In which we have a game night with some very important people.
We had friends over for games the other night. I made great-grandma’s recipe for whiskey slush (recipe to come later). This led into a conversation about this blog and why I started it. I commented about making my children try all of the recipes (not whiskey slush) and how sad it is that we don’t continue to make some of the recipes, but some of the recipes, like egg foo yung, should just be left in the past. “Why doesn’t anyone eat Hot Chicken Salad any more?” John lamented. Our friends turned to look at him. “What is that? I mean, I know all of those words and what they mean, but what is hot chicken salad?” “Is there macaroni in it?” another friend asked. “Nope. It’s all chicken and mayo and celery and onions and peppers all cooked up together with stuff on top. Well, one recipe is. I have something like 4 of them and I’ve only made two at this point.” So in honor of my friends, old and new and a long, complicated story of friendship beginning in 1986, I present to you the first of 4 recipes of hot chicken salad.This hot chicken salad is nostalgic in flavor and presentation. The potato chips and swiss cheese on top screams “your grandma made this.” She probably did, depending on the age of your grandma. This is the sort of food that would’ve been served in elementary school cafeterias while I was growing up. It probably made its way onto the buffet table at church potlucks in towns all over America. Diners would put this on their menu as as a daily special. It’s like the chicken equivalent of a tuna melt. This is the innocent food of a time we think of as simpler than the times we have now. In some ways, maybe it was. When life gets complicated and you want to go back to grandma’s house and just forget that you have to deal with the real world, go grab a rotisserie chicken and make some hot chicken salad. It isn’t going to help you get that promotion at work. It won’t do your housekeeping. It won’t pay a single one of your bills. But it might remind you of a time when you didn’t need to worry about any of those things, either.
In which I praise home economists.
Picture this. You are cleaning up from your Sunday dinner. Your family has devoured the Skillet Potatoes Au Gratin. They have eaten all of the Cooked Cranberry Salad. Their bellies are now full of Mama’s Apple Pecan Pie. The Bread and Butter Pickles are back in the fridge, but what are you going to do with all that leftover ham?
With everyone already planning for Thanksgiving (and the holiday that comes after that that I don’t want to mention because it’s just too soon), now is a good time to start working on menu planning and leftover planning. So let’s sharpen up our home economist skills and put those leftovers to work for you.
I know, I know. There are ham sandwiches that can be made, both hot and cold. Everyone has been yammering for scalloped potatoes. (Not at my house, but my mom did make some especially for a classmate of mine once in high school. She is amazing about things like that). The bone can be used for bean soup or thrown into greens or made into red beans and rice (my kids’ favorite option). At some point, however, you always end up with these little pieces that no one wants to eat because they are the wrong shape or size, they are too thick or thin. They languish there in your fridge and cry out to you when you open the door. You know that you should do something with them, but you aren’t sure of what. I have (or rather my great-grandma and other brilliant home economists have) a solution for you. Ham loaf in a cheese crust.Just say those words aloud. It’s ok to alternately smile and gag. It’s not something we are used to seeing in our menu rotation. There are reasons for why this recipe has fallen out of fashion. My kids would argue that taste was one of those reasons, but I think they were having an exceptionally picky day. Side note: I mentioned to Nick what I was writing about and he said “Oh, right, that weird stuff.”
When I looked at the title of the recipe, the images of what this recipe would be was something more like a meatloaf with a thick coating of cheese and breadcrumbs surrounding it, so that every slice looked like a drawing of rock layers from elementary school science class. As I read through the recipe I realized how wrong I had it. This was going to be a pie. A pink pie with an orange crust. A study in contrasting colors and textures. I’m never sure about the texture of ground ham.When this recipe was originally published, there were not the variety of cheese cracker options that are available today. I’m not sure if this qualifies as progress. I stuck with Cheez-Its original flavor. Getting out the blender or food processor seemed like dishes I didn’t feel like doing so crushed the crackers with a combination of the potato masher and my hands. It makes lovely pictures, but a crumbly crust.
All in all, this was not a bad recipe. A little on the salty side, but it’s ham and cheese crackers, so you’d expect as much.
In which I most certainly do NOT roast a raccoon.
I have amazing siblings. They are crazy talented and supportive. My sister is one of the nicest people I know. She constantly goes out of her way for other people. She actively tries to make the world a better place. My brothers almost have to be spoken about as one unit, but mostly because the world still confuses them. One of them works in energy efficiency and has published many articles and papers about the subject. The other works in theater. He is working on his first movie and is getting his first IMDB credit, or he would be, except somehow his brother is listed on IMDB instead. The twin curse…
Anyway, my brother suggested at one point that each of my siblings do a guest post for me. I readily agreed and mentioned that all they had to do was tell me what sort of recipe they wanted and I would hook them up with the goods. “What do you want? Entree? Dessert? Roasted Raccoon?” My brother jumped all over the idea of making a roasted raccoon. He attempted to source one. His friend actually came through. Unfortunately, making a movie and being away from an actual kitchen sort of put a damper on this. Well, that and the “ew” factor. As he was attempting to source a raccoon, he heard from multiple people about how sick eating raccoon had made them (probably because it wasn’t cleaned properly).
Regardless, I mentioned this recipe as a joke. I don’t actually expect that anyone will make it. If anyone does, I think I want to try it, but I’m unlikely to ever actually make this recipe myself.
I’m still waiting for them to actually get to the point of guest posting…(hint, hint).
In which Julia Child makes her first appearance.
When I shop at a certain grocery store, they almost always have bananas in their reduced produce bin. I can get an enormous bag of bananas for 99 cents. There is never anything wrong with them except that their skins have some brown spots. The bananas inside are perfectly lovely and ripe. However, we can only eat so many bananas in a day or two. The rest of them find a nice home in my freezer until I’m ready to take them out and do something amazing with them. Unfortunately, I’m not always very creative and that something is almost always banana bread. I have a delicious recipe that I normally use from Todd English’s Olives Dessert Table Cookbook. This blog is not about Todd English or the incredible recipes he has published, though…
In my collection of hand-me-down recipes, I was blessed with a number of banana bread recipes. My normal process for recipes is to scan them all in and rename them all then do a quick comparison to see if the recipes are exactly alike. You would think that with the thousand or so recipes I have that there would be more repeated recipes than there actually are. I had a long debate with myself about how to handle repeated titles and variations on recipes. There are some cases where it makes sense to do a taste test and figure out which recipe is actually better. But in the case of things like ham loaves or egg foo yung recipes, I’m not sure I’m up to making more than one version at a time. If we have to do things like compare which gingersnap recipe is better, as long as I have enough molasses and time, I’ll gladly make 20 versions and try them all. In this case, I made the banana breads a few weeks apart. I made small loaves and froze some of them for eating later on.
Ok…Banana Bread #1.
1/2 cup margarine
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sour milk
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup nuts
3 mashed bananas
45-50 minutes at 350
Banana Bread #2
Banana Bread 2
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
3 small or 2 large bananas
1 tsp baking soda
2 TB sour milk
2 cups flour
1/2 cup nuts
1 hour at 325.
These are others of those recipes where you have to know how to make it in order to follow the recipe. Basic method for quick breads, cream the sugars and fat together, add eggs and bananas, mix the dry ingredients on the side and alternate adding them and the milk. Add the nuts at the end.
So which was better?
#1 is textured more like a sandwich bread. It’s a bit dryer and very much unlike other banana breads I’ve had. It has a definite crust. There was nothing wrong with it, but butter or cream cheese made it much better.
#2 is similar to most of the banana breads I’ve eaten before. The texture is moist and cake-like. There is no discernible crust except on the very edges. It reminded me of watching Julia Child at my grandma’s house when she was making some muffin or something and said “It’s so good, it hardly needs butter” as she slathered an enormous amount of butter on whatever it was she was eating. My kids definitely preferred this one.
In the battle of these two banana breads, #2 is #1.
Growing up, we had these great neighbors with whom we always had fantastic potlucks. Our neighborhood was really a fantastic place. The 4th of July picnic involved an all-neighborhood water fight and blocking off the street. A writer I knew even wrote about it. I’m not sure if it’s in his published works or not, but I intend to read his books to find out.
As much fun as July 4th was, it was Thanksgivings that stick in my mind. There were green salads with chickpeas in them. It seemed exotic to me at the time. (Note to self: start doing that more again). My mom would make sweet potato rolls. There was enough variations of the traditional foods that it seemed like passing the food almost took longer than eating it. The crown jewel of the meal, the thing that seemed the most impressive in that whole meal was the frozen fruit salad. It was always done in a ring mold and had canned fruit cocktail and bananas and whipped cream and marshmallows. At the time, I had no idea that this version of frozen salad existed. For some reason I associate butter mints and salted peanuts with old ladies (or ladies that seemed very old when I was very young). The addition of canned pineapple and marshmallows combined into a creamy frozen Jell-O salad solidifies that feeling. It’s both disgusting and wonderful all at the same time. One of those guilty pleasures. The nuts add a bit of crunch and texture. The mints kind of bring everything together and make it really refreshing in an unexpected way.
When I made the salad, I realized partway through my freezing that I had forgotten to add the mints. I ran downstairs to the freezer expecting that the salad would be frozen solid and there would and I was going to have to figure out a workaround, but it turned out that when we moved the freezer, someone had plugged it back into the wrong outlet and the power strip had tripped. This meant my salad could easily be saved. (It hadn’t been very long, so everything else in the freezer was saved also. Not like that other time when I suddenly had to cook 3 pounds of ground beef, some ribs and some chicken.)
When you look at the recipe, there is something written next to the word “Jell-O”. It looks like “clay”, but is probably “cherry”, but I didn’t know, so we used lemon Jell-O.
Sorry for the lack of pictures on this post.
A word of caution, this is a dessert salad. You can serve it along with your regular meal, but it is very sweet.
1 large pack small marshmallows
1 pack Jell-O (the small box)
1 large can crushed pineapple
mix and refrigerate overnight.
Crush 1 pack butter mints. Mix with 1 cup cream whipped. Add nuts. Mix with Jell-O and freeze.
It’s Sunday. I didn’t menu plan or grocery shop yesterday. If I don’t do it today, I’m going to be behind all week. Although it looks like this list may be for some sort of party (or maybe to make frozen fruit salad) I just need basics.
I thought I had posted the recipe for frozen fruit salad, but I guess I didn’t. Guess that’ll be Tuesday’s post. If you are headed out to the store and want to do a cook along with me on Tuesday get the whipping cream, butter mints, and some nuts. If your pantry is stocked like a grandma’s, you should have everything else you need already.
I Googled Chicken Old Boston just to see if there was a reason that this recipe was called Chicken New Boston. Even searching for Chicken New Boston yielded nothing on the first search page. So this recipe may be new information for everyone.
So what do we think of when we think of Boston? Some people think of sports (we try not to acknowledge those teams). Some people have the experience of Matt Damon’s Boston or the Boston of the New Kids on the Block. There is the Boston of baked bean fame and the Boston of the Tea Party. Boston clam chowder. Ivy League Colleges covered in actual ivy. Then there is the Boston in Cheers. Let’s talk about that Boston because we’ve been watching that on Netflix sometimes and it helps make my metaphor better.You know how on Cheers there are the people like Norm and Cliff? They are that gritty side of Boston. The working class people from working class neighborhoods. Old Boston, if you will. If you were to imagine dinner at their houses, you’d imagine a roast that has been simmering all day. Maybe a nice plate of spaghetti. Food that is practical more than pretty. Food that will keep you going in cold weather.
And then there is Diane. There is no way she would sully her insides with that sort of food. She’s lofty and above it all. She represents that other part of Boston. The part of Boston that embraces new food and new culture. Chicken New Boston is something that Diane may whip up in her kitchen while wearing a ruffled apron. I did not wear a ruffled apron while making this dish. I think I was barefoot…
Chicken New Boston is a breaded chicken in a creamy sauce with mushrooms, artichokes and sherry. Conceptually, it’s delicious. Realistically, I had a hard time keeping the cornflakes on the chicken. It might just be a me thing. The sauce was amazing (even with the cream o’soup). It’s the sort of sauce that you’d want to mop up with bread or eat on top of noodles. It’s sophisticated enough to make me feel like I should’ve put on my pearls.