I hosted a summer ladies luncheon this week. My guests were my former boss, June Koelker, Dean of Libraries at TCU, Tracy Hull, the associate dean who is also a friend, and my former colleague and still good friend, TCU Production Manager Melinda Esco. I wanted it to be light, as summer lunches should be, so I got down my mom's Susie Cooper china, usually only used at Easter. It has a wide band of turquoise around a single pale pink rose. The older pieces have that turquoise around a cluster of multi-colored flowers that don't look as realistic.
The menu was simple and light: chicken loaf, a mixed greens salad with peaches, blue cheese, and toasted almonds--yep, I almost burned the almonds--with a plum vinaigrette. You use ume plum vinegar. A delicious salad, and it got me eating peaches, which I've been devouring ever since. I put out a fresh loaf of sliced sourdough (what was left after my kids got to it on Sunday). But the piece de resistance was chicken loaf.
This is a dish of much debate in my family. I got the recipe from an older woman (now gone, sadly) who was active in real estate. At one time, my ex- and I rented a house through her, and she sort of adopted me, always called me on each of my children's birthdays. One of her sons became a good friend and even lived with us for a while. He adored chicken loaf. My kids had mixed feelings, and I never can remember who liked it and who didn't, though Jordan tells me she didn't, and I don't think Megan did either. My mom and I both loved it, because it's the purest chicken flavor you'll ever taste.
I usually serve it with mayonnaise, but for this luncheon I also made a blue-cheese sauce.
The next day I served leftovers to a friend and she seemed to like it every bit as well. So, with a grateful thanks to the late Carolyn Burk, here's the recipe.
Chicken loaf1 chicken hen or 2 fryers
1 cylinder saltine crackers
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
Stew chicken until cooked thoroughly. I usually throw in a couple of bouillon cubes to give the stock more flavor. Reserve the stock. Cool chicken and pull meat off bones. (If time I chill it thoroughly so I can skim the fat off the top of the broth.) Chop finely. (Carolyn did it with scissors, but I use the food processor, being careful not to over-process.) Grind one cylinder of saltines in food processor and add to chicken.
Soften gelatin in ½ c. of reserved stock. Add to chicken along with enough stock to bind it together—it should be moist but not soupy. (Carolyn did not add gelatin, but Mom found it holds the loaf together—my girls say it makes the loaf “gelatinous.” And they don’t mean that in a good way.)
Pack into a loaf pan. Cover with clear wrap, put another loaf pan on top, and weigh it down with canned goods. Refrigerate overnight.
It's hard to slice, because it crumbles, so take care. This will freeze but will not keep long after defrosting.