Q: At least 30 years ago, there was a wonderful restaurant parallel to the West Side Highway in Greenwich Village in New York City. It was called Inca and they served Chicken Divan over asparagus. I wrote to The Village Voice hoping for a response with a recipe. No luck. Any ideas?
Chicken Divan, basically chicken with almonds topped with a cheese and sherry-laced Mornay sauce served over broccoli, was first created in the 1930s in New York City, where it was the signature dish at the Divan Parisien restaurant. Since I never had the version at the Inca, the best I can do is adapt a favorite method of making the dish by substituting asparagus for the broccoli. If anyone has the authentic recipe I will happily pass it along. I found I actually prefer using asparagus, especially now when it is fresh and redolent of spring.
Eleanor Young of Bangor, Pa., lost a recipe for peanut butter cookies she had clipped from the back of a Pet Milk can in the late 1950s or early ‘60s. She and her son remembered them as “the best”. Rachel Sommerer provided this recipe, which produces a really cookie, and specifically mentions Pet evaporated milk. Thanks also to Claire Berkowitz and Lillian Morrow for contributing.
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Note: This is a very sweet cookie. We are publishing the original recipe since that is what Young wanted, but if you prefer less sugar I would cut use ½ cup each of white and brown sugars.
Miami-native Cristina Suarez Krumsick has published her new cookbook, No Bake Makery: More than 80 Two-Bite Treats Made with Lovin’, Not an Oven (Grand Central Life & Style, $20). The book is the result of living in a small and hot Brooklyn apartment and experimenting with party sweets she could make without an oven. There are recipes for adults and children, from coffee truffles and mini Key lime pies to pudding pops and peanut butter-chocolate bonbons, with lots of illustrations, step-by-step instructions and helpful tips. You can see her Miami roots in The Clary, shortbread cookies ground into crumbs and mixed with guava paste and cream cheese. The recipe here for fruity two-bites goes together in no time. Krumsick recommends using a melon baller or scoop to measure out the dough before rolling into a perfectly shaped truffle by hand.
Q: I have been trying to find, for many years, a recipe for a rice dish that I believe came right from the package. You cooked the rice in cranberry juice and added other ingredients. I have never seen anything like it again. This was a favorite of my family and so good with chicken.
Chicken Divan with Asparagus
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
8 portions boneless, skinless chicken breast, about 1 ½ pounds total
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon white pepper
1/3 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, divided
Strips of peel from 1 lemon
11/2 pounds asparagus spears
1/4 cup sherry
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, leaves chopped
2 green onions, chopped
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional, as garnish
Toast the almonds until golden in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 200-degree oven (about 10 minutes). Set aside. Keep oven on to use in later steps for keeping chicken warm.
Place the flour, salt, pepper and dried tarragon in a plastic bag. Add the chicken and shake until nicely coated. Remove chicken from bag. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter, swirl around pan to melt, then add the chicken pieces and brown about 3 minutes per side, or until juices run clear. Remove from pan and keep warm. Do not wash skillet.
Bring 3 inches of water and the lemon zest to a boil in a pan large enough to hold the asparagus. Boil 2 minutes, then reduce heat to simmer and add asparagus. Cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain off water, discard lemon peel or use as garnish and keep asparagus warm.
Return chicken skillet to medium heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Melt butter, incorporating any browned bits, then whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Cook the flour 1 minute then whisk in the sherry. Cook 1 minute, then whisk in the chicken stock, half and half and fresh tarragon. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until thick as desired, about 3 minutes.
To serve, divide the asparagus spears into four portions and top each plate with 2 pieces of chicken and ladle the sauce on top. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and chopped green onions. Add Parmesan or pass it, as desired. Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 570 calories, 44 percent from fat, 28 g fat, 11 g sat fat, 12 g mono fat, 138 mg cholesterol, 49 g protein, 30 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 578 mg sodium.
Pet Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup soft shortening or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
21/2 cups flour
11/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, unbeaten
1/4 cup Pet evaporated milk
In large mixing bowl, mix peanut butter, shortening and sugars.
Add flour, baking soda and salt, mix well. Add eggs and milk.
Shape into small balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet an inch apart. Press flat with floured fork. Bake at 375 degrees about 10 minutes or
until light brown. Makes about 6 dozen.
Per serving: (2 cookies) 147 calories, 39 percent calories from fat, 7 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 3 g mono fat, 12 mg cholesterol, 3 g protein, 20 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 155 mg sodium.
No-Bake Fruity Two Bites
20 shortbread cookies, such as Lorna Doone
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup seedless strawberry jam, without fruit pieces
1 cup white chocolate chopped into quarter-size pieces (candy melts may be substituted)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dried strawberries
Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with plastic wrap and set aside. Process the cookies in a food processor until fine crumbs form, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside. You should have about 1 cup of crumbs.
Pour cream into a small nonstick saucepan’ place over medium heat until the cream comes to a low boil, about 1 minute. Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir in the jam until melted.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the white chocolate in the microwave on high power, about 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat and, using a whisk, mix the melted chocolate and the butter into the cream-jam mixture until completely combined. Add the cookie crumbs to mixture and stir well to cream a dough. Pat into the prepared pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper and set aside.
Roll the refrigerated dough into 1-inch balls. Place on the prepared cookie sheet and return to the refrigerator for 1 hour. Melt and temper the remaining white chocolate. Dip each ball into the melted white chocolate, place back on the prepared cookie sheet and top with a dried strawberry. Refrigerate until solid, about 1 hour. Makes 25.
Per serving: (1 cookie) 100 calories, 40 percent from fat, 5 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 1 g mono fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 14 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 8 mg sodium.
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