Those of you who are regular readers of this column realized that in last week’s column, my sister Deana’s 15-minute Beef Stroganoff had some odd ingredients. Yes, I channeled my inner Rachel Green (let’s see how many of you can connect this one) and mixed up two recipes.
On the longtime television series “Friends,” the character Rachel decided to make a classic English trifle for Thanksgiving. While she was cooking, the pages of her cookbook stuck together and she mixed an English trifle with a Shepherd’s Pie.
She layered custard, ladyfingers, beef, peas, and potatoes and served it as dessert on Thanksgiving. One of the characters said it “tastes like feet,” which creates an entirely new conversation.
Have you ever had a cooking catastrophe? I’ve had plenty. A particular scone incident forever made me gun shy of baking. Even my Momma, the Donna Reed of DeSoto County, had her moments in the kitchen. Her mistakes came from being distracted by my sisters or me and burning a mess of butterbeans to the bottom of the pot, but it happened – well, a couple times.
I had mine shortly after moving to Winona nearly 13 years ago. I invited a few of my new friends over for dinner at my house, and I planned to serve my Momma’s famous chicken and dumplings. I had made them a hundred times at that point in my life, and I never once had a mishap. In fact, my sisters always said my dumplings were better than Mommas. (I don’t really know about that because mommas can do everything better.)
I had just dropped the dumplings in the boiling broth and was cleaning up the substantial flour mess when I heard liquid hitting the floor. I turned to find my dumplings erupting like an elementary clay volcano, bubbling over the pot, down the cabinets, and onto my kitchen floor.
Shoving the pot off the heat, a thick stream of molten lava left the pot and splattered the kitchen wall like a Jackson Pollock painting, with the greasy goo dripping into every crack and crevice. With two dozen dishtowels, I scooped and dumped dumplings and their thick gravy from the linoleum floor into the kitchen sink. Did I mention how much butter goes into a pot of dumplings? That floor was as slick as owl’s grease, and I slipped and slid and skittered around in a tizzy until my dear friend and neighbor, the late Patti Finley, called and asked me if she could come early to help before dinner.
I burst into tears at the sound of her voice, and she was at my house in under a minute. The two of us had made a dent when Gerry Whitfield arrived and took control of the situation. I had to make another entrée, in less than 15 minutes, and Patti and Gerry scrubbed that linoleum until it shined like the day it was installed.
Thank heaven for good friends.
Because I already had a hen cooked and deboned, I threw together my Momma’s chicken spaghetti. The other guests wouldn’t have known the difference if Patti and Gerry hadn’t reenacted the scene they walked in on – me covered in gravy and flailing around the kitchen like a drunk crane. That, and well, my dogs stalked me the entire night with that same look they give when I unwrap a slice of American cheese from its plastic.
Anyhoo, here is Deana’s 15-minute Stroganoff – the real one this time.
2 pounds of ground beef
2/3 cup water
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
Noodles or rice
Brown meat. Add water and soup. Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Blend sour cream and flour. Add it to meat mixture. Cook until thick and serve. Heat through but do not boil. Serve over rice or noodles.
The other recipe, which was Frankensteined into the Stroganoff, was my friend Catherine Anne Haynes’s Grits and Greens recipe.
We call Catherine Anne the fourth Sexton sister. She has been a part of the Sexton family for as long as I can remember, sharing a lifetime of milestones, family dramas, general hilarity, and even tears of grief. When I was younger, Catherine Anne and I tied up quite a bit. Both opinionated and a hair bossy, we probably have more in common than any of us. We just had to get older to see we were arguing with a version of our self.
Inheriting a large dose of Southern belle and a heaping helping of old-fashioned Southern propriety, just like me, Catherine Anne is a great cook and, like me, she is willing to try new dishes. That is where this Grits and Greens recipe originated.
Grits and Greens
2 cups whipping cream or half & half
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups regular grits
1 16oz bag of frozen collard greens (mustard)
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese (shredded)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
Grease 13x9 baking dish. Bring cream, 6 cups of chicken broth to a boil. Stir in grits, and cook over medium heat until boiling. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Cook collard greens in 2 cups of chicken broth for 10 minutes, drain, blot dry with a paper towel. Add butter and cheese to grits, stir until melted. Mix in greens. Place in dish. Top with bacon. Bake at 350 until lightly brown on top, approximately 30 minutes.
Even if you don’t erupt a pot of dumplings like Mount St. Helens in your kitchen, an easy chicken recipe will come in handy one day.
omma’s Chicken Spaghetti
1 (8 ounce) package spaghetti
2 cups boneless chicken breast half, cooked and diced
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 pound Velvetta cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
Mix together in large bowl: cooked spaghetti, diced chicken, mushroom soup, bell peppers, and cheese. Pour into a large casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.
Over the years, Momma adapted her chicken spaghetti recipe from the regular version to the express version. Here is the express version – it is a staple in the Ferguson house.
Momma’s Express Chicken Spaghetti
3 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 jar Ragu spaghetti sauce (I like Garden Vegetable)
1 pound Velvetta cheese
8 ounces of thin spaghetti
1 stick butter
After removing the chicken from salted boiling water, cook thin spaghetti until al dente in same water. Drain spaghetti, and pour hot noodles over a stick of butter in a large casserole dish.
In a separate bowl, mix chopped chicken, cubed cheese, and spaghetti sauce. Pour over noodles and melted butter. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.