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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thanksgiving All Year Long!

Who could forget Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup?  The one that contained the "Golden Nugget".  This was a little egg shaped ball of hydrolyzed vegetable proteins and oils that gave the soup it's rich, chicken-y flavor.  The flavor packet helped too, adding huge amounts of salt along with some other seasonings.

My mom used to buy Mrs. Grass at the A&P and we always had it in the house.  It was one of those foods (in the days before pizza rolls, hot pockets and microwave french fries) that we could help ourselves to any time we were hungry.  And it was fun to watch the "golden nugget" melt as the soup cooked.

Mrs. Grass used to come in a double pack.  The box was actually two boxes that snapped apart.  Seemed like a bargain - you were getting two for the price of one.  Nowadays I think it usually comes in a foil envelope or a single box.  Today, the Mrs. Grass soup line is manufactured by Wyler's.  No matter, I think I have some at home and last time I made it the taste was the same as I remembered.

My mom used to make a wonderful dish she called Tetrazzini.  Though she may have made it sometimes with chicken, it was almost always made with leftover turkey and was sure to be on the menu in the days following Thanksgiving as we demolished the 22 lb. monsters she liked to buy.  A family of 8 requires a large turkey.

Mom did not buy turkey only at Thanksgiving.  Often, turkeys were placed on sale throughout the year.  Mom always bought one.  A turkey made for a great meal for a family that was always hungry, and the amount of leftovers was ample.  There's a lotta good eating on a turkey.

Of course, if it was not Thanksgiving mom did not usually go all out with the side dishes.  Indeed, even at Thanksgiving our table groaned less than those of others who might have roast pork or ham in addition to turkey, two or more kinds of stuffing, and side dishes galore.  Our meal usually consisted of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy; canned cranberry sauce, mom's "succotash" (corn and lima beans - no sauce), sweet potatoes (which only mom liked) and a relish tray of black & green olives, celery and carrot sticks, radishes cut with a cross hatch design and trimmed green onions which we dipped in Miracle Whip (I guess it was cheaper than mayonnaise).

Still, we all enjoyed our holiday meal and the turkey sandwiches, turkey hash and especially the turkey tetrazzini which was sure to follow.  My brother, sister and I have been emailing back and forth for some time trying to remember how to make mom's tetrazzini.  Some time before she passed on I did ask her how to make it, then my notes disappeared into the black hole that is my recipe collection.  Luckily, I had written them in one of my many books and was able to find them. 

Incidentally, it is said that tetrazzini was a dish created for the hefty opera singer, Luisa Tetrazzini, to help her trim her considerable bulk.  Most tetrazzini recipes incorporate a creamy sauce or at least a can of cream of something soup.  Not likely to appear on anyone's menu of "light" dishes.  Mom's was not like that at all.  As far as we recall it contained only the broth, parmesan cheese, maybe a little butter and the noodles and turkey.  Which inclines me to believe hers is the more authentic version.  Google some recipes and give them a try, then compare them to this.

Mom's Turkey Tetrazzini
Vermicelli, angel hair pasta, thin spaghetti, thin egg noodles,
whichever you prefer or have on hand.
1 or 2 packages Mrs. Grass Chicken Noodle Soup mix
Leftover turkey shredded or cut in chunks
canned or fresh mushrooms (optional)
sliced green pimento stuffed olives
grated parmesan cheese (the kind that comes in a cardboard box, NOT the name brand)
butter or margarine
milk (optional)
oregano, basil, garlic powder, ground black pepper

Prepare the soup broth using the flavor/seasoning packet from the soup mix and the noodles, adding additional noodles, spaghetti etc.  Cook until just al dente.  Vary the amounts according to how many people will be eating.  Drain the noodles, reserving the broth.  Find another use for the nugget.

Combine the cooked noodles with olives and mushrooms (fresh mushrooms can be sauteed in butter or margarine - my sis says it has to be margarine as we never had butter - canned mushrooms can be used as is).  You can also add a little butter or margarine if you wish, and the turkey.  Moisten with some of the reserved broth (and milk, optional) and season with herbs.  Add quite a bit of the grated parmesan cheese.  Stir to combine and turn into a casserole or baking dish large enough to hold it.

Bake at 350 for about 40 - 50 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.  You may wish to add additional broth/milk if it seems to dry.  Serve with additional cheese.

That's about it.  Of course, if you like, you can sprinkle the top with some fine bread crumbs, french fried onions or crushed potato chips in the last 5 - 10 minutes of baking for a crunchy topping but mom never did.

Now that I have unearthed this recipe I am going to make tetrazzini.  As soon as I have any leftover turkey.  Happy Thanksgiving, no matter what time of year it is!

Quotable quotes; in the category Grammar Schmammar, I'm Singin' Here!

"To sing on the stage - that's the one life for me.  My figure's just like Tetrazzini!"  Art is Calling For Me from "The Enchantress"; Victor Herbert

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