Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Alice's Restaurant Cookbook" - Braised [Orange Almond] Chicken

Date I made this recipe:  July 15, 2012

Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook by Alice May Brock with a recorded introduction by Arlo Guthrie
Published by:  Random House
© 1969
Recipe:  Braised [Orange Almond] Chicken – p. 69-70

Think of today’s cookbook discussion as a Jeopardy category selection:  “Famous American Folk singers for 100, Alex.”  Because today, we’re going to focus on Woody Guthrie, son Arlo Guthrie and Alice May Brock, inspiration for the song, Alice’s Restaurant.

But first, it’s quiz time! (Hint:  some of the answers are in the text below!)

1. Which of these had a birthday on July 10, 2012?
  1. Woody Guthrie
  2. Arlo Guthrie

2. Which of these had a birthday on July 14, 2012?
  1. Woody Guthrie
  2. Arlo Guthrie

3. The most famous folk singer this country has ever had is:
  1. Woody Guthrie
  2. Arlo Guthrie

4. Who wrote and sang Alice’s Restaurant? (also known as Alice’s Restaurant Massacree?)
  1. Woody Guthrie
  2. Arlo Guthrie

5. Who wrote and sang This Land is Your Land?
  1. Woody Guthrie
  2. Arlo Guthrie

6. Who sang Hobo’s Lullaby?
  1. Woody Guthrie
  2. Arlo Guthrie

Answers will be at the end of this quiz but first, a “gimme:” Arlo Guthrie sang the song Alice’s Restaurant something this gal remembers hearing as a child.  The one lyric I remembered out of them all was “You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant.”  And apparently you could!  Sad to say, and to the chagrin of my parents on long car trips, I never did learn the rest of the lyrics.  Nothing like hours and hours of turnpike time spent repeating the same phrase over and over…and over!  (“You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant…You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant…You can get…”)

When I read that both Arlo and Woody celebrated July birthdays, I just knew that I had to make something out of my newly-acquired (last year in NYC at Bonnie Slotnick’s Cookbooks) copy of Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook. (And I tell you what I seem to have a knack for having just the right cookbook on hand for every occasion!)

Alice May Brock, Arlo Guthrie’s inspiration for his famous Vietnam War protest song, Alice’s Restaurant (full title: Alice’s Restaurant Masacree), a song that played for 18 minutes (!), came to be a restaurant owner by happenstance. (By the way, I had no idea that song was a war protest song until I Googled it.  I tell you, the things you learn….) As it says in her biography on the cookbook’s back cover page: 

“Worked as a librarian at the Stockbridge School…Bought a church…Sang Songs…Fooled around…Cooked good good food with a smile and other expressions…Bought a crummy diner…Turned it into a crazy-yummy-cozy restaurant…Got tired…Got divorced…Got famed by Alro Guthrie, an old friend who wrote the song “Alice’s Restaurant,” which inspired Arthur Penn to direct the movie Alice’s Restaurant – about Alice and Ray (ex-husband) and Arlo and the Scene…”

Ah yes, the “Scene.”  Although it’s not quite clear from that comment what the “Scene” was, I think we can chalk it up to the vibe, the energy or just the lifestyle of the 60’s.  Arlo and Alice were definitely an embodiment of the “Scene.” The “Scene” was pretty wild as were the times as the Vietnam War was anything but popular. But let’s not forget the other scene – the folksong scene – with Woody at the helm writing and singing his own brand of protest songs.  According to Wikipedia, one of Woody’s famous songs early on in his career was “This Machine Kills Fascists.”  I love that title – it’s so…succinct!

But the most famous song of all, and I think we can agree on this is “This Land Is Your Land.”  As a singer, I can tell you that this song is in the perfect range for everyone and the words aren’t hard to remember, unlike the Star Spangled (Mangled) Banner!  And every once in a while, there’s a push on to replace the SSB with this song but it always falls flat and that’s too bad.  This song was one of the favorites of my Girl Scout years and was approved by every troop leader under the sun; I’m guessing though, that the “fascist” song would not be popular.

So okay, Woody was a folk singer, Arlo became a folk singer and in July, Arlo turned 65.  Wow!  And days later, it was noted that had he lived, Woody Guthrie would have been 100.  Hopefully years from now, kids will still be singing these songs in remembrance.

And as to Alice, well, in her spare time, she put together this cookbook with a little bit of this and a little bit of that in between.  I love her photos and artwork—so retro!  I was all set to make “Alice’s Famous Chili” but that darned heat spell of ours just kept going and so I switched it up to Braised Chicken cooked in orange juice, almonds, raisins and cinnamon and it was yummy and so easy, too!

The thing that I liked about this cookbook is that Alice often gives you variations for example: Basic Braised Chicken or Braised Chicken Paprikash or Braised Chicken with Wine or Braised Chicken with Bacon and Cream or “orange” chicken like I made - so easy, so good. 

By the way, note that this cookbook comes with a recorded introduction by Arlo Guthrie…and by “recorded” I mean that there’s vinyl cutout to be played on a record player (yes, that old thing) that includes two “songs” – Italian-Type Meatballs and My Granma’s Beet Jam.  I’d listen to it except I’d have to remove it from the book and that ain’t happening.  Well plus, I’d have to invest in a turntable and mine are all long gone (and I mean long gone!). 

For those of you scratching your head about what I mean by “vinyl cutout” let me just say that it in the 60’s, it was very popular for companies, especially kids’ cereal companies, to press these vinyl 45’s on the back of boxes.  You’d then cut out the record, put in on your turntable and voila!  I know I am not alone when I say that one of my favorite “cut-outs” was Bobby Sherman singing “Julie, Do Ya Love Me?”  Good times, people, good times.

And that concludes our trip down memory lane with the Guthries and Alice!  Now let’s not all run at once to YouTube to check out some of these songs, okay?

Braised [Orange Almond] Chicken – serves 6 to 8
2 cut-up broilers or fryers (Ann’s Note:  I bought two packs of chicken breasts, about a pound each and that was plenty)
1 stick of butter
Salt and pepper
1 cup orange juice
Grated orange rind (from one orange)
½ cup seedless grapes (if desired)
Shot of cinnamon

In a heavy skillet, melt the butter; brown the chicken on both sides.  Season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer over a low flame for 30 to 45 minutes, until the chicken is almost falling from the bones.

Add the orange juice, grated rind of one orange and top with almonds browned in butter.  You can add up to ½ cup of seedless raisins and a shot of cinnamon, too.

Ann’s Note:  I served this with rice and green beans and it was very refreshing on a hot summer’s day.

Quiz question answers:
    1. b – Arlo Guthrie turned 65 on July 10, 2012.
    2. a – Woody Guthrie would have turned 100 on July 14, 2012
    3. a – Woody Guthrie is probably the world’s most famous folk singer. 
    4. b – Arlo Guthrie sang Alice’s Restaurant
    5. a – Woody Guthrie wrote This Land Is Your Land, considered by many to be the embodiment of the American spirit.
a and b - Trick question!  Both Woody and Arlo sang this piece along with other folk greats, Pete Seger, Emmylou Harris and the Kingston Trio

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