recipes

ISABELLE’S CHICKEN

Dearest Michael,

You are so fortunate to have been born when your Great Grandparents were still alive. You got to meet Grandma Kitsie, (HOT FUDGE SAUCE) and GRANDMA JULIA (Dad’s Grandmother). You still get to see Grandpa Herbie who is still alive celebrating his 100th birthday this year and of course Grandma Belle, his wife of seventy one years who only recently died in the last four years. So blessed that we have photos of them with you and along with these memories, we also have their recipe boxes.

Grandma Belle was and still is an integral part of my daily life. I was as close to her as I was to Grandma Kitsie and I miss them with an almost vengeance as their legacy of life has been a major influence in mine. Their example in my life has shaped my world views, my ethics and moral compass and of course the way I cook and exist in my kitchen.

Grandma Belle started to wind down in her cooking as she got into her nineties, but I have memories of her Latkes (recipe to come in a later entry), her Brisket (also to follow) and many others. I was fortunate that I was born to young parents ensuring a long and healthy relationship with my grandparents who were only in their late forties when I came along. She would always hand write her index cards making sure her name would appear on the card like so many cooks of her generation would do.

Grandma lost her father to cancer only two years after her own diagnosis. She was only thirty seven when she found out she had breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy. Her father was only fifty nine. She already had three children at the time and it must have been difficult beyond measure. Women weren’t encouraged to talk about “it” back then and surely they weren’t writing blatantly about their personal experience like me. I am guessing her friends didn’t even know that she went through this; she barely discussed this with her own husband for that matter. Different times, but there are still remnants of this secrecy in many families including our own as people deal with cancer diagnosis in their own ways. Little did we know that the future would hold loss for us in the loss of her first born grandson, your Uncle Michael and her first born son, your Grandpa Dave also to cancer.

As you know I am an open book and talk about my own cancer experience loud and from the rooftops. Because I have learned so much about my own trajectory from cancer to BRCA I have made the conscious decision to not dwell, but to keep my head way above the sand too. Grandma Belle likely had BRCA 2, her father probably did too. I am guessing that Uncle Michael did and because the gene doesn’t skip generations, Grandpa Dave most definitely had this. What a family tree. I don’t mean to be a downer in this entry, but because I am writing about one of our old faithful recipes from Grandma Belle a day before you will find out your own fate of the family lineup in the world of genetic mutations, I wanted you to have some history.

This recipe like a family tree has lots of stories. I have made this as a staple like stuffing on a Thanksgiving table. Every Jewish holiday, this sweet chicken dish has been made. The recipe given out generously to anyone who asks. This recipe was was one of the first recipes I learned to cook back in my early kitchen days as it is easy and almost humorous in its ingredients. I have figured out ways to make it with less processed ingredients over the years and will write the version following this one, but seriously do this the old school way for your kitchen. It is fullproof and you will never be disappointed by its melt in your mouth sweet and tender joy it brings to your palette as you will get transported back to the many dinners of your young life.

Love Mom

ISABELLE’S CHICKEN

I can almost hear Grandma’s eye roll aloud as I go to write this next section in my commentary on the type of chicken to buy. She would be saying, “organic schmanic, it’s all a bunch of malarkey,” at the notion of specifying organic chicken in this recipe. I don’t care. Buy organic. The chemicals and God knows what other horrible things that are done to chicken in the factory world of chicken production can not be good for you. So please, for your mother, listen to what I say.

Chicken (about 6–12 pieces.) This dish freezes great so make some for the freezer for those nights you don’t feel like cooking. Try to put it in a glass storage container instead of a plastic one. Goodness knows what the hell is in the plastic these days too. What type of chicken is up to you, but Grandma and I always used Chicken Thighs. I like bone in and skin on, it adds a lot of flavor and as I write this, FAT IS IN. LOWFAT IS OUT. No one gets out alive so eat the damn fat and enjoy your life.

(If you use bone in, the time to cook it will take longer.)

1/2 8oz bottle of Catalina Salad Dressing (if you are using more than 8 pieces of chicken, you could probably use the whole bottle)

1/2 8oz jar of Peach jelly (same here, you may need the whole jar, the mixture should be pourable so get a feel for it)

¼ cup of water

1 package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix

4–6 small potatoes cut in half (if you feel like it, otherwise just put them in whole)

Lemon, salt, pepper and garlic powder

Put oven on 375

Squirt lemon and sprinkle salt, garlic and pepper over chicken pieces.

Lay out in a long baking dish (I have gotten into the habit of lining almost everything with parchment paper, saves on clean up time)

Add potatoes around outside of chicken.

In a separate bowl mix Catalina, Peach jelly and Lipton onion soup mix and ¼ cup of water. Pour over chicken and potatoes. The mixture should be pourable, if it is too thick add more Catalina.

Place in hot oven for twenty minutes.

Turn oven down to 300 (or even better, 275) and slowly bake for at least two hours.

Turn chicken over at some mid point and bake slowly until very brown and delicious looking.

Sometimes I have put the potatoes in later like in the second hour of cooking, but I don’t care if the potatoes are super soft, it adds to the flavor.

I LOVE YOU.

(a healthier version I suppose:

1/2 jar of local honey

1 can tomato paste mixed with chopped garlic, a few dates and a splash of cider vinegar in the food processor)

Chopped onions sauteed until golden

mix all together and pour over chicken proceed the same way)

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