This incredible hors d’ouvres dates back to the early 1980’s. My mother’s best friend, in our small Rocky Mountain village, became my treasured ally. She and her husband moved to East Glacier Park, when he retired as a screenplay writer. Talbot Jennings was so famous that a prominent New York City television station featured his movies, such as The King and I, for a whole week, before he died.
This illustrious couple traveled the world during the production of these films; thus, Betsy schooled me in her prodigious cosmopolitan ways. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting under her tutelage, as she prepared me for the lions at Trafalgar Square and exceeding more, prior to my moving to London. I believe she was even more excited than I, about my valiant relocation to Tokyo half a decade later.
The voluminous New York Times brought the vast outside world to Betsy every weekend. She was forever clipping articles to prepare me for my numerous sojourns.
With this same spirit, starting in 1982, she helped me to grow as a historical caterer. My creative mentor was always sending me gifts, which she ordered from the New York Times. Ingenious gadgets were among a wide array of superlative food items. Many of these imaginative tools still grace my kitchen today.
While I was doing my early work in Billings, Montana, I journeyed to my hometown each year, where I catered multiple theme dinners per visit. The eight-hour drive across the wide expanse of the Big Sky Country thrilled my tender soul. How I delighted in approaching the backdrop of my beloved mountains, as I gazed across those colossal open prairies.
Once there, I spent many hours drinking in wisdom at Betsy’s feet. During one of these relished trips, she offered this delectable cheese ball to me. I was enamored with it then and still am today. Then it was a frequent hors d’oeuvre at my gala catered events; today it is still my constant contribution to every holiday meal, at which I am a guest.
May you make this blessed appetizer a family tradition as well!
Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball Yields: 2 1/2 c. Total prep time: 3/4 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 15 min. Note: you may make this a day ahead.
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 c slivered almonds
1/2 c unsweetened coconut, finely grated (Available in bulk, at our local Winco and other stores.)
2 tbsp mayonnaise (Best Foods excels all other mayonnaise.)
2-3 tbsp Major Grey’s Mango Chutney (3 spoonfuls gives full-bodied sweetness.)
1 tbsp curry powder, or to taste
1/2 tsp salt (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)
3-4 frozen tenderloins (Natural chicken is best; Trader Joe’s works well for quality and cost.)
1-9 oz box Original Wheat Thins
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast almond slivers for 10 minutes. Remove and cool on a plate.
- If you are using frozen tenderloins, thaw in warm water. Cook chicken in salted boiling water. When center is white, after inserting a knife, remove chicken from water and cool in refrigerator on a plate. Do not overcook to avoid toughness.
- Mix all the above ingredients except the chicken and almonds. Note: it works best to insert a regular teaspoon in the narrow jar of Major Grey’s Mango Chutney, when measuring it. Be sure to use well-rounded teaspoons, as each approximates a tablespoon, for which the recipe calls.
- Chop roasted almonds with a sharp knife; add to cream cheese.
- Leave this cream cheese mixture out at room temperature, while waiting for the chicken to cool. When meat is cool, cut it into small pieces; finally, mix chicken into cream cheese very gently, as not to shred it.
- Criss-cross two large pieces of plastic wrap; place chicken ball in the center of wrap. Surround ball with this plastic covering and refrigerate on a small plate.
- Soften ball at room temperature before serving, to facilitate the spreading.
- Surround with crackers on a decorative serving plate. This is a winner!