Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chicken Barley Casserole

When I walked into Wanda Kenyon's home, I thought I had walked onto the set of a television show.  I was in high school and visiting Wanda's daughter, a girl I knew only slightly through 4-H.   Wanda's kitchen was spotless, with a gleaming Formica table and white, lacy curtains at the windows.  I was dazzled by the sparkling clean appliances and the freshly-baked and frosted cake on its stand on the counter.  Wanda herself was the picture of domesticity/serenity with her apron on, and her hair pulled back in a bun.

Then she sat me down and served me Chicken Barley Casserole.  It had exotic ingredients my Puritan-like parents would have considered showy and pretentious.  She had used mushrooms, almonds and onion soup mix--complex, big-city items that had never darkened the door of our simple farmhouse.  THEN she asked if I wanted soy sauce to sprinkle on it.  I didn't even know what that exotic liquid was, only that it had the smell of foreignness and danger and I wanted lots of it.

I took one bite of this casserole and tasted the ingredients dancing together in a salty group tango in my mouth.  Right then and there I asked her to please write down the recipe.  It represented all I wanted to attain in life.  She pulled out a fine pen from her desk and wrote the recipe on the card I still have today.  

I never went back to her house and the only reason I know I did not dream up that idyllic afternoon is this recipe card, worn and stained from years of use.  Below, I have copied the recipe faithfully, using Wanda's exact wording except where noted.

Chicken Barley Casserole

1 cup pearl barley
½ c margarine
1 medium onion, chopped
1 envelope dried onion soup mix
1 can (4 oz) mushrooms, drained
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 c slivered almonds
1 cups chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

[Parboil barley first. Drain.]  Brown barley in margarine. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Add the next five ingredients and simmer for five minutes. Put in casserole and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for one hour.  If you wish, serve with some soy sauce.

Betty makes this as a vegetarian/vegan dish by substituting the chicken with fake chicken from Trader Joes, and using chicken-less broth. Yum! During baking I sometimes cover it for the first 40 minutes or so and then take the foil off for the rest of the time.

I hope you'll try this recipe.  Release your inner Wanda and see what happens.  


Trevor said...

Wow bossy!

This chikin' barley is really good stuff.

I guess I have Wanda to thank for that.

Bossy Betty said...

LL--You sound like a person with refined tastes! Thanks for the endorsement!