Monday, March 31, 2008

"Cook, My Darling Daughter" - Chicken Sauteed with Brandy

Date I made this recipe: March 30, 2008

Cook, My Darling Daughter by Mildred O. Knopf
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
© 1959
Recipe: Chicken Sauteed with Brandy – p. 137-138

Continuing on with my theme of “I Remember Mama” for my mother who recently passed away, I pulled this cookbook off the shelf, dusted it off and went on my next recipe search. Although several caught my eye, this one hit the jackpot because all I had to buy was chicken and some cream – sweet! As my husband said “We should be able to come in at under $10 on this one!” (By the way, film buffs, I Remember Mama was a film produced in 1948 about the adventures of a Norwegian immigrant family led by their pennywise mother, Mama (naturally!). The film later became a radio show and then a sitcom starring Barbara Bel Geddes (Mama Ewing from the TV show, Dallas) and Irene Dunn who was in the original film).

Not content to stop with those little bits of trivia, I also looked up Mildred O. Knopf and found out that she was married to motion-picture and television producer, Edwin H. Knopf, a brother of Alfred A. Knopf, publishing magnate in New York City. It doesn’t hurt to have an “in” in publishing, does it?! In Mildred’s bio it says that she was “for many years a well-known hostess in the motion-picture colony (don’t you just love that word?) in southern California.” The “darling daughter” she referred to is daughter Wendy and letters to Wendy are sprinkled throughout the book. Nice touch.

Speaking of nice touches, the book is inscribed “Happy Birthday! Happy Cooking!! Love, Mother & Dad.” Some lucky recipient received this book in 1962 and I hope she enjoyed looking through it and cooking from it as much as I did.

As to the recipe, the instructions do not say to make it the night before and then refrigerate it, but I found that the brandy and Madeira added more zip to the recipe after an overnight stay that wasn’t there when eating it hot off the grill so to speak. Were I to make this recipe again, I think I’d play around with the flavors a little more and substitute Calvados (distilled apple cider made in France) or even pear brandy to round out the flavorings. The recommended beverages were fine but I think the recipe suffered a little from blandness of taste that even the addition of salt and pepper didn’t resolve.

So speaking of brandies and Madeiras and whatnot, my mother was basically a teetotaler but on occasion, she would add brandy to something she was making, always concerned, of course, that it wouldn’t burn off like the recipe said it would. Not to worry, though, mom was always stone sober during cleanup after an excellent meal. She became totally enamored with my homemade cordials, such that she frequently poured them over her nightly ice cream and I say if you have to make exceptions, then pairing alcohol with food seems just the way to go!

Chicken Sauteed with Brandy – Serves 3 to 4
1 frying chicken (we used boneless breasts that weighed almost 3 pounds)
2 ounces sweet butter (4 tablespoons or ½ stick)
6 ounces fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup brandy
¼ cup Madeira or sherry wine
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon sweet butter
Freshly ground pepper

Cut 1 tender, plump frying chicken into 6 pieces. Very lightly dredge with flour.

Melt 2 ounces sweet butter in a casserole or deep stewing pan. Allow the butter to heat until it foams, then brown the chicken on both sides, a few pieces at a time so they brown but do not steam. Place the casserole in a preheated 325 degree oven, basting the chicken with the butter. After a few minutes add 6 ounces fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to color. Add 1/3 cup brandy and ¼ cup Madeira or sherry wine and continue to cook another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.

Add 1 cup heavy cream, mixing it with the juices, using a wooden spoon and swirling the pan in a rotating movement. Pour the gravy over the chicken several times. Leave uncovered and cook 5 minutes more. If the gravy is too liquid, remove the chicken to a warm platter and put into a slightly warm oven while you boil the gravy a few minutes, until thickened. Add 1 teaspoon sweet butter, swirl it into the sauce, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Return the chicken to the casserole and baste with the sauce. Serve hot. (Note: I served this with noodles (or similar starch) and green beans as mom likely would have done.)

MILDRED’S NOTE: When serving do not let stand uncovered for any length of time (for instance, during a party, between the first and second helpings), as a slight “skin” forms on top which is unappetizing. When through serving the first time, or while waiting for people to come to the table, keep covered with a casserole lid.

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