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Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 08:38 am

Dining with the King’s Daughters

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Dining with the Daughters cookbook is available at various locations around town for $29.95.
“Hi, honey,” my grandmother said. “Do you want to come with me out to King’s Daughters this afternoon?”

“Sure!” I replied. “When are we going?”

It was an exchange we had countless times throughout my childhood. Though it might seem strange that a young child would be so enthusiastic about a trip to a retirement home, I really enjoyed those outings. Just the name – King’s Daughters – made it seem special.

Then there was the King’s Daughters Home itself. Although it wasn’t exactly like the castles and palaces in my storybooks, it definitely was a real-for-sure mansion, big enough and grand enough that I could easily envision it as the home of a bevy of princesses, perhaps who’d been banished by the man who usurped their father. Someone who’d kept those princesses around so that one day he could produce from/with one of them a son who would legitimize his hold on the kingdom. (I was a few years older when I thought of that scenario.)

Originally it had been built as a home for one of America’s own aristocratic families that scored wealth and social position by industrial production rather than land: that of cereal giant C.W. Post. His daughter, Marjorie Merriweather Post, was born there. After C.W.’s death, M.M. Post became the wealthiest woman in America, a founder of General Foods as well as one of America’s leading socialites.

As I grew up, I realized the King’s Daughters Organization (as it’s now called) wasn’t comprised of my imaginary fairy tale princesses. It was something even better: a Springfield charitable organization whose mission was helping elderly women by providing them a home and support, both physical and emotional. Circles were organized, some of which have been existent since the beginning: groups of women who met, sometimes for social reasons, but primarily to provide help and personal relationships with each of their own circle’s “ladies.” For many, the circles became their extended family.

The King’s Daughters Organization has faced more than a few hurdles in its history. They had financial help from the City of Springfield, and support from the Post family after they left the area. In 1895, the King’s Daughters Home opened its doors to the first residents. But in 1902 a fire almost destroyed the gracious mansion. Again, the Post family became instrumental in the rebuilding process, lending its formidable financial resources to the project.

Through all the changes that have come about over the years, the circles have maintained their personal relationships with their “ladies,” celebrating birthdays and holidays with them.

It was painful – some would say beyond painful – when the King’s Daughters Organization realized in 2006 that they couldn’t afford the upkeep of the Post home. The members helped find the residents new lodging, making the transition as smooth as possible, and continued their personal relationships with them. It’s now a women’s residence hall for the Benedictine University, and the King’s Daughters Organization “continues to honor our past and maintain our niche in the history of Springfield and … promote the well-being of the elderly in our community.”

The King’s Daughters Organization, as with other charitable institutions these days, are finding new ways to increase their revenue to meet the organization’s needs. They settled on a cookbook – one that would be more than just a bunch of recipes. There would be tips on ingredients, substitutions and variations. It would also contain information not just on the Daughters Organization, but also on the history and interesting places of our own capital city. It was a huge project; one that began several years ago.

I know, because I received a call a few years ago, asking me to contribute some recipes. Remembering those long-ago trips with Nana, I was happy to comply. And then I completely forgot about it.

Forgot that is, until I received an early-morning call earlier this year: “Believe it or not, we’re finalizing our cookbook! Do you have any pictures we could use?”

ARGH!! I am NOT an early riser – too many late nights after singing performances and/or cooking gigs, followed by three children who apparently felt nighttime was the perfect time for Mommy’s undivided attention.

But instantly I recognized the voice. It was Cathy Schwartz, one of the most gracious and good-natured people I know. If it had been anybody else, I’d probably have muttered something profane and gone back to sleep, not least because I had no idea what she was talking about.

“You know … ,” Schwartz said, realizing that I wasn’t fully cognizant, “the King’s Daughters’ cookbook. You gave us those great recipes; we were hoping you could put together a whole menu.”

Because it was Schwartz, and because helping the King’s Daughters Organization would honor my Nana, I did it. But I was less than thrilled. For years I’d seen too many “community/organization” cookbooks (the local exception being the Junior League’s cookbook), filled primarily with box mixes, canned soups and other prepackaged stuff somehow combined into things supposedly “homemade.”

Fortunately, the King’s Daughters’ cookbook, Dining with the Daughters, is far removed from those out-of-date tomes. Yes, there are a few that utilize canned this or that. But they mostly call for real ingredients, and there are many I’m tempted to try. The book is also filled with recipe tips, wine pairings and historical tidbits that should make this a welcome gift for both Springfield residents and visitors.

Dining with the Daughters costs $29.95 and can be purchased at the Wardrobe, Homescapes, The Corkscrew Wine Emporium, Florascape, Pease’s Candy Shop and Tinsley Dry Goods Gift Shop.

Also, this Friday, Sept. 28, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Dining with the Daughters cookbook will be available in the Ace Hardware parking lot at 1600 W. Wabash, as well as complementary tastes of some of the recipes.

Nona’s chicken tetrazzini
I love this dish, which combines Italian ingredients with a truly American retro topping: crushed potato chips. As a child that topping was my favorite part of my mom’s tuna noodle casserole.

Nona’s seasoning:
•    2 1/2 tsp. paprika
•    2 T. salt
•    2 T. garlic powder
•    1 T. (freshly ground) black pepper
•    1 T. onion powder
•    1 T. cayenne pepper (or more or less to taste)
•    1 T. dried oregano
•    1 T. dried thyme

For the chicken:
•    7 T. unsalted butter, divided
•    12 oz. bowtie pasta, or pasta of choice (be sure that whatever pasta you use is sturdy enough that it won’t be mushy after it’s been both boiled and baked for its final presentation)
•    2 T. olive oil
•    1 1/2 c. chopped onions, (NOT super-sweet)
•    1/2 c. red bell peppers
•    1 tsp. minced garlic (or more or lest to taste)
•    1 pound button mushrooms or other mushrooms such as shitake, cremini or both. (Either should be measured after slicing and after their ends have been trimmed or removed, as is appropriate)
•    1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
•    1/4 c. flour
•    2 c. chicken stock, or low-sodium canned broth
•    1/4 c. all-purpose flour
•    1/4 c. dry white wine
•    2 c. chicken stock and/or low sodium chicken broth
•    1 3/4 c. heavy cream (preferably NOT ultra-pasteurized)
•    4 c. coarsely chopped or hand-shredded chicken with skin (the skin adds lots of flavor) or without, either from a store-bought chicken or one that’s been roasted at home
•    1 1/2 tsp. salt
•    1 T. freshly minced parsley leaves
•    1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
•    1/3 c. (or more to your taste) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, or equivalent
•    1 - 5 1/2 oz. bag of potato chips, lightly crushed
Preheat the oven to 375

Coat a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with a tablespoon of butter.  Put all the ingredients for Nona’s seasoning mix in a medium glass jar (a pint-sized canning jar is perfect), and shake until everything has been completely combined. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a small handful of salt (about 1/4 c.) to the pot, then add the pasta, stirring so that none of the pieces stick together. Stir again a few minutes later, making sure that, as before, they’re not sticking together.

Cook for about 12 minutes. It’s actually better if the pasta is a bit more overdone than underdone; it will be less soggy in its final presentation. Drain in a colander, then place in a bowl, add a tablespoon of the olive oil and toss gently until all the pasta is coated. Keep warm and set aside.

In a large skillet, sauté the onions and bell peppers over high heat, stirring constantly until they’re soft, about four minutes. Add the garlic, Nona’s seasoning mixture, the thyme, and the mushrooms, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms have softened and released their liquid, about five minutes or a little more. Sprinkle the flour over all the mixture, and cook a couple of minutes, still stirring constantly, until it’s smooth and thickened. Whisk in to heavy cream, and increase the heat so that the mixture boils. Immediately reduce the heat to a bare simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is flavorful and coats a spoon.

Gently combine the pasta, sauce, chicken, parsley and Parmesan until thoroughly mixed. Check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste (be aware that the potato chips will add quite a bit of salt to the mixture).

Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the crushed potato chips. Bake, uncovered, until the casserole is bubbling and golden brown on top; about 30-40 minutes. Serves 8 to 12 or more.

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.
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