Luncheons, Tea Sandwiches and BINGO!
My dear readers, I have another story to tell.
When I look back on my girlhood, I am not remembering Boyfriends or Proms…. I think about my grandmother and porcupine meatballs and chicken salad.
I guess one could say I have always been obsessed with food….and staying at my grandmother’s house meant lots of food.
And lots of “stuff”.
You see, my grandmother never threw anything away.
Nope, she kept drawers full of pieces of old tin foil and plastic bags that she had washed out before storing. She could stretch a dollar and an aluminum pie plate pan farther than anyone in the family.
And….. she could stretch food.
Nothing was wasted.
I am not sure if she was like that because her mother was like that or if it was because she grew up during the Great Depression….whatever the case, she recycled everything.
I wish I were more like her because I find myself tossing things if there is a bit of Wear N’ Tear… or a hole in the toe.
Yep! I am the first one to wish it well and escort it to the dumpster.
Grandma raised chickens and believe me when I tell you ….Grandma used every part of that young pullet or old hen. Nothing went to waste when it was time for the chicken to hit the stew pot. (Legs included, but that is another story)
We ate a lot of chicken prepared many different ways.
Particularly chicken salad.
And it was sooooo good.
My love affair with chicken salad began with my grandmother.
Grandma and a few of her lady friends organized a luncheon club, and I loved to go with her to these events. The officers of the club would have a brief meeting to discuss past, present, and future events, collect monthly dues and then they would eat lunch. After lunch they would play BINGO for prizes.
Grandma never had to ask me twice if I wanted to go with her to these teas and luncheons. There would be a buffet table with platters of little tea sandwiches with their crusts cut off. Usually, they were chicken salad sandwiches, but sometimes there would be ham salad, egg salad or roast beef salad along with small cakes, peanuts and pastel mints and of course tea and coffee.
I would stand in line behind grandma holding an oblong glass plate with a circle at one end which held a glass cup…. and my mouth would be watering. Sometimes the hostess plates would be clear glass while other hostesses would have a specific color. The white plates above are similar.
Do any of you remember these hostess cups and plates?
Can I tell you that I LOVED those little sandwiches which had been cut into little triangles. I was allowed two triangles of those delicious sandwiches which in my mind was never enough, but my grandmother would never allow me to be unladylike and reach for more. The good news was after everyone was served and had eaten ad chatted for a bit, there was always a possibility that the hostess would pass by the guests, offering the left over sandwiches. But even then, I had to restrain myself in front of all the ladies.
Many times the hostesses would make their specialty chicken salad by adding chopped grapes or pecans or apples or herbs! I loved the anticipation of what little surprise would be awaiting my palette.
The recipe below is not rocket science. Grandma was not breaking any culinary ground with her chicken salad recipe…she just made what she thought tasted good. Lets face it, chicken salad is a classic and everyone has their favorite. Grandma would take the basic recipe and spice it up by adding tarragon from her herb garden or apples from her apple tree. I loved when she added Mandarin oranges and chopped pecans. Such flavors and such variety. She used whatever was in season from her garden or what was available from her fridge.
However, there is one thing my grandma always did when making her chicken salad.
Remember when I said she didn’t waste anything?
Chicken Salad was no exception.
Grandma always used a “stock” base to her chicken pot. She would add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and fresh herbs from her garden.
These veggies not only seasoned the water, but they infused a lot of flavor into the chicken as it simmered on the stove, low and slow.
To this day, I continue to use this same procedure when stewing a chicken.
And….when making sandwiches, I like to use thin slices of bread, not only because of fewer calories…
……but because it reminds me of the dainty sandwiches and playing Bingo with my grandmother.
Wait! What was that?
” B 12?”
I’m not sure if that is a vitamin supplement or my Grandmother calling BINGO numbers. 🙂
Never mind, it is just the playground of my mind.
Do you have a favorite chicken salad recipe?
- 1 whole chicken or 2 large breasts or 4 thighs.
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 carrot,
- 1 medium sized onion quartered
- 1 clove of garlic
- salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper or a few peppercorns
- Water to cover the chicken
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 cup tart apples, chopped
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 2/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
- 1 Tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
- chopped chicken
- Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (some like a lot, some like a little, your choice)
- Dash of Tabasco sauce (optional)
- To a large stock pot of water, add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, salt and coarsely ground pepper.
- Slowly simmer the chicken until tender.
- Remove the chicken from the broth and allow to cool before deboning and chopping.
- Do not toss the broth or stock. Cool, strain and then Pour into plastic containers and freeze or use in another dish.
- In a small bowl, add the onion, apples, celery, pecans and grapes. Gently add the chopped tarragon along with your favorite mayo. I use Miracle Whip along with a dash of Tabasco.
- Add the chopped chicken and mix ingredients until all the chicken is coated.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Chill for several hours. Serve on crusty bread, lettuce leaves, or spoon into pre-baked puff pastry cups. To make tea sandwiches, cut the crusts off the bread and cut the sandwich into four triangles or use a small cookie cutter to cut the sandwiches into shapes.