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Celebrating Suburban Cooks

April 07, 1999|LEILAH BERNSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

During her 12-year search for the best in American regional cooking, This Week magazine food writer Clementine Paddleford discovered that the best cooking was to be found in small towns and suburbs.

Her travels, which took her "from the lobster pots of Maine to the vineyards of California, from the sugar shanties of Vermont to the salmon canneries in Alaska" ended in 1960.

In the foreword to her book, "How America Eats," a compilation of her magazine articles, she wrote: "I am not given to food favorites, [and I] hold no food prejudices. Good food is good food, wherever you find it.

"The most imaginative cooking done in the United States I find in small towns, in city suburbs, in the kitchens of the younger married crowd," she wrote. "I don't mean the champagne-and-caviar kind of eating or flaming pheasant on sword, but interesting, inexpensive dishes made with loving care, attractively served."

Paddleford wrote about one such culinary discovery in the Nov. 20, 1955, issue of This Week, which was delivered as a supplement to the Los Angeles Times. In the Manhattan, Kan., kitchen of Cecile Kendall, she tasted Chicken-Rice Ring With Mushroom Sauce, a dish Kendall often prepared for lunch for her bridge and canasta clubs.

Paddleford, who was also from Kansas, called Kendall "typical of the new school of hostesses." Her chicken-rice ring is hardly formal or extravagant; rather it's simple, hearty and flavorful.

For all the cooking convenience of frozen TV dinners and other "instant" packaged products that began appearing on grocery store shelves in the mid-'50s, it's interesting that Paddleford still found "more inquisitive, more individualistic" homemakers cooking up feasts in small cities across the nation.

Chicken-Rice Ring With Mushroom Sauce

Active Work Time: 45 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

CHICKEN-RICE RING

1 (4-pound) chicken

1 onion, quartered

2 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

5 peppercorns

1 sprig parsley

1 carrot, cut in 1-inch pieces

Salt

2 cups soft bread crumbs

1 cup cooked rice

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 cup half and half

4 eggs, well-beaten

* Bring chicken, onion, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley, carrot, 1 teaspoon salt and water to cover to boil in large pot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is very tender, about 1 hour. Remove chicken from pot and let cool. Strain stock and set aside.

* When cool enough to handle, remove meat from chicken bones, then dice. Add bread crumbs, rice, salt to taste, paprika, 2 cups reserved chicken stock and half and half. Stir in eggs. Save rest of chicken stock for another use.

* Pour into greased 2-quart ring mold or baking dish and bake at 325 degrees until firm, about 1 hour. Serve with Mushroom Sauce.

MUSHROOM SAUCE

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

3 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup flour

2 cups reserved chicken stock

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

* Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 3 minutes. Stir in reserved chicken stock and cream. Cook over medium-low heat until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in paprika, parsley, lemon juice and salt. Serve hot with Chicken-Rice Ring.

6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings: 553 calories; 786 mg sodium; 224 mg cholesterol; 39 grams fat; 20 grams carbohydrates; 29 grams protein; 0.14 gram fiber.

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