Isabelle's Chicken Recipe and Story
My grown son is now in his own condo and this collection of recipes I called, Dearest Michael were written when he was younger as you will see by my references, as a gift to him for this very moment.
Whether you read them for the story or the recipe, know that they were written as a tribute to the many people who have influenced my kitchen, my cooking and my notion of family.
Grandma Belle was an integral part of our lives. 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 has shaped my world views, my ethics and moral compass and the way I cook and exist in my kitchen. Isabelle would hand write her index cards along with the date making sure her name would appear on the card like so many cooks of her generation would do.
When Kitsie and Isabelle died, I managed to retrieve both of their recipe card files- worn jam packed boxes filled with notes and butter stains.
Kitsie’s is like deciphering a secret code; Isabelle’s are clear and thorough, but this is no reflection of who they were as strong women. Kitsie could throw a few ingredients on a card and know how to put it together by instinct, Isabelle was more methodical and was a direction follower. The end results were the same in delicious food, they both took different paths to get there and this is true of life, parenting, decisions, choices.
Recipes are a unique metaphor for all.
Grandma Belle started to wind down in her cooking as she got into her nineties, but I have fragrant and tasty memories of so many meals, like her Chocolate Cake, her Brisket, her Chicken Soup and this one that has been a staple in our family like so many. You do, too, because good recipes, like good advice, are often passed through generations.
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. And you were also lucky as you got to know your Great Grandparents too.
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. This recipe, given out generously to anyone who asks, 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 a healthier version follows, but do this the old school way for your kitchen. It is foolproof and you will never be disappointed by its melt in your mouth, sweet and tender joy it brings to your palette. You will be transported back to many dinners of your young life.
I Love You. Love Mom
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I can almost hear Grandma’s eye roll aloud as I write this next section when it comes to the type of chicken to buy. Isabelle would say, “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 along with the other horrible things 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.
TIME TO MAKE : 20 Minutes
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
- 1 Chicken (about 6–12 pieces) what type of chicken is up to you, but Grandma and I always used chicken thighs, bone in and skin on; it adds a lot of flavor. (If you use boneless, the time to cook it will be much shorter.)
- Juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper and garlic powder
- Half of an 8oz bottle of Catalina Salad Dressing. If you can’t find Catalina, use French. (if you are using more than 6 pieces of chicken, you could probably use the whole bottle)
- Half of an 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)
WHAT TO COOK WITH
- 13X9 Baking Dish
- Large Cast iron pan or some type of fry pan
- Tongs for turning chicken in the middle of the cooking time
- Parchment paper
HOW TO CREATE THE MAGIC
- Squeeze lemon and sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder over both sides of 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 uncovered 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.
Addicted to these pink vintage vibe swirly decor baking dishes by Great Jones. In every size, now. I just got my little hottie in too. So stinkin cute. Pure joy!
Of all the frying pans, fancy and otherwise, Lodge Cast Iron is the Cadillac. Inexpensive, hardy and life time with a little TLC. This is a 12 inch, a perfect size for most. If you live around Bristol, head over to Andy's on Wood Street. (Union Commercial Co.)He has almost every size and it is worth the visit. Old school hardware store of an era gone by.
The fabulous 14 cup Cuisinart I can't live without.
They call these mint green, but I call these tongs turquoise, my favorite color in my kitchen. So vintage, like the pink baking dish. I can never have enough tongs. Salads, roasted veggies and this chicken dish for sure.
These parchment sheets are more expensive than purchasing a roll, but how much do we trim off and throw away with a roll? I have both now and these come in 4 sizes so it is super easy.
Lipton onion soup mix packets come in so handy, generic is fine too, this is a 6 pack, but all grocery stores have this as a staple. I use this in my brisket recipe too.
TIP + SIDE NOTE
This recipe freezes beautifully (not the potatoes as much, but the chicken yes!) Make extra to put in glass containers in your freezer. Isabelle always taught me to cook for your freezer too. So great on those late work nights.
A less processed version (replaces the onion soup mix, dressing and peach jelly mixture)
- 1 medium onion
- 2 carrots
- 1 chopped apple, peeled or unpeeled, doesn't matter.
- 3 T olive oil
- 1/2 cup of local honey
- 1 small 6 oz can tomato paste
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- 6 pitted dates,
- about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
- Chop onion, carrots, garlic and apple fine in food processor
- Heat oil on medium and add mixture to pan
- saute until fragrant and soft, light golden.
- While this is cooking, chop dates with vinegar in food processor.
- Add paste, honey and date mixture to sauteed garlic mixture and just stir so it blends. The heat will make this easier.
- squirt lemon and salt and pepper the chicken both sides
- Pour mixture over chicken and follow the same remaining directions.