Monday, January 10, 2011

"You're Cooking it Country" - Chicken Casserole (Loretta Lynn's)

Date I made this recipe: January 9, 2011

You’re Cooking it Country – My Favorite Recipes and Memories by Loretta Lynn
Published by: Rutledge Hill Press
ISBN: 1-4016-0179-0
Recipe: Chicken Casserole – p. 143

The beauty of having a large collection like mine is that I can pretty much pull a book to meet a theme at the drop of a hat. I may not have the exact thing, like this week’s book, but darned close.

So what inspired me to cook something from Loretta Lynn’s cookbook? Would you believe The Kennedy Center Honors that was broadcast on December 28th?

Now on the off chance you watched the Honors (and I do every year), then you might be scratching your head wondering why I singled out Loretta Lynn when she wasn’t even honored? Well, she wasn’t, but fellow country singer Merle Haggard was. And I don’t have a Merle Haggard cookbook (I’m not even sure he has one) but I did have Loretta’s so there it is.

And if you really must know, it wasn’t so much Merle himself who inspired me to cook “country” but rather some walks down memory lane I had that involved country music.

For whatever odd reason, you can pretty much drive through every state in the union and find country music playing on a radio station. And although the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I’m from is miles and miles and miles from anywhere, much less Nashville, TN (considered the home of country music), my grade school and high school bus driver managed to find country music on the bus radio for the drive home.

Every day, around 3:00 or whenever school got out, we listened to the Beechnut Chewing Tobacco (pronounced “Tuh-back-a) Hour on the radio. I mean how hilarious is that? Might as well have been the Jack Daniels Alcohol Hour! (Now there’s a thought). And for those who are wondering how on earth a chewing tobacco commercial ended up on the radio, it’s because back then, those commercials were not only allowed but encouraged …and then the federal government decided that maybe marketing this stuff to young adults was a problem and so it stopped and phooey on that! But to this day, I can sing most of the old cigarette commercials and some of the ones for booze as well. We won’t go into the reasons why these are most memorable to me as we don’t have time.

Anyway, one of the commercials during that radio show was for Campho-Phenique. Every day, I’d hear the announcer say “Camp-ooooooooo-phenique” and knew that shortly I’d be hearing all about chiggers.

Yes, chiggers. Chiggers are little mites that reside in tall grasses and weeds and Campho-Phenique is just the product to treat them. As far as I knew, we did not have chiggers in the U.P. but if we did, then apparently Campho-Phenique was the solution. (Not that I know what it does, just that it exists!)

And so there I was, watching Merle get his accolade during the Kennedy Center Honors and I started thinking about Beechnut Chewing Tobacco and Campho-Phenique and chiggers and whatnot and I thought that cooking country would be kind of fun and so I found Loretta’s book and there you have it.

Now I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that despite listening to country music on the school bus radio, I am not a big fan of the music. But southern country (food) fare is another story (except for things like possum – recipe included in Loretta’s book – or squirrel or whatnot.). It wasn’t hard to find a recipe to cook out of this book and being in a comfort-food kind of mindset, I selected the chicken casserole. It had everything in it I love—chicken, cheese, rice and sour cream. Oh, and two kinds of canned cream soup (you’ve gotta have cream soup in a casserole. It’s the law). Sad to say, there wasn’t a vegetable in sight, green or otherwise, but heck, you can just microwave some frozen veggies and at them to your plate – instant balanced meal!

Chicken Casserole – makes 8 servings
6 large chicken breast, boiled and cut up
2 cups cooked rice
1 (10-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
8 ounces sour cream
¼ cup white cooking wine
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups cracker crumbs (Ritz works the best)
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl combine the chicken, rice, chicken soup, mushroom soup, sour cream, wine and egg. Pour the mixture into a buttered 13 x 9-inch casserole dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the casserole and top with the cracker crumbs. Arrange the butter on top. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 40 minutes.

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