Catching The Torch

Trials by Fire in Hostessing, Motherhood, Life


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Dinner en Famille

Dinner en Famille

Finally, we come to the final performance of a guest visit: The Dinner.  I’m sure you have a dinner or two up your sleeve that you love to make, and I do too.  Sometimes however, my favorite recipes are time-consuming make for a crowd.  Or someone doesn’t like an element, or I feel like it’s boring, etc.   Today I’m going to leave the creativity to the memory of one of the most creative people I’ve been privileged to know:  my grandmother Mimi.  I pass along two wonderful Dinner en Famille recipes from Mimi’s kitchen.

Mimi was an amazing woman.  Imaginative, kind, never knew a stranger, and a lover of our family’s English heritage.  Once while babysitting my brother and me (as well as a flock of neighborhood children), she allowed us to paint her entire face blue, made a full High Tea as a snack, and went out to chat with the mailman still looking like an extra from Braveheart.  She taught us to build fairy-houses in the woods, stay still long enough to catch dragonflies on our fingers, and play Phantom of the Opera on the stereo LOUD.  She kept a portrait of Queen Elizabeth in her china cabinet as well as every picture of her grandchildren and the children of her friends ever sent to her on the fridge.  Many of my dishes, teacups, and assorted serving pieces were from her ever-growing collection of antiques.  She loved buying interesting items and immediately handing them down to us.  One Christmas, she couldn’t serve her punch because she had given all three of her punch ladles to us grandkids.  She was a woman who took us all to see The Phantom of the Opera (I was the oldest at 9) to which she was talked out of wearing wearing a green bridesmaid gown from the 80’s paired with a blue velvet cape.  She invested her time and interest in those around her, and was a constant supporter of her children and grandchildren.  Mimi was fun, dramatic, and completely unembarrassed to be herself.

It is this spirit that embodies her signature dish: Chicken Slop.  Now, ever a stickler for propriety, she is probably shrieking from Heaven that I am calling this dish by its nickname rather than “Chicken Casserole.” (“Oh!  What would the Queen say!!”)  Somewhere along the line, it was renamed Chicken Slop and the nickname was solidified by a little ditty my cousin and I created for it when we were children.  In the throes of rainy-day boredom in an Up North summer, we heard that Chicken Slop was being made for dinner and wanted to see how much we could get away with.  Pilfering dishes, spoons, and dishtowels as props, we choreographed a song and dance to the tune of The Blue Danube.  Every word of the song was Chicken Slop.  It went a little something like this, “Chicken chicken chicken chicken, slop slop!  Slop slop!”  and continued through the entirety of the waltz.  We presented our performance as a pre-dinner show to the family.  As no grandchild could do wrong in Mimi’s eyes, we got away with our making fun and the Chicken Slop Song has remained in family lore ever since.

(I consider it a testament to our raising that we knew all 9 minutes of The Blue Danube Waltz by heart)

Chicken Casserole, or as it will forever be known in my family, Chicken Slop, is one of the best meals for a crowd I have made.  Everyone loves it, it’s just different enough, and it is filling.  Embodying the spirit of my late grandmother Mimi, it is interesting, a little eccentric, and exceedingly warming to the soul.  Viewer Warning:  This recipe contains 2 ingredients my generation of cooks despise as much as they love quinoa and kale: Butter and Cream of Chicken Soup.  Is this recipe low-fat?  Absolutely not.  Is it an economically delicious treat for a crowd.  A thousand times yes.

Chicken Slop

Chicken Slop

Ingredients:

8 boneless chicken breasts

2 cups of rice\

4 T butter plus 1 stick of butter

1 can Cream of Chicken soup

10 oz fat-free sour cream,

1 small can of diced green chiles

1 can of water chestnuts

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3 sliced hard-boiled eggs

1 can French-fried onions

Salt, pepper, and thyme

Method:

Preheat oven to 375*  Bake chicken for 30 minutes in a 13×9 pan with a little water.  Cover tightly with foil.  Cool.

Cook rice with 3 cups of water (or chicken broth) and 4 T butter

In a big casserole dish, mix can of soup, sour cream, green chiles, almonds, water chestnuts, and eggs.  Cut up cooled chicken.  Add chicken and cooked rice to casserole, mix well.  Add salt, pepper, and thyme.  Melt a stick of butter and pour it over the top of slop, then add entire can of french-fried onion rings.

Bake 50 minutes at 350*

Serve with a big salad and crusty bread.

Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken

If this recipe were a piece of clothing, it would be your favorite pair of jeans.  It goes with anything, meets any occasion, you can dress it up or down, and it makes you feel wonderful.  And it’s easy.  I make this almost every week, and it’s my go-to if I’m delivering a meal to a neighbor or new parents.  I’ve also dolled it up to serve for big family dinners.  I haven’t met anyone, including my picky toddlers, who won’t eat Orange Chicken.

This is also Mimi’s recipe, and she was quite proud of it.  What would the Queen say?  I believe she would say it is delicious.

Ingredients:

6 chicken breasts

2 cups of rice

1 stick of butter

2 T flour

2 T sugar

1/2 tsp ground mustard

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

2-3 cups of orange juice

Salt and Pepper

An orange, sliced.

Method:

Boil your rice according to package directions.  Melt butter in a large frying pan.  Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken on both sides (cook in batches to avoid over-crowding).  Remove to plate.  Stir in spices and flour and cook over low heat until it forms a smooth paste.  Gradually stir in orange juice, stirring constantly.  Bring to a full boil.  Place chicken back in pan (you can squish them together now) and drape some sauce to cover chicken.  Turn heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove one breast, check doneness.

Arrange for table:

Weeknight dinner:

  • Individual platings: Rice, chicken breast on top, drizzle sauce over both
  • Sauce in a gravy boat

Fancy dinner:

  • Rice in covered serving dish with a pat of butter in middle
  • Chicken arranged nicely on plate, drizzle sauce over
  • Slice orange, then, make a cut in middle of orange through one part of rind.  Twist orange slices into S shape and arrange on chicken
  • Sauce in gravy boat because people with LOVE it.

As a Meal-On-Wheels:

  • Buy a square disposable foil pan with lid
  • Pour in rice and stir in all but a little sauce until fully mixed
  • Arrange chicken on top, drizzle sauce
  • Place 3 flat orange slices in middle

Mimi always served this with steamed broccoli, but a salad is easy and crowd-pleasing.  This recipe also freezes well.

I apologize for the skipped week, but this little girl came into our family last Friday and I’ve been a bit consumed.

Lucy

Lucy, our 8-week-old lab/shepherd/hound puppy

It is my best intention to present an Encore: le dessert, next week.

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