Recipes from History: Launch Beans


In April 1981, the NASA crew at the Kennedy Space Center was hard at work preparing for STS-1, the first orbital flight of the space shuttle program. People have to eat, even when they’re making history, so members of the launch crew brought in food from home to share during long hours of pre-flight tests and other preparations. 

On the day of the launch, test director Norm Carlson brought in his contribution to the potluck: cornbread and a small crock pot of beans. After a successful lift off, the team celebrated and dug in to the food. Carlson’s beans were a hit and disappeared quickly. For the next shuttle launch later that year, Carlson doubled his recipe and brought in two pots of beans. The larger batch was again eaten in no time. He kept bringing in more and more beans and more and more crock pots for each flight, until it got to be too much keeping up with his hungry team.

“Finally, sensing that it was getting too difficult to bring in enough crock pots to feed everyone, Mr. Carlson switched to an 18-quart cooker, and set up shop on the fourth floor of the LCC [launch control center], just above the firing rooms,” says the KSC website.  “The call ‘Beans are Go!’ came to signal that the shuttle had successfully launched, and it was time to relax and unwind.”

When Carlson retired, his bean-cooking duties were turned over to the center’s food service contractor, which prepared twelve 18-quart cookers for every launch until the shuttle program ended in 2011.

Want to eat like a rocket scientist? Here’s Carlson’s recipe, from Spaceport News, NASA’s newsletter for KSC employees.

“Successful Launch Beans”
Courtesy of Norm Carlson, former NASA Test Director Chief

Put 6 lbs. of dried great northern beans in an 18-quart electric cooker.

Cut 10 lbs. of smoked ham into cubes. 

Add ham and ham bones to beans. 

Add 1⁄2 shaker of lemon pepper.

Add 3 lbs. chopped onions

Add 2 stalks chopped celery

Add 1 tsp. liquid smoke

Cover with water and cook for at least 8 hours. 


“Famous Launch Day Cornbread”

Martha White Self-Rising Corn Muffin Mix 

Follow directions on box.

The Simple Way to Reheat Your French Fries and Not Have Them Turn Into a Soggy Mess

Some restaurant dishes are made to be doggy-bagged and reheated in the microwave the next day. Not French fries: The more crispy and delectable they are when they first arrive on your table, the more of a soggy disappointment they’ll be when you try to revive them at home. But as The Kitchn recently shared, there’s a secret to making leftover fries you’ll actually enjoy eating.

The key is to avoid the microwave altogether. Much of the appeal of fries comes from their crunchy, golden-brown exterior and their creamy potato center. This texture contrast is achieved by deep-frying, and all it takes is a few rotations around a microwave to melt it away. As the fries heat up, they create moisture, transforming all those lovely crispy parts into a flabby mess.

If you want your fries to maintain their crunch, you need to recreate the conditions they were cooked in initially. Set a large pan filled with about 2 tablespoons of oil for every 1 cup of fries you want to cook over medium-high heat. When you see the oil start to shimmer, add the fries in a single layer. After about a minute, flip them over and allow them to cook for half a minute to a minute longer.

By heating up fries with oil in a skillet, you produce something called the Maillard Reaction: This happens when high heat transforms proteins and sugars in food, creating the browning effect that gives fried foods their sought-after color, texture, and taste.

After your fries are nice and crisp, pull them out of the pan with tongs or a spatula, set them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil, and sprinkle them with salt. Now all you need is a perfect burger to feel like you’re eating a restaurant-quality meal at home.

[h/t The Kitchn]

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