Whether soup or stew, salad, sandwich or even sauce, in families there is often a recipe that has been handed down over the years and which can be described as a classic. Whipped up, each track is consumed within an hour. The enjoyment of these special dishes comes not only from the delicious taste they curate, but also from the things we associate them with.
There is a strong connection between these recipes and our memory. This mysterious and poignant connection is captured in Pixar’s legendary 2007 animated classic “Ratatouille”. When tasting a dish in a restaurant that was also prepared by his mother, the cold-hearted food critic Anton Ego is immediately transported back in time.
But it is not only reminiscent of your own childhood – food opens doors back to relationships, get-togethers, moods and stages of life. Family recipes have an almost mystical quality, fond memories of the past bubble up.
My family has a veritable ensemble of staple foods that have adorned the cookbook and our table for many seasons. My father has his Scandinavian roots on the east coast – a phenomenal pasta, meatballs and Swedish pancakes. On my mother’s side, a more Midwestern tradition makes an excellent egg casserole and macaroni and cheese.
If you look at the landscape created by our family dishes, you will notice one that has withstood the test of time and taste since time immemorial. “Chicken Ritz”, a simple warm meal, has been consistently prepared in my family for almost 20 years. Originally from my mom’s side, it’s a new entry in the Generations Recipes collection but quickly became a favorite and it’s not hard to see why.
“Chicken Ritz” consists of five inexpensive ingredients that are combined in a minimally chaotic and fussy way. The result is a hearty, delicious meal that has a long shelf life. While not a student meal, it fits in well with the budget and tastes of those looking for a simple, solid meal in a time squeeze.
The recipe calls for some sizeable chicken breasts, 8 ounces of sour cream, two cans of creamy chicken soup, a sleeve of Ritz crackers, and butter. While not the healthiest hot dish in the world, Butter and Ritz can be ruled out, though you may get a strongly worded letter from me if I find out.
The preparation is fantastically minimal. Bake or cook your chicken breasts until cooked through, cut into cubes, and place on the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Combine your sour cream and chicken cream, pour the mixture over it, mash and scorch and drizzle with melted butter – toss in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
When you’ve come through the arduous and extremely difficult experience of making the hot dish, garnish with fresh, broken pepper and serve a heaping spoon over rice with the vegetables of your choice as a side dish. Practical, hearty and luckily inexpensive: “Chicken Ritz” can be prepared in large quantities at the beginning of the week and reheated without any problems.
As I was preparing a pan to share with the Bulletin, I was making my own little nostalgic trip back to those cold winter school nights – finishing my homework and sitting at the table at home to share a meal and a moment which may have been inconspicuous in time, but now it has a special place in my heart and lives on in the meals and the people with whom I will share them for the rest of my life.
4-5 chicken breasts
8 ounces of sour cream
2 cans of creamy chicken soup
1 tube of Ritz Cracker (crushed)
1 piece of butter (melted)
1. Cook or bake chicken breasts until cooked – cut into cubes or strips
2. Mix the soup and sour cream in a bowl
3. Spread sliced chicken breasts on the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan
4. Add the soup and sour cream mixture to the pan
5. Sprinkle with Ritz crackers and cover well
6. Drizzle melted butter over melted crackers
7. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees
8. Serve with rice or egg noodles and enjoy!
Anders Svenningsen is a salaried writer.