Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Tray Gourmet" & "The Wonder Bread Cookbook" - Pork a l'Orange and Wonderfully Crunchy Chicken Casserole

Date I made these recipes: September 27, 2009

Tray Gourmet – Be Your Own Chef in the College Cafeteria by Larry Berger & Lynn Harris; Illustrated by Chris Kalb
Published by: Lake Isle Press, Inc.
ISBN: 0-9627403-2-2
Recipe: Pork a l’Orange – p. 109

The Wonder® Bread Cookbook – an inventive and unexpected recipe collection from Wonder®
Published by: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 13:978-1-58008-807-7
Recipe: Wonderfully Crunchy Chicken Casserole – p. 59

So yesterday morning I was laying in bed with my radio on, willing myself to get up to go to work when the song “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones started playing. Not exactly the inspiration I was looking for. And of course, the day turned out to be one where I should have been sedated because after I got out of bed, it was all downhill from there.

One should not, however, be sedated when driving and never more so than when driving through the University of Minnesota campus area when school is in session. I liken it to a banzai run where one girds the loins and prepares to take on the myriad of students converging on oncoming cars as if there was some special force field to protect them. Hint, "young students:" (I was going to say “hint, grasshopper” but that reference to the TV show, Kung Fu, will sail over heads) “You are not immortal.” Flinging oneself in front of my moving vehicle to catch the bus you see coming on the other side of the street is likely to result in injury as will a slow meander through cars lined up at a stop light. Because I can assure you, once the light turns green, my foot becomes a weapon, stomping on the gas pedal so as to propel myself home as quickly as possible.

My husband has had his own challenges in getting through what is known as Stadium Village but that’s because for a while there, he drove a university bus that connected the Minneapolis and the St. Paul campuses of the University. And yet he loved it, go figure. Me? I always consider myself lucky when I and the car arrive at home in one piece.

Now I mention all this stuff about “The U” as it is known here, because today’s menu was geared toward college students. Well, okay, maybe not the Wonder® Bread casserole but since Wonder® Bread was part of my youth (not that we ever had it, just that we coveted it as being something cool), it fits with the college culture. So let’s parse these recipes!

I loved the title of the college cookbook, Tray Gourmet, but sadly didn’t like the recipe. I can see where the authors were going as the ingredients were definitely items that one would find in a campus cafeteria but the orange sauce lacked punch and was pretty watery. If a student had, say, brown sugar, I think it would have helped to thicken the sauce. And it goes without saying that Grand Marnier (orange liqueur) would totally rock this recipe but since the drinking age is 21 in most states, that’s a no-no; forget I said it!

As to the chicken casserole, the only thing I didn’t like, and it was minor, was the water chestnuts. I know they were there to add the “crunch” listed in the title, but I’m thinking that sautéed celery would have been a better choice and would have been perfect with the cream of celery soup. Please note that you need to refrigerate this dish overnight.

Tonight my husband and I walked through the campus area (soooo much better than driving!) and cracked up laughing when a group of guys in front of us started asking each other if they wanted to go get some “za” tomorrow-—as in “pizza.” My husband said “I’m glad to hear them still referring to pizza as “za” all these years later" just like he did when he was going there. And here we thought we were old!

Well okay, we are old…old enough to see the reflexes slowing down just an itty bitty bit and so to all you students out there, that person that you see yelling at you from my car and shaking a fist is me so please, be alert! You have many more dorm meals ahead of you and I have enough gray hair already! (Not that you’d ever notice…) In the meantime, I wanna be sedated…..

Pork a l’Orange – serves 2
1 orange
2 pats butter
3 soupspoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 pork chops or pork slices

Cut the orange in half. Section one half of the orange in a bowl. To section the orange, insert your knife between the orange and the pulp and pull through until you have gone all the way around. Turn the orange inside out and pull out the orange sections. Set the other half of the orange aside.

Put butter, orange juice, vinegar, and honey in bowl with sectioned orange. Microwave until butter melts, stir, and microwave again until hot. Spoon onto pork and microwave again to warm it up if you like. Garnish with rings of orange cut from the unused orange half.

Note: the recipe doesn’t say how to cook your pork so do it the way you like it and then top it with the orange mixture.

Wonderfully Crunchy Chicken Casserole – serves 9 to 12 (refrigerate overnight)
6 to 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
8 slices Wonder Bread
2 to 3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 (8-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained (Note: if you want to use water chestnuts, I would chop them into smaller pieces. If you want to skip them but still want a crunch, then I recommend celery that you can sautee with the mushrooms.
8 slices sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 can cream of celery soup (10 ¾-ounce)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (10 ¾-ounce)
1 ½ cups milk
½ teaspoon salt

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender; set aside.

Butter both sides of the bread. Arrange in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, cutting to fit as necessary. Cover the bread with the mushrooms, chicken, water chestnuts and cheese.

Mix together the mayonnaise, eggs, celery and mushroom soups, milk, and salt; pour the mixture over the casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for 1 ½ hours, or until set and golden brown.

Note: I didn’t know whether or not to leave the foil on and so baked it for about an hour with it on, then removed it and baked it the remaining ½ hour (or more, depending on your oven).

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