Classy Chicken+ Schwartie’s Potatoes + News!

Classy chicken & Schwartie's potatoes 1

What a week, guys. I don’t even know where to start. I started the week with Jamie Oliver in London, then flew back for a midweek dinner party at Rouge, where it was announced that my pals Sue, Elizabeth and I would be the next generation of the Best of Bridge ladies.

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For those of you who are not Canadian, or Western Canadian, and may not be familiar with BofB, it was a group of Calgary ladies who played bridge together and, back in 1975 on a weekend trip to the cabin, came up with the idea to write and self-publish their own cookbook. Their first hand-lettered, coil-bound book was a hit, and turned into a series – one that fed most families in Western Canada throughout the eighties. I grew up in the same neighbourhood, and was friends with some of their daughters, and have memories of sleepovers at which the Bridge moms would be testing recipes. Everyone in our community used the books and supported their endeavour – which included convincing the bank loan officer to give them a loan without requiring their husbands’ signatures, and loading copies of books into their hatchbacks and driving to bookstores (and drugstores and department stores) to convince them to buy a few copies. They truly were the first to introduce me to the concept of self-publishing, and it’s no exaggeration to say they inspired my career path early on.

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Fast forward to today and they’ve sold 4 million books and have become Canadian icons – their signature polka-dot ruffled aprons (they’d come up with a new matching set for each book) are in the Glenbow Museum. There are four of the original 8 ladies left – Mary, Val, Joan and Helen – and they’re in their seventies, ready to retire. And they’ve trusted us to carry on the brand. And so chef Jamie and the good folks at Rouge hosted a dinner party featuring some of the most iconic Bridge recipes – Hamburger Soup, Christmas Morning Wifesaver, Classy Chicken, Schwartie’s Potatoes (named after a family friend), and Butter Tarts. It was crazy awesome. I cried, and not because of the wine + jetlag.

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Although this has been in the works for months, it was all made public at the party – which triggered a flurry of congratulations and happy Bridge memories for which I’m eternally grateful – and so I had to share here, with a few recipes that we (truly) still make today. Classy Chicken continues to be my Dad’s favourite meal, and Schwartie’s potatoes is the sort of casserole that requires no actual cooking skills, just stirring and sliding into the oven – it could be made with fresh potatoes, or with some cream in place of the soup – whatever combo you come up with, it’s like scalloped potatoes without all the work of thinly slicing, nor risking your fingertips on a mandolin.

Classy Chicken

Adapted from Winners, by the Best of Bridge. (The original calls for asparagus – thus the “classy” label – although it does suggest broccoli as an alternative. It also calls for skinless, boneless chicken breasts, but I find thighs far more flavourful – or even chopped leftover roast chicken or turkey. And cream of mushroom soup instead of cream of chicken.

canola oil, for cooking
6-8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 broccoli crowns, separated into florets
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup mayo or heavy cream
1-2 tsp. curry powder or paste
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup grated old cheddar cheese

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle with pepper. Saute quickly in oil over medium heat just until opaque (don’t overcook – the chicken will get tough! Drain. Cook asparagus or broccoli until crunchy. Drain and arrange in bottom of buttered casserole. Place chicken on top. Mix together soup, mayonnaise, curry and lemon juice and pour over chicken. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake, uncovered, at 350F for 30-35 minutes. Serves 6.

Schwarties Potatoes

From Enjoy! by the Best of Bridge – the only change I made is to sometimes reduce the tins of soup to 1, and add more Parmesan on top – because you always need a cheesier top.

2 lbs. (1 kg) frozen hash brown potatoes
2 cups sour cream
1-2 cans mushroom soup
1/2 cup butter, melted
grated onion, to taste
salt to taste
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Thaw potatoes slightly. Mix potatoes, sour cream, mushroom soup, butter, onion, salt and cheddar cheese in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Sprinkle Parmesan on top and bake at 350F for 1 hour. Serves 8-10.

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May 23 2015 | chicken & turkey | 24 Comments »

Curried Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Paneer

Brussels sprouts and paneer 1

As per my previous post, I’m currently enamoured with all things curried – and with using my masala dabba, which when I hold in my hand and dip into by the stove makes me feel like part cook, part abstract painter, and which turns out curries I didn’t realize I was capable of.

Also? I must have curry on the mind because this very weekend I’m flying to London to go to lunch at Fifteen and MEET JAMIE OLIVER. My apologies if I drive everyone crazy with my Jamiepalooza this coming Monday. (Also? I have a 5-10 minute Q&A with him – what do you want to know??)

All of which is to say I couldn’t resist another curry – I’m not even going to apologize for it, because this particular one is made with Brussels sprouts, bacon and paneer. If you’re a frequenter of Indian restaurants you may recognize peas and paneer, or spinach and paneer, but this. It’s dense and chewy and crunchy and soft, and I’d never think to add bacon to the mix, but it’s brilliant. I flipped by it in one of Vij’s books while looking for an interesting thing to do with the paneer I just made, and then kind of winged it, not really following the recipe exactly, shredding the B. sprouts rather than quartering them, and not bothering to add water, so it’s thicker and more intense.

Brussels sprouts and paneer 2

Paneer, if you’re not familiar with it, is a fresh curd cheese – common in Indian cooking, but essentially the same thing as ricotta – you can make it (easily!) by adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar to warmed milk, making it split into curds and whey. You scoop out the curds into a piece of cheesecloth, sprinkle it with a bit of salt, then weigh it down under a plate to press out as much whey as possible, making it firm enough to cut into chunks. Honestly, I could nibble on squares of homemade paneer all day.

Curried Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Paneer

6-8 slices bacon, chopped
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
canola oil, for cooking, if you need it
1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 14 oz (398 mL) can pureed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch cayenne
1/2 lb paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes

Cook the bacon in a skillet set over medium-high heat until crisp; remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate, leaving the drippings.

Toast the cumin seeds for a minute in the drippings in the pan – add a little oil if you like – and then add the Brussels sprouts, cooking until they’re soft and starting to brown a bit on the edges.

Add the tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt and cayenne and cook until bubbling and thick; tuck in the paneer and cook for another minute, coating the cheese with the tomato sauce, until everything is heated through and looking like exactly what you want to eat. (Vij instructs to pour the sauce over the paneer, if you want to serve it that way.)

Serves 4. (Or 2 for lunch.)

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May 14 2015 | cheese and vegetarian | 8 Comments »

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