Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball

curry/chicken/cheese ball

curried chicken/cheese ball

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 ½ cups.  Total prep time: 1 hr/ active prep time: 30 minutes/ inactive prep time: 30 min.  Note: you may make this a day ahead.

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 cup raw whole almonds, chopped in a food processor  (May use slivered almonds and chop with a sharp knife.)

½ cup unsweetened coconut, finely grated  (Available in bulk, at Winco and other stores.)

2 tbsp mayonnaise  (Best Foods excels all other mayonnaise.)

2-3 tbsp Major Grey’s Mango Chutney  (Choose 3 tbsp if you want a full-bodied sweetness.)

1 tbsp curry powder, or to taste

½ tsp salt  (Real Salt is important; available in health section of local supermarket.)

1 chicken breast or 4 frozen tenderloins  (Natural chicken is best; Trader Joe’s works well for quality and cost.)

1-9 oz box Original Wheat Thins

  1. If you are using frozen tenderloins, thaw in cool water.  Cook chicken in salted boiling water. When center is just faintly pink, after inserting a knife, remove chicken from water and cool in refrigerator.
  2. Chop almonds in a food processor, by repeatedly pressing the pulse button. Pulse until nuts are in small chunks.  Some finely ground almond “dust” will be present; you will use this as well.  There will also be some big chunks; cut them, by hand, with a sharp knife.  Set aside.
  3. Mix all the above ingredients except the chicken.  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.
  4. 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. Mix chicken into cream cheese gently, as not to shred it.
  5. Criss-cross two large pieces of plastic wrap.  Place chicken ball in the center of wrap.  Surround ball with this plastic covering.  Refrigerate on a small plate.
  6. Soften ball at room temperature for two hours before serving, to facilitate the spreading.
  7. Surround with crackers on a decorative serving plate.
  8. This is a winner!

Medieval White-Dish

White-dish

white-dish

Here is a bird’s eye view of a 14th century nobleman’s kitchen, as was common during the reign of King Richard II.  It consisted of a large, separate structure with many fireplaces built along the walls, each with its own cooking area.  At least one fireplace was large enough to roast a whole ox.  A raised open hearth was situated in the center of the kitchen.

Bake metes (baked foods) were concocted in an oven, prepared first with a blazing fire, getting its brick walls red hot.  Cooks placed the pies, custards, and pastries in the hot oven, after they swept out the ashes.  These items baked, behind a closed door, until the oven was cool.

Bakers, however, made breads in separate buildings in larger kitchens, such as that of King Richard II.  The stoves in these bake houses were often 14 feet wide.

Our king was extravagant; he daily entertained over a thousand guests.  There is record of a very large shopping list for a banquet he gave on September 23, 1387. His overseer included 14 salted oxen, 2 fresh oxen, 120 sheep, 140 pigs, 120 gallons of milk, and 11,000 eggs, among taxing quantities of other items.

These feasts were held in the castle’s great hall.  Here the king and special guests sat on a raised platform, or high borde.  The lesser guests assembled at tables that paralleled the side walls.  The backless benches, on which they sat, were called banquettes; thus we got the name banquet for such affairs.

Cooks in many of these kitchens prepared white-dish, or blank-mang.  It was a popular dish in England, as well as on the Continent, during the Middle Ages. Chaucer’s chef made this receipt.  Our poet wrote in his “Prologue” to the Canterbury Tales (c.1386):  “For blancmange, that made he with the best.”

I am indebted to Lorna Sass for her documentation of this information in To the King’s Taste (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975).  Below is my version for her delicious, historical recipe.  Its preparation is easy with my introduction of 21st century appliances  Can’t encourage you enough to try this.  It’s a palate pleaser!

Next week I will be making the connection between these medieval foods and our “renaissance” happening right here in Tualatin, Oregon.

White-Dish is adapted from a recipe in Lorna Sass’ To the King’s Taste (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975).  Yields: 4-6 servings.

2 large chicken breasts

2 1/2 cups water

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Real Salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket.)

1/2 cup raw whole almonds

1 cup brown rice  (I like basmati rice, available at Trader Joe’s.)

3 tbsp butter

4 tsp brown sugar, packed down  (Sucanat  evaporated cane juice, may be substituted; this is close to what they used in the Middle Ages.)

3 tbsp anise seed

1/4 cup sliced almonds

  1. In a tightly covered medium-size saucepan, over medium heat, boil chicken in water, to which 1/4 tsp salt is added.   Boil for about 10-15 minutes.  Be careful to not overcook.  Check meat by cutting with a sharp knife; center should be slightly pink.  (Meat will be cooked more later on.) Remove chicken from broth; set aside both broth and meat.
  2. To make the almond milk, grind 1/2 cup whole raw almonds in a 11-cup, or larger, food processor. Pulse repeatedly until almonds are a fine powder.  (A blender or Vitamix will also work; add 2 tbsp of ice water to nuts, before grinding, if using either of these.)
  3. With food processor running, slowly add two cups of broth through the feeder tube on top of the processor.  (You may have to add water to make 2 cups of liquid; if perhaps you have extra broth, be sure to save this.)  Let sit for 10 minutes.  This makes almond milk.
  4. Put almond milk in the saucepan.  Add remaining 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp butter, and sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Add rice, cover,  and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer gently for about 40 minutes, or until rice is soft.  Watch carefully so rice doesn’t cook dry; gently check bottom of pan with a fork, being careful to not stir rice.  Add more broth, or water, as needed.
  5. Meanwhile dice chicken into 1-inch cubes.  Set aside.
  6. In a small sauté pan, cook almond slices in remaining 2 tbsp of hot butter.  Watch carefully, sautéing only until light brown.  Salt them lightly and set aside.
  7. Crush anise seed using a mortar and pestle.  May also grind in a DRY food processor by pulsing lightly.  Set aside.
  8. Add chicken when rice is soft; stir, and cook about 5 more minutes, or until meat is hot.  Watch moisture in bottom of pan, so rice doesn’t burn, add water or broth as needed.
  9. Serve garnished with buttered almond slices and crushed anise seed.  SO GOOD!

Lemon/Spinach Chicken or Ahi Tuna

Lemon spinach chicken

lemon/spinach chicken

Back to cooking with greens with another delightful dish!  This simple spinach recipe utilizes the bounty of my friend’s fall garden.  She replants her leafy vegetables mid-August for a late harvest, with which I am blessed. However one 10-12 oz bag of fresh spinach will do, if you are buying it.

This recipe is high in protein and iron. It has vitamin C as well, which increases the absorption of dietary iron according to the Mayo Clinic.  They recommend using any of the following for this purpose: broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, leafy greens, melons, oranges, peppers, strawberries, tangerines, or tomatoes.  Lemon juice and tomatoes were my inspiration here.

It is important to use coconut or avocado oil, as olive oil produces carcinogens, when heated to high temperatures.

I always use Real Salt or Himalayan salt, which have all the necessary minerals. Other salts (including white sea salt) don’t have these essential nutrients.  High quality salt, which is pink in color, and electrolytes are both necessary for good health.  You will notice a stabilization of your emotions, when these are balanced in your system.  Arbonne sells excellent electrolyte powder at a reasonable price, especially when you consider the cost of coconut or vitamin waters and Gatorade.  The caliber of Arbonne’s electrolytes far exceeds that of these drinks!

The first time I served my lemon/spinach creation was for a couple from my church.  His mother had just passed and we were celebrating her life with utter joy!  There were jocund accounts of her life’s victories, as well pictures of her holy marriage in the 1940’s.  The Spirit of God moved during our festive fellowship.

I used ahi tuna steaks that night in this recipe, instead of the chicken tenderloins. Either version is powerfully good.  Note: be extra careful not to overcook the meat or fish.

Enjoy perfect simplicity here!

Lemon Spinach Chicken   Yields: 4 servings.  (Note: may substitute ahi tuna steaks.)

3 tbsp of oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best.)

1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 medium lemons, squeezed

12-16 chicken tenderloins, thawed  (Natural ones are available at Trader’s inexpensively, or you may substitute 4-6 ounce ahi tuna steaks.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Real Salt is best, available in the health section at local supermarkets)

2 medium/large tomatoes, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped  (For a change, I used elephant garlic which is milder; if using this, double the amount.)

10-12 ounces of fresh spinach

Steamed brown rice  (Basmati rice from Trader’s is my favorite.)

  1. Heat 1 ½ tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add small piece of onion; when it sizzles, add the remaining onion.  Carmelize onion (cook until dark brown).  Set aside in a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile roll lemons on counter, pushing down hard with your hand, to loosen the juices inside.  Squeeze lemons. Set aside.
  3. Melt remaining oil in frying pan over medium heat.  Pat thawed tenderloins or tuna, somewhat dry, by using paper towels.  (A little moisture will help the adhesion of seasonings.)  Be sure to salt and pepper raw meat/fish generously.  Cook chicken tenderloins or tuna, in hot oil, in batches if necessary.  Cut tenderloins into bite-size pieces with spatula.  Cook only until very pink inside.  DO NOT OVERCOOK!  (The inner meat of the tuna or chicken should be almost red, as it will cook more later.)  Place pieces in the bowl with onions as each is done.  Watch very carefully, as not to overcook.  Leave fond (pan drippings) in pan.
  4. Add tomatoes and garlic to hot frying pan and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until soft and chunky.  Deglaze the pan (scrape fond off bottom with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon), while tomatoes are cooking.  Note: there is an abundance of flavor in fond.
  5. Add half the spinach to hot sauce; stir well, by distributing the tomatoes over greens.  Repeat step with rest of spinach; cook briefly, or just until leaves are slightly limp.
  6. Place meat or tuna, onions, and lemon juice in frying pan with spinach/tomatoes.  Stir well.  Cook mixture just until hot.  Do not overcook the meat/fish.
  7. Adjust seasonings.
  8. Serve with steamed brown rice.  So delicious!

Tomato/Feta Chicken

Tomato/feta chicken

Tomato/feta chicken

An explosion of creativity occurred in my sister’s upscale kitchen this month: my siblings and I collaborated over one of my recipes during a trip home for my mother’s 93rd birthday.  Our three strong cooking minds worked together to perfect a dish I created years ago.

Nearly a decade has passed since I helped a friend every Monday, for she was bogged down in her professional responsibilities; aromatic ailments filled pots and pans, as I prepared her family’s nourishment for each upcoming week.

This particular friend had been to cooking school in Italy.; her excellent input and feed-back sharpened my skills, while I was helping her family.  At her home, I created this recipe for tomato/feta chicken, which Maureen and Paul helped perfect recently.

One thing I learned from my friend was to add the garlic at the close of the sautéing process; she said this keeps it from burning.  I was adding it as I was cooking the meat before this.  My friend’s ingenious tongue could taste the burnt garlic; thus, she suggested that I add it at the very end, which is how I had cooked with this herb since.

However, my siblings suggested that adding it early on allows for more flavor.  My brother explained the proper process: when you add garlic, while sautéing, cook only until you can smell it; then, immediately add the liquid for the sauce to keep it from burning.

My sister employs another method: she roasts lots of whole peeled cloves on a cookie sheet, in a preheated 300 degree oven, for at least an hour (or until golden brown). She stores this in the refrigerator, adding about three tablespoons per four-serving dish while it is cooking; only cook briefly, however, if dish is dry.

After tasting our finished work, I am sold on cooking this herb longer, employing these safe ways.  The following recipe reflects this new directive; here the fresh garlic is cooked for a lengthy time in the wet tomatoes.

There was another point I learned from my siblings’ expertise.  Both urged me not to bother with washing pieces of cut meat; it is only necessary to clean the inside of the carcasses of fowl, where blood has collected.  This has made cooking easier for me.

This tomato/feta chicken is an exceptionally good recipe.  Enjoy it!

Tomato/Feta Chicken  Yields: 6-8 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr.

1 medium/large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 1/3 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best.)

2 lbs chicken tenderloins, thawed  (The frozen ones at Trader Joe’s are all natural.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Real Salt is best; available in the health section in your local supermarket.)

6 medium/large tomatoes, chopped  (Organic is best.)

¾ tsp dried oregano  (Organic is available at Trader’s; it is of excellent quality and very inexpensive.)

1 tsp dried basil

5 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine  (3 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader’s is so easy to use.)

1-16 oz package frozen broccoli florettes  (An inexpensive, organic variety is available at Trader’s.)

4 oz feta cheese  (This is best when purchased in a block-rather than pre-crumbled.)

Shaved Parmesan cheese

Steamed brown rice (I prefer basmati brown rice)

  1. Take frozen broccoli out of freezer.  It cooks better when partially thawed.
  2. If chicken tenderloins are frozen, you may thaw them in cold water in about 15 minutes.  Pat dry with paper towel.
  3. In a large heavy bottom frying pan, heat 1 tsp oil over medium/low heat. Add onion and carmelize, cook slowly until dark brown.  Do not crowd onions in pan, or they will sweat and it takes longer to carmelize them.  Stir every few minutes for about the first 30 minutes; then, stir every minute afterwards, as onions begin to stick to pan and browning process accelerates. For more details on carmelizing, see Carmelized Onions and Carrots (2017/06/19).  Set aside when done.   Meanwhile go to next step.
  4. Chop tomatoes and garlic.  Set each aside separately.
  5. Heat remaining oil in another large skillet.  Salt and pepper tenderloins generously; place chicken in hot oil, sautéing over medium heat quickly.  Cut tenderloins with spatula as cooking to check for doneness (should be slightly pink in center as they will cook more later).   As pieces are done, place in a large bowl.
  6. Add tomatoes to hot pan in which you cooked the chicken; simmer over medium/low heat for 10 minutes. Add dried herbs and garlic; cook down to a chunky sauce, about 20 minutes more.
  7. If desired, when onions and tomatoes are cooked, may set aside and finish recipe just before serving.
  8. Just before serving, add thawed broccoli to tomato sauce and simmer over medium heat; cook until vegetables are hot.
  9. Add chicken and onions to pan with tomatoes; heat; stir in feta, crumbling it with your fingers.  Adjust seasonings.  Heat thoroughly, but do not overcook.
  10. Serve over rice; top with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Carrots au Beurre

Carrots-au-beurre

Carrots-au-beurre

This three-part 19th century dinner, which started last week, reflects the new Classic French cuisine.  This era in culinary history became popular, as the Napoleonic age followed the French Revolution.  Then self-made men, following the example of Napoleon, rose in status and wealth.  They had to learn the ways of entertaining, or how to be amphitryons (hosts).

Cook books of the time reflected these needs of this new non-aristocratic class. A forty year lapse in the publication of cooking instructions existed prior to the beginning of this new period.  One important recipe book, with the dawning of this new day, was Le Cuisinier by A. Viard.  It was published during the entire nineteenth century.  However, its name changed with each new political upheaval.

First printed in 1806, Le Cuisinier Imperial was named after the Emperor who loved classicism.  This passion of Napoleon gave the new cuisine its name-Classic French cuisine.

The book’s title changed to Le Cuisinier Royal, when Louis XVIII became king in 1814.  Other name conversions reflected the politics of the century.  It became Le Cuisinier National, when Louis Napoleon was elected President of the Republic.  Then it went back to employing “Imperial” when this man declared himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1852.

The cook book was known by Le Cuisinier National once again, when France became a republic in 1871.  It has remained such.

There is a recipe for buttered carrots in these pages which date back two centuries ago.

In 1964, Esther Aresty documented the history of European and American cuisine in her account The Delectable Past, from which I got the above information. Here she improved on this delicious recipe from Le Cuisinier by pureeing this vegetable in a food mill.  I have augmented her outstanding method with easy, modernized steps utilizing a food processor.

You’ll be immensely pleased with this memorable dish. A comfort food of all comfort foods!

Carrots au Beurre Adapted from a recipe in Esther B. Aresty’s  The Delectable Past  (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).  Yields: 4 servings.

½ cup pecan pieces

1 lb. carrots (organic is best and also very inexpensive)

2 cups green beans (fresh or frozen-I prefer French-cut frozen beans from Trader Joes)

¼ cup whipping cream

2 tbsp butter

1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg, or to taste

½ tsp salt, or to taste (Real Salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket)

1/8 tsp pepper, or to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 265 degrees. Roast pecans on a small cookie sheet for about 40 minutes, or until light brown when piece is broken. Set aside.
  2. Spray carrots with 97% distilled white vinegar mixed with 3% hydrogen peroxide. Let sit three minutes. Rinse thoroughly and scrape with a sharp knife. (Scraping, as opposed to peeling, saves the vitamins which are just under the skin.)  Cut into ½ inch pieces.  If the carrot piece is thick, cut it in half.
  3. Cover with water in a medium saucepan. Boil over medium heat until soft.
  4. In meantime, steam green beans in a medium saucepan.
  5. Place the hot, drained carrots in a food processor. Add cream, butter, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Blend until carrots are a smooth mixture. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  6. Place pureed carrots in the center of a vegetable platter. Surround with green beans and top with roasted pecans.

Note: You may double this recipe. Leftovers are great!

Chicken a la Oignon

Preparation of Chicken a l'Oignon

Preparation of Chicken a l’Oignon

I will be giving easy recipes for a complete 19th century French dinner over the next three posts.

The main entrée for this meal is Chicken a l’Oignon (chicken with onion.)  This receipt was created by Louis Eustache Ude, chef to King Louis XVI at the time of the French Revolution.

Our chef of renown escaped France during the tumult and moved to England; here he wrote the cookbook The French Cook, published in 1813.  His English was poor.  Thus he lapsed into his native tongue when he couldn’t recall the proper English words.  The title Chicken a l’Oignon demonstrates this trait of Ude.

His food preparations tended to be very simple and exceptionally elegant. This is a perfect example.  Here thinly sliced onion is stuffed under the skin over the breast meat of a roaster.  You do this by gently making a cavity under the skin with your hand.  The onion juices seep into this succulent meat as it is roasted to perfection.  The results are tantalizing!

The ease with which you make this dish will astound you. Trust me it will become a family favorite.

Be sure to save the carcass for bone broth. Instructions for this will follow in the future.  Meanwhile freeze your leftover carcasses until you have three.

Note: Bone broth is a power food, extremely high in protein.  It is packed with nutrients that aid the digestive system and build up your adrenal glands.  One cup of regular chicken stock has one gram of protein, while one cup of bone broth has nine grams of this essential food item!  The manner of preparation makes all the difference in producing these two diverse broths.  Also, buying prepared bone broth is highly expensive.  Making your own is practically free!

Watch for this efficient, easy recipe in a future post.  Save your carcasses in the meantime.

Chicken a l’Oignon Adapted from a recipe in The Delectable Past, Esther B. Aresty, 1964, Simon and Schuster, New York, N.Y.  (Yields: 4 servings)

4 ½-5 pound chicken (Foster Farms is all-natural and inexpensive)

1 very large yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly

Spray oil (both an inexpensive canola spray oil and coconut spray oil)

Salt and pepper (Real Salt is best, available in the health section of your local supermarket)

Steamed brown rice (I prefer basmati brown rice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Wash the inside of the chicken.  Pat outside dry.  (It isn’t necessary to wash cut meat; only whole fowl, where blood is caught inside the carcass.)
  2. Cut off excess fat at neck.  Salt and pepper inside of chicken.
  3. Gently working your hand under the skin, make a cavity between the skin and the breast meat.  Go down into the thigh meat with your fingers.  Be careful to not tear skin.
  4. Gently stuff onion slices in the cavity over the breast meat, pushing them down over the thigh meat area by the legs.
  5. Using the cheap spray oil, thoroughly spray the inside and top (underside of top and edges too) of a broiler pan.  This makes cleaning extremely easy!  Place chicken on pan.
  6. With good quality spray oil (coconut spray oil is best) spray the chicken well.  Salt and pepper generously.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes for each pound.  Legs should move fairly freely when done.
  8. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes before carving.
  9. Serve with steamed brown rice.