Monday, October 28, 2013

Purefoy Hotel Cook Book: Chicken Tetrazzini

A few months ago I received a copy the the Purefoy Hotel Cook Book (1971 Edition), a venerable volume of Southern cooking expertise first published in 1941 by Eva B. Purefoy of Talladega, Alabama.

True and tried!

Mrs. Purefoy, the proprietor of the eponymous hotel between 1916 and 1961, included a full array of recipes in addition to chapters on "Facts of Nutrition," "Culinary Secrets," and "Household Hints." After the hotel itself closed, she kept the memory of its hospitality and dining room alive with subsequent editions of the book.

This week's recipe is the first of two rather different ones Chicken Tetrazzini. It includes chicken breast meat, a cream sauce, sauteed diced vegetables and "fine noodles," which in this case I interpreted as narrow egg noodles. This one omits the two cups of shredded American cheese and bacon called for in the C.T. II formulation.

I've assembled my ingredients (minus the noodles), including chicken breasts lovingly arranged in a heart formation, and several selections from my friends at Giant supermarkets.

Despite being only a few lines long, this recipe has several moving parts. I elected to start with cooking the chicken in olive oil in my trusty cast iron skillet.

The recipe also directs one to "Make smooth cream sauce." No further guidance there. Given the ingredients listed, that's just butter, cream, and flour, right? Let's hope so. 

Once the chicken is done and the sauce is thickening, we toss the diced vegetables to saute into the same pan we cooked the chicken in. I increased the veg portions to over twice the volume originally called for to update the consistency. Seriously, 1 tablespoon of chopped onion for six portions? Let's try a whole onion, Mrs. Purefoy. You'll like it - I promise.

While the vegetables were cooking, we were also boiling the egg noodles. This recipe, and many similar ones, calls for the drained noodles to be plated and covered with the other ingredients and sauce in a beef stroganoff sort of arrangement. 

Since the various components were not all equally hot at the time they were ready, though, I decided to mix everything together. Once combined in a glorious melange, into a glass casserole dish they go. 

Cover with come breadcrumbs and stick in a 350 degree over for 15-20 minutes. Feel free to top with a few chunks of butter, as well.

Verdict: everything comes out steaming and bubbling and lovely. 

Thanks to Eva Brunson Purefoy, and Mr. Hyde, the next-generation hotelier to whom she sold the hotel in 1939. Mrs. Purefoy died in 1975, but her delicious food will serve us for many years hence.

UPDATE: Thanks also to Lucindaville, who featured the Purefoy Hotel Cook Book as "Cookbook of the Day" on September 10, 2009.