Thursday, June 29, 2006

Chicken Tetrazzini.

Today, June 29th …

Today in 1871 was the birthday of the enormously popular opera star Luisa Tetrazzini, after whom the dish Chicken Tetrazzini is named. There is no doubt that the dish was named in her honour, but as with Chicken Marengo, which was undoubtedly named for the battle, all else is myth mixed with conjecture and imagination. Although recipe details vary, it is essentially a dish of chicken, pasta, and mushrooms in a cream sauce.

It is certainly an American dish, and was probably invented in San Francisco where Luisa won the hearts of the general public with her performance outside the San Francisco Chronicle building on Christmas Eve 1910. Strangely, Victor Hertzler’s “Hotel St Francis Cookbook” of 1919 does not mention it - although it does mention Potatoes Tetrazzini and Peach Tetrazzini - perhaps reflecting professional jealousy, as one version of the story says that the chicken dish was invented at that other famous SF hotel – the Palace.

Just what is it that qualifies a dish as “new” and worthy of a special appellation? Chicken and pasta dishes were hardly new, even then. So, in the absence of anything resembling an authentic, definitive recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini, here is the authentic, definitive recipe from Victor Hertzler for “Chicken Caruso” – a dish of chicken, pasta, and mushrooms:

Spaghetti Caruso.
Boil a pound of whole spaghetti in salt water. Soak one pound of dried mushrooms over night. Heat in a casserole two ounces of butter, add a chopped shallot and a little garlic. When hot add the mushrooms and three peeled and cut up tomatoes, and simmer for five minutes. Then add the cooked spaghetti and two cups of grated parmesan cheese, season with salt and white pepper, and serve very hot.

And for no other reason than it is a non-eponymous dish of chicken, pasta, and mushrooms, this recipe from “The International Jewish Cook Book” by Florence Greenbaum (1919):
Chicken with Spaghetti en Casserole.
Prepare and truss a young chicken, as if for roasting. Put it in a casserole, and pour over it two tablespoons of olive oil, a cup of white wine, a cup of bouillon, salt and cayenne to taste, one spoon of dried mushrooms soaked in one cup of water and chopped fine, and one-half can of mushrooms. Cover tightly and simmer in the oven for about an hour, turning the chicken occasionally; add a dozen olives and a tablespoon of chicken-fat, smoothed with one tablespoon of flour, and bring to a boil. Remove the chicken and add about a pint of boiled spaghetti to the sauce. Place the chicken on a platter, surround with the spaghetti, and serve

Tomorrow: Luncheon at the Railway Hotel.

Quotation for the Day …

Everything you see I owe to spaghetti. Sophia Loren.

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