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 try (and somewhat fail) to impress old friends.
Another post with bad pictures, but I have to get rid of the backlog and I’m really not going to remake some of these so I can have better pictures.
The kids and I went to the grocery store and got a bunch of packets of Jello knowing that I would eventually need them. I had read through recipes and just got the things that I knew were popular flavors or things that I had seen. So in the cart went Cherry, Orange, and Lemon.
We can start to enumerate my mistakes here:
- Going to the grocery store with 3 children
- Not having a good list.
- Buying things because I would probably need them someday.
- Not menu planning properly.
- Not realizing that when the old recipes call for packets of Jello, they mean the small packages and not the big ones.
All of this is preparation for what happened next. I had my old camp friend and her family coming over for dinner. It was the first time she was seeing our new house, I had just started the idea for my blog and was excited about all of that. And so I planned a menu that involved only recipes from my collection. And what could be more representative of what I was trying to do than to make a Jell-O salad?
Looking through the ingredients I had in the house, I decided that Frosty Lime Salad sounded about perfect. Except I didn’t have lime Jell-O. I figured it wouldn’t matter that much if I substituted lemon. But then I made the mistake of mentioning that I made the substitution after talking about my intention was to follow the recipes exactly as written. And because I only had huge boxes of Jell-O, the recipe was doubled. I might have gotten teased a bit.Frosty Lemon Salad is refreshing in a way you wouldn’t normally think of. Cucumbers fresh from our garden, and celery make a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the pineapple. I did not serve with lettuce and cherries. The creamy layer was a bit loose, as you can see. No one complained that this was gross, so it must’ve been ok. (Mom just told me that it was Martin VanBuren and his set that coined the term O.K., who knew?)
In which I make confessions about preserving.
I struggle with preserving. I am a process person and need to be completely organized when I begin. This was a struggle. I often psych myself out of beginning because the workflow seems intimidating. Canning is really not that hard. It helps to have everything in place and set up before you begin, but the process is not overly complicated. This is a place, however, where my training in project management and creating work flows helps. I am able to visualize everything that needs to happen including timelines so that I don’t get in over my head.However, problems come in when in the middle of chopping everything, I realized I only had half the amount of celery that I needed. And then comes the struggle. I want to be true to the recipes, but there have to be some cases where substitutions are allowed. I split the difference on this one. I went to the store and got the celery, but I did not go to Penzey’s to get cayenne pepper and used Berbere seasoning instead. Berbere is an Ethiopian spice blend, the main ingredient of which is cayenne pepper. When I consulted mom, she reassured me that great-grandma probably left it out all together. Whatever. We are talking about 1/4 tsp in a vat of tomatoes, apples, celery, and onions.
And since we are doing true confessions here, I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned. I put a garden where the dog kennel used to be. I grew a lot of weeds where I didn’t put down landscaping fabric, but I also managed to get some usable veggies out the situation including tomatoes.This recipe seems exotic for 1950’s Iowa, but I can see where it would be a good use for those vegetables that are still hanging on when the apples are starting to ripen. Chutney, though, is one of those things that I sometimes have a hard time using up. It’s a relish and goes with roasted meats. It can be mixed into mayo and put on sandwiches. Mix some into some veggies to make them more exciting. I have no better ideas to use it and jars of it to use. Please help. This is a good basic chutney. Not something you’d find in an Indian restaurant. It might have a little too much celery for my taste, but it’s good. It’s that nice mix of sweet and tart and spicy that chutney should be.