Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Church Cookbooks of New York (Well, New Jersey This Time), Part 2.5: Steamed Chicken ("From Ridgewood Kitchens," West Side Presbyterian Church, Ridgewood, NJ, 1945)

Part 1:  The Church Cookbooks of New York, Part 1: Tomato Soup Cake ("Golden Anniversary," Church of the Master, Rochester, 1977)
Part 2:  The Church Cookbooks of New York, Part 2: "Hot Damn" ("Sharing Our Best" - Chemung ARC, Elmira, 1996)

I am calling this installment of church cookbook cooking "Part 2.5" as it is not from a New York recipe collection. It is from a Ridgewood, New Jersey collection.  I will continue with my exploration of the lore and wisdom of Upstate New York church ladies shortly.

Recently I purchased a small lot of mostly Central New York cookbooks. Included was "From Ridgewood Kitchens," sponsored by the Women's Guild of the West Side Presbyterian Church, Ridgewood, New Jersey, 1945.

This is a thoroughly interesting recipe collection. It is a snapshot of late/post WWII home cooking in the North East. Many of the recipes seem almost modern. This period in American cooking is unlike the 50s/60s/70s with all of the kitsch horrors that those eras produced. In the mid-40s you had relatively simple preparations using spare amounts of wholesome ingredients.

This recipe especially piqued my interest --

What a nice, simple Asian influenced recipe! It is unlike the American recipes of the following decades where "Asian" or "Oriental" in the recipe name will mean, "this has soy sauce in it, maybe water chestnuts too."

So I purchased ingredients and followed the instructions religiously.

Although I did adhere to the recipe, the recommended amounts of peanuts and raisins felt a bit aggressive. Almost as if you were stuffing the chicken carcass with trail-mix... For the mushrooms I used rehydrated shitakes.

After steaming in a glass bowl propped on an overturned saucer in a stock pot for 2.5 hours, this is what we have --

It smelled really very good.

I flipped the stuffed chicken into a larger bowl as per the recipe --

It made for an interesting presentation I thought. A nice steamy dome of chicken carcass....

Final step, "Serve."

First thing I thought was, "hell, I don't eat enough steamed chicken." Steaming the whole bird results in tender juiciness (even in the white meat) that is difficult to achieve via other cooking methods.

Second thing I thought was that this might be some sort of spiritual grandmother recipe to modern American-Chinese "sweet and sour" chicken dishes. The sugar/salt/raisins/peanuts together had a sweet/salty/sour/crunchy feel that you find in the modern globby sauced and fried dishes. But this '45 recipe is stripped down and delicious.

I would prepare this again. I don't know that I have seen a similar recipe during my study of old timey church cookbooks, so I feel I have resurrected a treasure from the past... I think you could successfully tweak this recipe to your own particular tastes. I would like to see a source of heat and maybe a little more acid.

I apologize for the departure from my usual local subject matter. Increasingly I am using this weblog to record things for myself so I don't forget them.


  1. I think this is your doctor and his wife.




  2. Thank you! The history makes it better.

  3. I think I'll try this myself


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