I didn’t think much of this recipe when I set out to try it. Sorry, Mrs. Thomas. I know you probably proudly and lovingly submitted it for publication in your community club’s cookbook, but I had my doubts. When I opened up this cookbook, for that matter, all I could think was, “This was clearly put together by ladies from a church in the mid-West.”
Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all. I know a lot about being part of a church in the mid-West. That’s where I’m from. That’s what I’m from. I can vividly remember my time spent in the church hall – CCD classes, children’s liturgy, fish fries, spaghetti dinners, rummage sales, etc. I can still smell that church hall smell – slightly musty with a touch of burning candle wafting in from the sanctuary and the remnants of a long-passed fish fry. I can picture the shiny, white concrete floors flecked with gray, painted brick tile walls, and fluorescent lights. I’m just saying that cookbooks born from this atmosphere are more folksy – filled with recipes that make large quantities from convenience ingredients – than culinary. They’re a major piece of Americana.
It’s funny. Having lived in a few different places and regions of the country now, and being a historian, I look at things very differently than I used to. Growing up, life in the mid-West was all there was to me. People went to church on Sundays and kids spent time at their grandparents’ during the week while their parents worked. Dinner was typically some kind of casserole. Neighbors always let you borrow tools when you needed to fix something. And, there was always bad weather to talk about. Opening up this cookbook and just looking at the recipes, both what was in them and how they were written, brought all of that back to me. The mid-West is very unique, and though I spent a good portion of my life hoping to leave it, I can look back it now and see its character and its charm. My roots are in the mid-West, and I’m proud of them. Thanks for making me think about all of that, Mrs. Thomas, and by the way, your recipe was lovely.
So, what are we cooking? Chicken sandwiches from Our Favorite Recipes published by the Euclid Community Club in Euclid, OH in 1964.
As usual, I halved this recipe. Turns out that three pounds of chicken with bones and skin is equivalent to about two pounds of just meat. So, I just cut the recipe right in half.
Let’s go into the kitchen and make some history!
Here are our ingredients: Chicken breast, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, dry white bread, and celery salt (or celery seed and salt, which is what I used).
Step 1: Cook the chicken. I decided that the best type of chicken for this recipe would be shredded. So, I got out my trusty crockpot, put the chicken in with some water, salt, and pepper, and let it do its thing. My chicken breasts were thin cut, so they were done in about five hours!
Step 2: Shred the chicken in a mixing bowl and let it cool.
Step 3: Cube up some white bread. I let my bread sit out on the counter for about an hour before I used it so it was nice and dry. You can use old bread, bread crumbs, or my method. Whatever’s easiest for you!
Step 4: Pour the soup and broth over the chicken, and add the bread and the celery salt. I didn’t have celery salt, but I did have celery seed and salt. So, I mixed equal portions of those together to make celery salt.
Step 5: Mix everything together.
Step 6: Pour the mixture into a baking dish. If you’d like, you can just do all of the above steps right in the baking dish to save time and cleanup effort! Cover the dish with foil and bake it in a 350 degree oven for half and hour to forty minutes. This small quantity doesn’t need a full hour in the oven like the recipe tells us.
Note: Really, you could even just put all the non-chicken ingredients right in the crockpot after your chicken is cooked, mix it all together, and let it go. That would be really easy!
Step 7: Before the chicken is finished, you can prepare the buns! Cut open two nice, bakery-fresh buns… or whatever you’re using. Lay them out on some foil (sorry about that terrible lighting!)
Step 8: Then, wrap them up into a nice little package, and put them in the oven for ten minutes to soften and heat through.
Final step: Spoon some of the chicken onto a soft bun. My husband took a bite of it and said, “This is actually pretty good. It just needs some lettuce and tomato.” And, you know what? Maybe that’s how it was intended to be served. If you’ve ever been to a church event that you eat at, you’ll know there’s always a giant tray of lettuce and tomato at the end of the line of folding tables piled with food. That’s something you can always rely on. Some might even say it’s as reliable as a mid-Western weather forecast: cloudy with a chance of rain. Oh, the character!
From 1964: Chicken Sandwiches
- 1 lb. chicken breast, cooked and shredded
- 1/2 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 slice dry white bread, cubed
- 1/2 tsp. celery salt (or 1/4 tsp. celery seed + 1/4 tsp. salt)
- For serving (optional): Fresh buns, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or grease an 8×8″ baking dish.
- Mix together the shredded chicken, soup, broth, bread cubes, and celery salt.
- Pour into baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 30-40 minutes or until mixture is heated through. Serve immediately on warmed buns with toppings of your choice.