Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Kitchen Kapers" by DFL Women of Minnesota - Crab-Chicken Casserole

Date I made this recipe: December 6, 2006

Kitchen Kapers – DFL Women
Compiled by the Members and Friends of the Olmsted County DFL Women of Minnesota
© 1988

Recipe: Crab-Chicken Casserole - p. 48 - Submitted by Sally Blanton

So there I was, hot on the trail of the next items to make for the blog (appetizers for an upcoming party) and…oh, prunes (as my mom would say). I discovered three other “political” cookbooks that I should have made for my Election Day blog. Oh well, there’s no time like the present.

If you’ve ever seen the movie, Babette’s Feast, you’ll be able to relate to the visual of this next recipe. Babette, a French servant, moves to Norway in the late 1800’s to take care of two elderly spinster sisters. When she arrives, the landscape is white, the people are…well, white and the food is white. Babette soon changes all this when she cooks the sisters and their friends the feast of the century. (For those of you who collect “cooking” movies, this is a MUST!)

At any rate, Minnesota has quite the large Norwegian population, and when I first moved here, the running joke about the “native” food was how white it was – white fish covered with white sauce, white lefse (a Norwegian version of a crepe), white potatoes…you get the picture.

Times have changed and Minnesota now boasts quite the large Vietnamese, Hmong, Hispanic and Somalian populations, just to name a few, and the food is no longer white. But every once in a while, you find a recipe, like the one below, that resurrects the image of Babette’s Feast, pre-Babette. Except for the mushrooms (which very well could be white if I didn’t use canned), everything is white – the chicken, the milk, the onion, the crabmeat (particularly since I bought a can of all white meat crabmeat) and the saltines. I resisted the urge to throw some parsley at the thing for color but it was mighty difficult. (I also thought about bagging the Swiss cheese – white, of course – which I thought was overkill, but decided to stay true to the recipe).

Image aside, this is a recipe that I’m sure would meet with Babette’s approval.

Crab-Chicken Casserole
4 whole or 8 halved chicken breast, skinned, boned and halved lengthwise
3 T. butter
¼ c. flour
¾ c. milk
¾ c. chicken broth
1/3 c. dry white wine
¼ c. chopped onion
1 T. butter
1 (7 ½ oz) can crabmeat, drained and flaked
1 (4 oz.) can drained, chopped mushrooms
½ c. coarsely crumbled saltine crackers
½ tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 c. Swiss cheese

Pound chicken pieces lightly, working from center out, with meat mallet to make cutlet about 1/8-inch thick. In a saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter then blend in flour. Add milk, chicken broth, and wine all at once. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Set aside.

Let me just say a quick word about my meat mallet. Most of you probably have the very slim, very sleek, metal mallet found in today’s cooking stores. Not me. I inherited my maternal grandmother’s wooden mallet, with a huge mallet head the size of brick and with teeth carved out on two sides to really bite into the meat. It looks positively medieval but it always did the trick. At least it did until I made this recipe when the mallet head came loose and almost flew through my kitchen window. Sadly, I must now retire the meat mallet to a place of honor in my utensil holder and must shop for a new one. Sigh.

Okay…back to the recipe…

In a skillet, cook onion in the remaining tablespoon of butter until tender, not brown. Stir in crab, mushrooms, cracker crumbs, salt and pepper. Stir in 2 tablespoons of sauce. Alternately layer chicken and crab mixture in baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over all. Bake, covered, at 350 until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Uncover, sprinkle with the Swiss cheese, and bake until cheese melts (about 2 minutes longer).

And now a quick word about the layering concept described above. I wouldn’t do it if I were you. I have my choice of a long, glass lasagna pan or a shorter, glass cake pan. I chose the shorter in an attempt to stay true to the directions, but seriously, people, it was a big mess and looked like one great big white blob when I put it in the oven. If I were to do this over again, I would do one long row of chicken, add the crab mixture on top of that and then pour the white sauce but that’s just my sense of esthetics.

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