We”re going retro today, which sounds kind of funny in a column that occasionally features jiggly salads and comfy casseroles with cream-of-something soups.
But before our grandmothers oohed and aahed over the convenience of those canned soup casseroles, there was scratch cooking.
So what”s more retro than a retro Chicken Divan with cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup? Making the casserole with a nice homemade white sauce.
Donna Blundell and Sheila Rogstad sent similar versions of Chicken Divan.
“This is very similar to the recipe from the ”Betty Crocker Cookbook” from the ”50s that I used,” Blundell says.
“A basic cream sauce would taste better,” Rogstad says.
She found the recipe in the 1965 “Better Home and Gardens New Cook Book.”
Neither recipe boasts the truckload of cheese some of us have come to expect on this casserole. But this dish isn”t exactly light. The sauce calls for half a stick of butter and a half cup of whipping cream.
“To cut down on calories, I make a cream sauce with skim milk instead of cream,” Rogstad says. “I would also add nutmeg, garlic and onion powder.”
I”m with her on the seasonings. I”m often bemused by the lack of spices and seasoning in some of these vintage recipes. I almost automatically dice an onion and mince garlic when I start meal prep each evening.
But I love the idea of making this dish without opening a can.
Fans of the dearly departed Grandma”s Chili Powder took notice when I mentioned I”d found an acceptable substitute.
As we grannies — shouldn”t we Grandma”s lovers assume that nickname? — know, we are hard-pressed to replace the chile powder. I struggled to find chile powders that don”t include salt. And Wayne C. Deutscher wondered just which Penzeys chile powders I”m using.
I”m trying Penzeys Chili 3000 and medium-hot. Both use ancho chiles as a base. I find the Chili 3000 a little brighter in flavor. I”m not sure either remind me of Grandma”s, but I like them far better than others I”ve tried and both the Penzeys products are salt-free.
Deutscher has tried Gebhardt but says there”s “a bit too much heat for us.” He finds McCormick bland and is using Spice Islands.
“Best so far,” he says. “Sure do miss Grandma”s!”
Meanwhile, let”s all be jealous of Judie Hockel.
“Your mention of Grandma”s Chili Powder this morning prompts me to write about a lucky find I made in my pantry last week,” Hockel says. “I hadn”t made my mom”s spaghetti sauce for quite a long time, but feeding crowds — and cool weather — had me bring out the recipe. I knew I had but one half measure of GCP in my spices, when a search for the substitute in my pantry yielded a forgotten reserve of not one but two of the familiar little red jars! You can imagine my joy when the sauce tasted exactly as memories would have it.”
“Being from New Mexico, I usually choose green chiles and salsas,” says Hanttula, of Los Altos Hills.