Monday, January 13, 2014

"The 'I Love Peanut Butter' Cookbook" - Chicken Punjab (in memory of Elvis Presley)

Date I made this recipe:  January 8, 2014 (Elvis Presley's birthday)

The 'I Love Peanut Butter' Cookbook by William I. Kaufman
Published by:  Doubleday & Company, Inc.
© 1965
Recipe:  Chicken Punjab – p. 41
(This book was previously owned by my mother but I don't remember her making a single dish from it.  Curious.)

In my last blog post, I was on some kind of jag talking about dead celebrities.  Here's another one (dead celebrities, that is):  Elvis Presley.  January 8th was Elvis' birthday and had he lived, he would have turned 79.  Wow—the image of a 79 year-old Elvis boggles the mind, doesn't it? As it is, he made it to age 42, looking absolutely nothing like Elvis, the Younger, idol of many a teenage girl and even swoon-worthy to someone like me who watched his movies growing up (A Change of Habit, anyone?).  But we won't go down the road about how sad-looking Elvis got in his later years.  He'll always remain the "Velvi Elvi" to me! (Young 'uns, I'm referring to the velvet paintings of Elvis that were all the rage in the 70's.  Why, I do not know.)

Our Elvis was a fan of peanut butter, specifically fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I like the idea of that sandwich but just wasn't inclined to make it in his memory on his birthday.  Besides, this cookbook, written in 1965, did not include a recipe for that concoction, likely because the author didn't know about Elvis' favorite food back then. 

That said, this book includes just about everything else that could contain peanut butter although the making of these recipes is another matter all together.  For example, while scrolling through the Index, I noted the following:  Fish. See Seafood.  Let us pause for a moment to take that one in:  peanut butter and fish.  Well I don't think so!  I wasn't especially fond of some of the meat options either, such as Peanut Butter Meat Loaf or Peanut Butter Meat Balls.  Ew.  (There were several recipes for steak with peanut butter and that is just a sin against nature.) The very mention of those two items made me recall an Alka Seltzer commercial from the 70's where a new bride is telling her husband she was thinking of making "marshmallowed meat balls" for dinner.  Yes, I'd reached for the Alka Seltzer, too!

But whereas peanut butter and fish (no way) and peanut butter and (red) meat hit the "ew" factor, chicken did not.  For some inexplicable reason, peanut butter and chicken go together.  And so although Elvis may not have thought to make today's recipe – Chicken Punjab – I did and it was delicious. 

I'd like to think Elvis would have liked this dish.  It's got peanut butter and chicken fried in peanut oil.  And okay, sure, we added things like soy sauce and rice and pineapple to spiff it up a bit but the basics are there. 

Now I have to tell you that shopping for some of the ingredients proved to be hilarious as there are now 85,000 kinds of everything on the shelves.  I'll have you know that at Cub Foods, small jars of chunky peanut butter were few and far between but you could have yourself plenty of smooth, smooth-lite, smooth with less salt, smooth with honey, smooth with cherries and chocolate (huh?) and so on and so on.  Had I looked hard enough, I probably could have found a smooth peanut butter without the peanuts (do not laugh:  "not dogs" – hot dogs made from ingredients I cannot contemplate – are now everywhere.) As it is it took me forever to find chunky. 

Then there were the rice selections, also fraught with peril.  The recipe said "uncooked converted rice," and that little word "converted" threw me for a loop.  Again, many, many, many types of rice were there for the pickins but I didn't see any that leaped out at me saying "converted."  Turns out an internet search told me that Uncle Ben's is converted rice – well, who knew – and so I had to go back the next day to get some.  Mind you, I have a couple boxes of Uncle Ben's in my pantry but of course they were not the right Uncle Ben's.  And by the way, Cub Foods, are you trying to kill me by putting that rice on the lowest shelf possible?  Answer: yes, probably.  In the interest of time, we will not discuss the canned fruit situation which has come along way from the two I remember the best:  pineapple (in syrup) and Mandarin Oranges. 

I hope Elvis appreciates all the work I went through to make this birthday dish.

Chicken Punjab – makes 5 generous servings
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons paprika
½  teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon onion salt
1 broiler-fryer chicken, 2 ½ pounds, cut in serving pieces
¾ cup peanut oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 cup sliced celery
1 green pepper, cut in rings
1 ½ cup uncooked converted rice (Uncle Ben's)
½ cup chunky peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup water
¼ cup seedless raisins
1 can (1 pound 4 ounces) pineapple chunks with syrup

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