beautyfoodnerdrunningshoptravel

July 17, 2012

"secret's in the sauce" or "a little bit of chicken fried"

long before pinterest came along, recipes were passed around by hand. my mamma has a patchwork recipe box on her kitchen counter filled with mis-matched recipe cards from numerous family members and friends. most of the entries are titled after the giver of the recipe -- ex: nana brett's chicken casserole. as a kid i'd flip through them while mamma told me stories about the owner of the delishousness. i dreamed i'd one day have a box just like hers. let's face it, it's 2012. for the past 5 years i've managed to transpose those goodies into a self-built filemaker database (take that high school computer teacher with no imagination).

i sometimes take pride in the fact i can't cook very well. i can bake up a storm, but cooking requires a longer attention span then i can typically muster. the few things i can cook, i choose to cook because they are special to me. perhaps nothing is more special than the aforementioned nana brett's chicken casserole.



when i was in grade school, i spent 1 week every summer with my nana. her church held vacation bible school and i always attended. the daughter of a baptist minister in south carolina, earline cooper (brett) grew up out in the country on a small farm with big love. she told me once that they did their homework by candlelight because they didn't have electricity. i was about 9 when she told me and, being the tactful kid i was, i asked if they didn't have electricity, how come edison was dead and she wasn't. she just laughed and moved on to my favorite story of her and her brother wilbur riding a mule, but i'm getting side tracked.

my mamma would drop me at nana's on saturday evening. on sunday we'd go to church, have lunch at doss's hot dogs and go visit with ms. trula, who was older than nana, but also went to first baptist-kernersville with us. she lived in a small house behind doss's and had a garden just big enough for beans and turnip greens. we'd visit while picking green beans and pea pods, and after an hour or so, we'd head home.

back at the house, nana would sit me in front of the tv with an ice cream sandwich and a cheerwine. she'd boil a chicken while i watched reruns of the mary tyler moore show (i'm totally a rhoda). when the chicken was cool and the ice cream sandwich finished, she'd join me. i'd snap green beans while she pulled apart the chicken. after that was done, i was never sure what happened next, but 30 minutes later, the room was filled with the most wonderful smell: chicken casserole.

this past weekend while my mamma and i shopped at a near by outlet center, i found the most beautiful light blue le creuset casserole dish. manufacture anything in a light blue and i'm likely to buy it. and seemed like a hint i should give the casserole a try. i found the recipe buried on my hard drive, tracked down all the ingredients and set to making it. here's how it went:

1. how in the world did she pull apart an entire chicken into bite sized pieces? i had some leftover thighs and breasts in the freezer, so i boiled them. boiling is important. i read many websites that warn against it, but that's how nana did it. you'll need the broth for the recipe anyways, so might as well.


2. why, yes heart, that is an entire stick of butter. long before paula dean was imparting her more-butter-is-better mantra on us, my people were dumping it in by the stick load. nana mixed in pepperidge farm corn bread stuffing. for the life of me, i could not track it down in this west coast town, so made due with another brand, but still corn bread.

3. how did anyone cook before condensed soup? i myself have never had to go without, but seriously, add cream-of-something to anything and it's instantly awesome.

4. now you just layer everything and wait. i won't eat any until lunch the next day, but this reheats beautifully.

truthfully, nothing tastes as good as when nana made it, but it's dang close.