Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Page to Plate: The Congressional Club Cook Book - Rice and Chicken Amandine

With so many old cookbooks on my shelves, it's hard to choose a favorite. Each one has its own unique quirks and charms. Some have great illustrations or funny titles (Did you catch the 1915 book in this post that's titled A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband?). Others have such utterly grotesque midcentury food photography that it somehow makes me love them even more. No matter the book, if it was published before the 1970s, I will find a reason to love it.

But if I had to choose my favorite vintage cookbook find of all time, it would have to be The Congressional Club Cook Book from 1965. Just take a minute to admire that cover and really let it sink it. It is so bizarre and yet somehow manages to be cute and charming at the same time.
I got this book from a book sale at a Catholic school in Bethesda and I think my heart stopped when I saw it on the table. I was a couple tables away from it and I couldn't believe my eyes. There was no question. I had to have it. I seriously thought I would die right there if someone got to it before me. A word of advice, when you are at a book sale/thrift store/flea market/garage sale, always keep your cool. If someone else sees you look at something with that crazed look in your eyes, they are going to know it is something good and snatch it up before you. I've seen it happen! So, not wanting to draw attention to myself, I casually sauntered over to the table, picked up the book, and breathed a sigh of relief. I had it! It was mine! And when I saw the $4 price tag I nearly floated off the ground and ascended into heaven. 

Living in DC makes me love this book even more. There are 14 editions of the Congressional Club Cook Book, the first being published in 1927 and the latest in 2006. To me, the older editions are more special as they seem to recall a time when Congressmen from both parties socialized together outside the halls of the Capitol; a time when Congressmen treated one another as colleagues rather than adversaries. Maybe they even came together in each other's homes and debated policy over the very dishes presented in this book. Is it a romanticized picture of midcentury American politics? Almost certainly. But it's a nice thought isn't it?

Today I'm sharing a recipe from Elizabeth Kee for Rice and Chicken Amandine. When I was doing some research about Mrs. Kee, I found something very surprising. My book didn't come with the dust jacket, but I saw one online and the inside flap boasts all the different wives who have contributed recipes. Wives of Congressmen, Wives of Ambassadors, Wives of Governors, etc. All the political wives you can imagine. I had just assumed that Elizabeth Kee was a representative's wife until I Googled her husband. As it turns out, Elizabeth Kee was a Congressman's wife but she also served in Congress herself! John Kee served in Congress from 1933 to 1951 and when he died in 1951, Elizabeth Kee won the special election to replace him. At the time of her election, she was one of only ten women in the House of Representatives. She was the first woman to be elected to Congress from West Virginia and she served until 1965. Sure enough, when I double checked the recipe I saw that it credits her as a former representative.

All that girl power aside, this recipe is pretty amazing. When I saw that it called for a whole cup of cream, I had to resist the urge to use half-and-half instead and boy am I glad I did! I'm sure it'd still be delicious if you did use half-and-half, but try it the first time with heavy cream. And don't skimp on the pimento! I've only ever seen pimento called for in midcentury recipes and I'm not sure why it isn't used much these days. It added some nice color to an otherwise very beige dish and I liked the flavor so much that I'll probably double the amount the next time I make this (and believe me, there will be a next time!). This is a great recipe to use up leftover rice and chicken. But do make sure you round it out with some green veggies on the side as the nutritional profile of this dish isn't exactly stellar. It would probably even be very good with some veggies mixed in. Without further ado, I present Congresswoman Kee's Chicken Amandine:

Rice and Chicken Amandine
from The Congressional Club Cook Book, 7th ed.
Prep: 20 minutes     Bake: 30 minutes
Serves 6

3 cups cooked rice
½ cups diced cooked chicken
½ cup slivered blanched almonds
1 tablespoon minced onion
¼ cup butter or chicken fat
6 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons diced pimiento
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon salt.

Sauté almonds and onion in butter for 10 minutes. Stir in flour. Add broth and cream. Cook, stirring until thickened. Add chicken and remaining ingredients. Pour into casserole. Bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees) for 30 minutes. 

I shared this post on The Homestead Barn Hop.

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