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Chicken spaghetti

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Keith Neal

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This recipe has been in my family for generatiions, back to the early 1900's that we know of. It is the ultimate comfort food, perhaps because I have been eating it all my life. The recipe is quoted from Mother's cookbook, "Dear Sally", which is another story.

An interesting side note is that Craig Claiborne, who was Mother's next door neighbor in Sunflower, Mississippi growing up, reportedly published the recipe years later in the New York Times, crediting his Mother as the source. This infuriated the residents of Sunflower, who knew better. I can't prove that allegation, but it remains a favorite anecdote.


From "Dear Sally", by Mimi Neal

"CHICKEN SPAGHETTI

This recipe has been in my family so long that the fact that I like it so well may have something to do with my racial urge. We don’t know who originated it, but when you look over the list of ingredients you know it was somebody who attempted all the leftovers in the pot one night.

My mother says the spaghetti is only as good as the cheese you use, and it must be sharp enough to cut your pocketbook. She also says you have to use the full three tablespoons of sugar, even if it kills you, or she and all her family will not be responsible for the outcome.

First you boil in water containing some onion and salt and celery leaves:
1 big, fat hen
Chop it into big-bite sized pieces. Then you chop:
3 large green bell peppers
3 large onions
Several buttons of garlic
Sauté the peppers and onions first in:
Chicken fat or 1 stick butter
Then add the garlic, crushed or chopped, and:
1 large can mushrooms, drained (Save the mushroom liquor.)

Don’t let any of this brown, just cook it slowly in the fat until it is done, which takes longer than
you would think.

Then add:
1 can tomatoes
2 cans heavy tomato paste
1 can Le Sueur peas (medium)

Dump in all the liquids from the canned things, and the mushroom liquor. You can also add some of the broth from the chicken you cooked, but it is easy to get too much and safer to wait and use the chicken broth to thin it with, if necessary.

Cook all this slowly in a big, heavy, covered pot (which is what you should have started it in) about 30 minutes. Then add:
The chopped chicken
1 pound sharp cheese, chopped

From now on you have to stand over the pot, stirring as the cheese melts slowly, or it will stick to the bottom.

If you didn’t use very old, sharp cheese, throw everything out and start over because the cheese will have balled up into rubber and spoiled everything.

When the cheese has melted, add:
½ medium bottle Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. mustard
At least 3 tbs. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste. Stir and taste. Then add:
1 pound thin spaghetti, cooked until barely tender and drained in cold water
This concoction needs to sit a while, to blend the flavors, and is better the second day. You will find that the longer it sits, the more the spaghetti will swell, and the more chicken broth you need to add to make it just the right consistency.
You can serve it with French bread, salad, pickles, potato chips, rolls, or nothing but toast.
Some people like it with Parmesan cheese."


This is the batch I made yesterday:

 

HHH Knives

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Keith, this is one that I will have to try. I have always used peas or served them with spaghetti. I have gotten some strange looks serving it like that. :dontknow:

Thanks
 

WildBoar

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Not to derail things here, but what is that pot you are using? Is it a thick cast-aluminum pot?
 

Keith Neal

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It is unusual, and addictive. The pot is older than I am -- a very heavy aluminum pot handed down along with the appointment as the family chicken spaghetti cook. Only two of us in the entire family have the appointment, and no one else makes it. Odd tradition.

A few hints: use only a metal spoon after adding the cheese; save the chicken skin and add it finely chopped with the meat for best flavor; it will keep absorbing broth for some hours, and will eventually use it all.

Enjoy!
 

tkern

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I have Craig Claiborne's NY times cookbook and found "My Mother's Chicken Spaghetti". If it makes you feel any better about him ripping your family off, his recipe is fairly different. Ground pork and beef and other things are in his, so at least he ventured off on his own a bit.
 

Keith Neal

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I have Craig Claiborne's NY times cookbook and found "My Mother's Chicken Spaghetti". If it makes you feel any better about him ripping your family off, his recipe is fairly different. Ground pork and beef and other things are in his, so at least he ventured off on his own a bit.
Thanks. That is interesting. Craig was an old family friend, so it is mostly for fun that we enjoy the story. Pork and beef, hmmm. A Ragu Bolognese variation?

Update. I found his recipe on the internet. It is a bit different. Thanks. I guess I will have to quit telling that story.
 

tkern

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Nah, keep telling it. Its always fun to have some background to good food.
 

WildBoar

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The pot is older than I am -- a very heavy aluminum pot handed down along with the appointment as the family chicken spaghetti cook.
Is there a manufacturer's name stamped on the bottom? It looks a lot like the Guardian pots and pans I inhereited from one of my grandmothers a few years back. Some of my cousins have parts of the set, but I've managed to lay my hands on the three biggest pieces. They are 50+ years old now. My wife absolutely loves cooking with them, and usually picks them over the All Clad, Le Crueset, etc. They work surprisingly well. Bottoms are >1/4 inch thick, and sides are at least 3/16. They are very non-stick, too!
 

Keith Neal

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Is there a manufacturer's name stamped on the bottom? It looks a lot like the Guardian pots and pans I inhereited from one of my grandmothers a few years back. Some of my cousins have parts of the set, but I've managed to lay my hands on the three biggest pieces. They are 50+ years old now. My wife absolutely loves cooking with them, and usually picks them over the All Clad, Le Crueset, etc. They work surprisingly well. Bottoms are >1/4 inch thick, and sides are at least 3/16. They are very non-stick, too!
David: The bottom is so worn and black I can't make out the markings. I will try to clean it up and report back.
 

Keith Neal

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If anyone tries this recipe, I would appreciate hearing what you think.
 
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