When I was about nine, my neighbors got stationed in Japan and rented out their house, as military families often do. I was devastated, as their little boy and girl were like my siblings and taught me how to scream, “MOM!! They are touching my stuff,” with all the righteous indignation of an older sister. (Seriously. They would not leave my Barbies ALONE.) However, this pain was eased a few months later when my friend Tal’s family moved in next door.
I first met Tal when she was locked out of her house after school one day and was sitting outside. Not being a latch-key kid, I was fascinated—she got to stay at home all BY HERSELF? She seemed super mature, so of course I invited her over to come play. She played Barbies like a pro, read as many books as I did and owned an eight foot tall book shelf covered in the most My Little Ponies I’d ever seen in my life. Plus, she had a younger brother and sister we could boss around. We became fast friends.
Tal was, and still is, a fashion plate. She was barely older than me, but knew worldly things like how to put on a t-shit tie, exactly how many jelly bracelets to wear on your arm to seem cool and why hoop earrings the size of dinner plates were cool. Over the years, she taught me why Hypercolor shirts were cool but how it was okay that you didn’t have one (Mom appreciated this,) how to suck my stomach in in a swimsuit to make my chest seem bigger (Mom did not appreciate this,) and waterslides had the cutest lifeguards working them and how to pre-teen flirt with them (pro-tip: Refer to the one named Cash as Cash Register on a regular basis and try to steal his hat. Mom did not know about this. Hi, Mom!) Tal was also in love with new Kids on the Block and Vanilla Ice, and had a life-size poster of Donny Walhberg on her bedroom door. It was photographed to make him look like he was facing the door, holding a dozen red rose behind his back, but was turned around looking at the camera with a secret smile. Despite her being married with two children, one day I will find that poster again and make her put it up in her home. ONE DAY…
I bring all this up to point out that one thing made my sophisticated friend lose her mind a bit, and it was my mom’s creamed chicken and biscuits. Technically, it’s my grandmother’s creamed chicken and biscuits, but it is a tasty stick-to-your-ribs meal that we almost always had to have when Tal spent the night, which was often. I don’t know that it was the creamed chicken that she loved as much as it was the biscuits. And the love she had for those biscuits was DEEP.
Now, due to the military, my dad wasn’t always around but when he was he delighted in messing with Tal and I. Whether it was turning the channel when we were watching Mannequin for the 18th time or threatening to feed our Barbies to the family dog, my dad was like having an obnoxious big brother who could ground you. It was on one of these evenings home that my father walked into the kitchen as we were eating creamed chicken and biscuits. Tal and I both had full plates, but there was one biscuit left and she had already laid claim to it. I knew better than to challenge this, as she was a guest-and she was small but feisty. My dad, who had already eaten, walked in and then tried to snag the last biscuit. Tal protested, Dad argued and they mildly bickered over who was most deserving of the bread-y goodness. Dad had put the biscuit back and was about to leave the room when suddenly he turned around, snagged the biscuit and proceeded to lick it and put it back on the plate.
Tal was shocked, my mother was horrified and I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself.
The biscuit remained my father’s, and though Tal has not lived close to us in nearly 20 years, this is a story that gets brought up every time she is around my father. She’s still upset about losing that biscuit.
Anyone else have any favorite friend meals? Either made by you or family for your friends, or a meal that you love made by friends or friends’ parents? Everything tastes better when someone else makes it, and even better when the person making it calls you sweetie and asks you if you want a juice box.
This is one of those “Cook it until it looks done” kind of recipes that my mother specializes in, and that drive me batty. They’re very simple, but they make bakers like me twitchy. “Season to taste? What does that MEAN?”
Chicken (whole, breasts, thighs, etc. Whatever you have or is on sale.)
Celery stalks or celery seed (optional)
Canned cream of something soup (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste (ARGH!)
Boil any part of chicken you prefer (Mom buys whole chickens and skins them and cuts them into pieces) in a stock pot with just enough water to cover them. Salt and pepper the water if you wish; my grandmother throws in celery stalks or celery seed for flavor. If using stalks, remove them when done.
Save the broth from chicken and put aside. Shred the chicken, remove bones, put back into broth.
As my mom says, “From here, you can cheat and add a couple cans of cream of chicken soup, or cream of celery or cream of mushroom. Or you can do what my mom does; she makes a flour and water slurry and whisks that into the broth.” If using cans, think about one can per pound of chicken. If using flour and water slurry, use 3/4 water to 1/4 cup of flour. You can also do half water/half milk, to make it extra creamy.
Mom missed this step (You see what I’m working with here?!?) but cook the chicken and cream broth until it thickens, stirring often. The consistency will remain fairly thin, so do not overcook. Also, if you prefer big chunks of chicken, be careful when stirring to not break up it up too much.
Season with a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve over mashed potatoes, rice or egg noodles.
Grandmas Biscuits (a.k.a. Tal Crack)
2 cups flour
2 1/4 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening (or butter)
3/4 cup buttermilk (if you have no buttermilk, use milk +a little lemon juice+1 tsp salt)
Roll out on floured board to desired thickness, cut with bottom of glass or round cookie cutter. Alternately, you can drop these onto a cookie sheet, or put into a muffin tin. Whichever you choose, make sure to grease a little with butter, shortening or a shot of cooking spray.
Bake in 450 oven between 12-15 minutes, taking out when a nice golden brown.