ♪

At this point, you’ve basically got the “con queso dip” served at every dry New Year’s Eve party in the Midwest. You could stop here and have a pretty palatable time. Hell, you could even go crazy and throw in a can of Rotel just to show Martha from the Regina Guild that she’s not the only one who can contribute to the parish cookbook.

But this is really more of a spread than a dip. Going easy on the Worcestershire was by design: Bobbi doesn’t want any moisture compromising the structural integrity of this dish. You could stand a spoon up in this paste. It could double as drywall mud in a pinch.

Put down the tortilla chips and pick up those adorable slices of dollhouse bread. This shit was made for a shingle.

Eat your heart out, Alison Roman.

We made these while listening to the impeachment hearings (#synergies). 
Once we'd assembled the toasts, we were all ready to chow down—until we read the part of the recipe where Bobbi insists that we "freeze" them. 

Step 5: Confuse Your Opponent

For inscrutable reasons, Bobbi wants you to freeze these before you broil them. We tried it both ways, and freezing really does make a difference. Specifically, it ensures that by the time the tops of the pankies brown under the broiler, the centers are still as cold as Walter's heart. 

They do look beautiful, though: 

These party toasts are interested in "partnering" with you on Instagram. 
Frigid Republican centers aside, these were by far the best recipe we've made from the Clog so far. They tasted a little like a cheeseburger pizza, insofar as cheeseburger pizzas also have cheese and meat and oregano. And the rye added a soupçon of "zip." 

Sure, if we made these again, we'd triple down on the Worcestershire and add some red pepper flakes.

But even bad hanky-panky is still...you get the idea. 

By Mrs. Walter E. “Bobbi” Powell
Adapted from the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book

1 lb ground beef
1 lb pork sausage
1 lb Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 tablespoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 loaves party rye bread
2 cans Hamm’s

Brown ground beef and sausage, drain. Add Velveeta and seasonings. Stir until well mixed. Spread on rye bread. Freeze. When ready to eat, broil for 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with Hamm’s. Makes 24 servings. Suitable for freezing.