Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Death Warmed Over" & "Being Dead Is No Excuse" - Chicken and Rice Casserole and Beef and Macaroni Casserole

(Warning: These images/titles may be a little off-putting but read on!)
Date I made these recipes: March 22, 2009

Death Warmed Over – Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs from Around the World by Lisa Rogak
Published by: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 1-58008-563-6 © 2004
Recipe: (Lutheran) Funeral Hot Dish (Beef and Macaroni Casserole) – p. 88-89

Being Dead is No Excuse – The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays
Published by: Miramax Books
ISBN: 140135934-5 © 2005
Recipe: The Crocheted-Bedpan-Award Chicken – p. 147-148 (Chicken and Rice Casserole)

You wouldn’t think that listening to Garrison Keillor on MPR’s A Prairie Home Companion would necessarily prompt me to finally make some recipes out of these books but that’s exactly what happened.

You see, Garrison’s older brother died a few weeks ago due to a slip and fall on the ice and listening to Garrison this past Saturday reminded me that perhaps it was time to just damn the torpedoes and pull out these books after all. Up until now, I’ve been hesitant because of the cover photo of Death Warmed Over (a little irreverent but hopefully not too insulting to you all) and the titles (Being Dead is No Excuse—hmmm) and well, the general discomfort people have with talking about death and dying. But since this is a cookbook blog, the subject of death and dying is only a lead-in to a discussion about funeral food.

A year ago on March 2nd, my mother passed away and after I got back from the funeral, my friends were stunned to hear that nobody brought food to the house. Maybe folks saw me and my sister-in-law buying out Glenn’s Market (specifically the deli section) and thought we didn’t need anything—who knows? (I have to say that our family’s running joke about shopping at Glenn’s is that no matter what you buy, it costs you $3. Cookies? $3. Soda? $3. Carrots? $3.) But let me just say that even though people didn’t bring food to the house, the ladies of the St. Anthony Guild of Sacred Heart Catholic Church outdid themselves on the funeral luncheon.

Although I was too wound up to eat much, there were comfort food favorites galore to choose from such as spaghetti pie, lasagna, meatballs, deviled eggs and the like as well as an entire table of desserts. No sandwiches and potato salad for this crowd, no sir! In my mind, I can still see that laden table and it brings me great joy and comfort.

In January of this year, one of my sister-in-law’s, Mary Martin passed away at age 50 from ovarian cancer. She was only 4 months older than me and lived just over a year after being diagnosed. My husband, Andy and I spent President Obama’s inauguration day driving to South Dakota for the funeral and then on to Nebraska, her home state, for the burial. A luncheon was held after each event featuring potato salads, macaroni salads and no less than four Jell-O salads. Seriously folks, the Jell-O alone made me want to cry.

Although the books featured in this blog might be a bit irreverent, it just goes to show you how important food is to a grieving family at a time of great stress and sorrow. I dare say that Midwestern church ladies are a little bit more reserved than those from the south but the attention to detail and the thought of putting out your best efforts for the family is still there. And in the end, that’s what matters.

As to these recipes, I think the chicken dish would have benefited from a little more rice, a little less water and a little less spice. The spice was almost overpowering even though only a teaspoon each was used.

On the other hand, the (Lutheran) Funeral Hot Dish was typical Lutheran in that it was low-key and had absolutely no spice. The running joke in this state, though, is that if you want a spice, add ketchup! The casserole was good but were I to make it again, I would add shredded cheese to the mix to add a little bit more zip; I used cheddar and I think that was a better choice than American. Some chili powder wouldn’t hurt, either, but uff dah—if you live in Minnesota exercise some caution!

At the end of the day, if you find yourself in a position to be at the giving or receiving end of a funeral luncheon keep in mind that food can be like music in soothing the soul. Nothing says love more than a hot casserole, a Jell-O salad or a homemade cake or pie…and that’s the way it ought to be.

Funeral Hot Dish – Serves 8
1 pound ground beef
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 pound macaroni, cooked, drained and cooled
1 10-1/2 –ounce can condensed tomato soup
1 14-ounce can corn, drained
1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of American cheese

Preheat the oven to 325. In a large saucepan over medium heat, brown the ground beef and onion. Grease a four-quart casserole dish. Add the cooked beef, onion, macaroni, soup, corn, tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Top with the cheese slices and bake for 30 minutes.

The Crocheted-Bedpan-Award Chicken – Serves 8
6 slices uncooked bacon
10 chicken breast tenderloins
1 cup uncooked instant brown rice
1 can (10 ¾ ounces) cream of asparagus soup (actually, cream of anything will work)
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
Grating of fresh nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Sprinkling of cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 300.

Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with bacon. Put the chicken tenderloins on top of the bacon. Pour the rice evenly over the chicken. Mix one cup of water with the canned soup. To this mixture add basil, oregano, and nutmeg, and pour it over the chicken. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 90 minutes. (Author’s note: “This should be taken cooked to the bereaved…You can’t take a casserole that requires and hour and a half to cook as an offering.”)

1 comment:

debbi said...

just came back from my aunt's funeral in semi-rural minnesota...the ladies at the lutheran church where the funeral was held provided their version of "lutheran funeral hot dish"...it had flat egg noodles and a creamy sauce (perhaps cream of mushroom soup?) with sliced mushrooms and sliced green olives.....tasty...but you're right ....bland....