Sunday, May 16, 2010

Open House Cookbook

It has been a while since I have taken part in Weekend Cooking hosted each week by Beth Fish Reads.  Actually, it has been quite a while since I have taken part in any cooking activity - be it on the weekend or during the week.  However, I hope to change that this summer.

I used to LOVE to cook (hated the clean up, but loved to cook).  Then I had kids.  And my kids were picky eaters.  And I found that I enjoyed a meal without complaints more than I enjoyed gourmet food.  So...the blue box of macaroni and cheese won out over homemade - and fish sticks won out over salmon. youngest is now entering her senior year of high school and it occurred to me that #1 - she is no longer as picky as she used to be and #2 - she is rarely home to enjoy a meal with us anyway.  So, I think it is high time that I organized my life where I can begin to reclaim my kitchen and start preparing fun, tasty, homemade meals that are not only better for me, but better for my pocketbook as well.

This led me to browse my cookbook shelves and discover some long lost friends.  One of my favorite cookbooks of my BK life (before kids) was Sarah Leah Chase's Open-House Cookbook.  Sarah owned a quaint food shop, Que Sera Sarah, on Nantucket Island in the 1980s (isn't everything on Nantucket quaint?  That is my impression anyway), and the recipes found in this book are the tried and true favorites of the weekend vacationers.  What I love about this book, however, are not only the wonderful recipes (with seafood being a featured ingredient of many of them), but the actual prose in which she introduces each one.  At one time in her life Ms. Chase studied language philosophy - and her love of words equals her devotion to food.

The vast majority of the recipes in this book are geared toward summertime fare (she has written another cookbook, Cold Weather Cooking, that concentrates on the hearty winter soups, stews, and casseroles), and I hope to find several must-try recipes.  The most memorable recipes from this collection that I know I will try again are her Chicken Salad variations:  Curried Chicken Salad, Chicken, Apricot Salad with Double-Mustard Mayonnaise, and Classic Chicken and Grape Salad which I will share here.

The introduction to this recipe, which is indicative of her wonderful writing style, states:
While ingredients such as dried thyme, garlic powder, and store-bought mayonnaise reflect the culinary naivete of my adolescence, the ensuing years of food sophistication spent cultivating window boxes of fragrant fresh herbs and whisking together countless varieties of homemade mayonnaise have yet to  yield a more perfectly comforting and soothing chicken salad than this original "Ritz" rendition. (page 164)
Classic Chicken and Grape Salad


  • 3.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts - poached and cooled
  • 5 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1.5 cups seedless green grapes, cut in half
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Cups (or to taste) Hellmann's mayonnaise


  1. Cut the chicken breasts into 3/4 to 1 inch chunks, removing and discarding any tough tendons as you go along.
  2. Toss the chicken, celery, and grapes together in a large bowl.  Season with the thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Bind the salad with the mayonnaise.  You want to use a lot of mayonnaise to make the salad very moist and creamy.
  3. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and refrigerate covered at least 1 hour before serving.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.

I look forward to making it myself --- once the weather in Kansas decides to warm up!


  1. That Classic Chicken and Grape Salad sounds delicious! I also like it with little bits of pecan.

    We have a rule in our house--who ever cooks dinner doesn't have to clean. The only catch is my husband doesn't handwash anything so I'm usually still stuck with the pots that don't fit in the dishwaser. :)

    Can't wait to see what else you find in your book!

  2. A literary cookbook sounds delightful! The recipe you included sounds delicious - thanks for sharing.

  3. Instead of garlic powder and mayonnaise, I would use Marie's creamy garlic dressing. Much tastier than bland mayonnaise!! I make a chicken pasta salad using it that includes cucumber chunks and sun-dried tomatoes. It is delicious!

  4. Ooh, I love chicken salad! That looks great. I also really love to cook but having to clean up really takes away the fun. My mom almost always made 2 different dinners, one for my brother and me and one for my dad, and I have actually wondered if that's why she hates cooking so much.

    Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

  5. This reminds me that I used to make a chicken salad with green grapes back in the 80's. I don't know what I did with that recipe but now, thanks to you, I can make the salad again. Thanks Molly.

  6. This sounds yummy Molly. We recently switched to that Olive Oil Mayo and we like it a lot. This recipe probably would still be good with that substitution I'd imagine?

  7. Thank you, thank you! I have both her books and totally forgot about them. Oh boy, I'm so happy to rediscover them.

    And that chicken salad with grapes sounds so refreshing. Yummmmm.

  8. sounds like a lovely summer meal..yum..

    Does anyone out there really make homemade mayo? really?


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