My mother loves themes. And to be quite honest, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. As much crap as I like to give my mother about theming everything (yes, I just admitted to the great big internet that I give my mother a hard time), at heart, I’m cut from the same cloth. There’s something comforting about pulling together a meal where all the pieces fit together and belong together. When my mother first approached Will and I about what theme to have for Christmas this year, we were unprepared and little less than polite. She threw out Downton Abbey or medieval feast as the themes, and not wanting to play nice, we shot them down. Then we spotted our Virginia Hospitality cookbook on our shelf and the three of us started exploring it. After coming across a recipe requiring the cook to “light a chicken on fire then carry it to the table while still flaming,” we decided to pass on classic Virginia recipes, but felt inspired to do a “classic foods” theme.
My mother is a very creative person, so when we’re visiting her, we like to let her handle the meal-planning. After stuffing ourselves for a couple days on desserts and appetizers, we certainly weren’t starving by Christmas. Who am I kidding? We weren’t hungry at all. However, these recipes were already on the menu and needed to be cooked, so Will jumped into the kitchen to help tackle the preparation of this feast. These were go-to recipes that my mom used to pull out to make when having dinner guests over, when she was our age. While they’re out of our normal realm (Cheez-Whiz anyone?), some of them were passed along to my mother from family and friends, making them memorable and decadent. Take a look at our “classic Christmas” – themed food!
Cooking Notes for Chicken: This calls for boned, skinned chicken breasts to serve 14…we used 6 boneless, skinless breasts to serve four with leftovers for two servings. Gravy amount stays the same, though!
Chicken Cornelia (serves 6-8)
6 whole chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 pint whipping cream
1 cup vermouth
Mushrooms, sautéed in butter
Parsley, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt, pepper and paprika. Lay them in a well-greased broiler pan. In a separate bowl, mix together the cream of mushroom soup, the cream of chicken soup, the whipping cream and the vermouth. Stir well, then pour over the chicken. Bake uncovered, for 1 hour. The sauce should turn into a luscious golden gravy.
Just before the chicken is done, melt 4 tbsp of butter in a large skillet. Sauté mushrooms until nicely browned (about 7 minutes), then spoon them over the chicken breasts and gravy once pan is removed from oven. Garnish with finely chopped parsley, serve and enjoy!
Cooking Notes for Rice: This recipe calls for hot sausage, but my mother prefers to make it with mild sausage.
Ravishing Rice (serves 10-12)
1 lb. sausage
1 large red onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
4 1/2 cups water
2 envelopes chicken-noodle soup mix
1/2 cup white rice, uncooked
Begin by cooking the sausage over low heat, stirring to crumble the meat and ultimately pouring off the grease. In a medium bowl, combine the onion, green pepper and celery and set aside. In a large pot, combine the 4 1/2 cups of water and boil the soup mix and rice for about 7 minutes – do not drain.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the soup mixture, veggies and sausage and mix well. Pour into a 2-qt. casserole dish, then top with slivered almonds. Cover and cook for one hour (the perfect compliment to Chicken Cornelia – they both go in for the same amount of time!). When removed from the oven, top with chopped parsley, serve and enjoy!
Broccoli-Cheese Pseudo-Souffle (serves 8)
1/4 cup minced onion
6 tbsp butter, separated
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup water
8 oz. jar Cheez-Whiz
2 10 oz. packages chopped broccoli, thawed
3 eggs, beaten well
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 325 degrees (or 350 – just use a reduced time) Sauté onion in 4 tbsp butter until soft. Stir in flour, then add water. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Stir in cheese. Drain broccoli very well and stir into sauce. Add eggs, mixing gently until blended. Turn into a greased 1 1/2-qt. casserole dish, cover with crumbs and dot with remaining butter. Bake for 40-45 minutes (or 30-35 minutes if baking at the higher temperature). Remove, serve and enjoy!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cookie sheet in oven during preheating to prepare for frozen pie crust. Mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla. Gently stir in pecans, then pour into pie crust filling. Place prepared pie on cookie sheet, on center rack, for 60-70 minutes or until the center of the pie crust reaches 200 degrees or when the center surface springs back. Once done, remove from oven and cool for 2 hours on a wire rack before serving. Slice, top with whipped cream and enjoy!