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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

05/17/2022

~Retro Casseroles: àla King, Divan, Tetrazzini & Tuna~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d24259f9970cNow retro, chicken àla king, chicken divan, chicken tetrazzini and tuna-noodle casserole are four of my favorite vintage recipes.  When one writes a cooking blog long enough, one learns that sharing vintage recipes is as important as sharing trending, innovative new ones.  Experience has taught, "what's old is always new to someone", and cooks of all experience levels appreciate learning about it.  Experience has also taught: "what's old has often been lost to someone", as many times, these retro classics, which evoke fond memories, have been lost (grandma never taught it, shared it, or worse, never wrote it down), or, it got tossed (instead of being handed down from generation to generation).  I am grateful mom and grandma gave me their recipes.

My recipe for All-American Chicken à la King:

6a0120a8551282970b0278807e25c1200dÀ la king is a refined, American restaurant dish consisting of poached white-meat chicken or turkey stirred into a silky sherry-cream béchamel-type sauce containing mushrooms, and, green peppers (peas are substituted by people who don't care for peppers).  Classically, it's served served over toast points, puff pastry or rice (noodles or pasta are acceptable substitutions). 

My recipe for Classic & Comforting Chicken Divan:

6a0120a8551282970b0282e1551868200bChicken divan is a baked casserole containing poached white-meat chicken and blanched broccoli florets enrobed in béchamel sauce (it's called Morney sauce if cheese is added).  It was invented in the 1940's and was a popular, medium-budget chicken entrée on the menus of fine-dining restaurants and country club catering menus during the 1960's and 70's,

Get tangled up in my recipe for Chicken or Turkey Tettrazini:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c72478200dTetrazzini is a rich dish of cooked, stranded pasta (angel hair or thin spaghetti) tossed with chards of cooked poultry (all-white chicken or turkey breast) or pieces of succulent seafood (never red meat) enrobed in a sherry-cream Parmesan-cheese sauce.  Lightly sautéed mushrooms (a requirement for the dish) get tossed in, along with some optional steamed peas and carrots too.

Tune into my Made-from-Scratch Tuna Noodle Casserole:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8b89322970bTuna Noodle Casserole is a classic 1950's retro dinner made from canned tuna, peas, onions, noodles and a creamy sauce (that in the past meant using canned cream of mushroom soup -- not in my recipe). Once in the casserole, it gets topped with with a crunchy layer of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.  It was touted as a dish that was ready to eat in under 45 minutes.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

05/14/2022

~ The Retro History of All-American Tuna Casserole ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8b89343970bTuna Noodle Casserole is a classic 1950's retro main-dish casserole dinner.  Casseroles became popular post WWII, and experienced their heyday in American home kitchens during the 1950's and into the 1960s (because the ingredients were inexpensive and readily-available at any supermarket).  The typical tuna casserole was made from a can of tuna, a can of vegetables, a package of egg noodles and a can of condensed cream-of-mushroom soup.  For the most part, the ingredients were quickly stirred together, right in the casserole dish, and were topped with with a crunchy layer of breadcrumbs, corn flakes or canned onions, and sometimes a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  It was touted as a dish that, from start-to-finish was ready in 45 minutes.

The recipe most associated w/tuna casserole -- a can of tuna, a can of vegetables, a package of noodles & a can of soup -- was created by the Campbell's Soup Company in the 1940s.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8b891b4970bAlthough tuna noodle casserole is mainly associated with Middle America (the Midwest is known for its casseroles), the earliest printed recipes appeared two decades earlier in the Pacific Northwest.  The first, "Noodles and Tuna Fish en Casserole" appeared in 1930 in Sunset Magazine and was submitted by Mrs. W.F.S., who lived in Kennewick, Washington.  The same year, "Tuna Fish and Noodles Casserole" appeared as a menu item in The Modern Hospital Magazine (published by the American Hospital Association from 1913 to 1974).  Two years later, "German Noodles and Tuna Fish" appeared in The Cook Book of Many Lands (a cookbook published by the Americanization Department of Portland, Oregon's Parent-Teacher Association in order to help Portland women relate to their immigrant neighbors). All contain the same basic ingredients: tuna, vegetables, noodles and condensed soup.

FYI: The idea of flaking any type of white fish with a scratch-made white sauce and adding a buttery breadcrumb topping dates back to the late 1800s.  The name was: Cod à la béchamel.

A 1950s article referred to the dish as "as perfect casserole".

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d24259f9970cIt's no secret, there are no lukewarm feelings about tuna noodle casserole.  No one says, "I can take it or leave it".  Most people either passionately love it or passionately hate it.  My own mother fell into the latter category and flatly refused to prepare it.  I first encountered it in Home Economics class and developed an instant and unkind opinion of this "no skill required" meal. Decades later, writing my own cooking blog and producing a cooking segment on local television "forced my hand", meaning: it caused me to revisit the dish with a fresh outlook.  I set out to come up with a creamy and comforting made-from-scratch casserole (one that my husband Joe and I would enjoy).  I took the all the time necessary to create a rich, creamy, cheesy casserole topped with crispy, buttery bread crumbs, while taking into consideration it should be in keeping with the concept of this iconic, retro casserole.   

Try my recipe for Made-From Scratch Tuna Noodle Casserole:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8b89322970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

05/11/2022

~ The Retro History of All-American Chicken à la King ~

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a13fc6200cYou'd be surprised, perhaps not, how many folks think the same mixture that goes into pot pie, is the same mixture that gets used to make à la king.  It is not.  If the mixture it is similar to anything, it would be that contained in other all-American creations like chicken or turkey Divan, chicken or turkey Tetrazzini, and even tuna noodle casserole.  Read on to find out the difference:

À la king vs. pot pie -- À la king is not pot pie & vice versa.  

In its purest form, à la king is a refined, American restaurant dish consisting of perfectly-poached white-meat chicken or turkey stirred into a silky sherry-cream béchamel-type sauce containing mushrooms, and, green peppers (peas are commonly substituted by people who don't care for peppers).  Classically, it's served served over toast points, puff pastry or rice (with noodles or pasta being acceptable substitutions).  Pot pie is a very thick, gravy-like stock-based chicken stew that contains noodles or is topped with a pastry crust.  Worst case pot pie recipes are made using cream of chicken soup.  For those of you who are inclined to disagree with my assessment:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c84df5200dIn 1980, in a New York Times article, Craig Claiborne shared the original recipe for chicken à la king (reprinted from a brochure given to him by a reader).  Here is the original ingredients list:

butter, chopped green pepper, sliced mushrooms, flour, salt, cream,  poached chicken, egg yolks, onion juice, lemon juice, sherry, pimiento (for garnish), toast points (for serving)

Notice:  The original recipe contains no chicken stock, it is made with a cream-based béchamel-type sauce, and, pimientos are used as garnish, not a stirred-in ingredient (all of which are common misconceptions in modern day à la king recipes.

At the beginning of the 20th century, chicken à la king was the pinnacle of upscale comfort food in New York City.  In that era, almost anything with a vaguely-sounding French name was adopted by appetites of the rich and powerful.  That said, it's not French, and, there are several NYC restaurant chefs claiming the origin of the dish, most notably:  Delmonico's, the Brighton Beach Hotel, and, the Plaza.  The most credible account, however, is that it was created in the 1890's by a hotel cook, William "Bill" King, of the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia, as it appeared in his obituary in 1915, as well as a New York Tribune editorial written shortly thereafter.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49f1af0200cIn the 1950's, chicken à la king was a staple on the menus of elegant wedding receptions, expensive banquets, and, fancy sit-down in-home dinner parties all across America.  Sadly, as James Beard lamented in his 1972 book, James Beard's American Cookery, "chicken à la king, now usually prepared in a mediocre fashion, can be quite good if prepared with care, using fine ingredients."  This can be said of too many things we Americans eat, but, since I'm in the business of writing and publishing really-good, high-quality recipes, you'll find no mediocre shortcuts or ingredients in my version.

Dinner fit for a king.  Try my version of Chicken à la King:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4ca6a2e200d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary & Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)