As most of you know by now, I am besotted with Natchez, Mississippi, and I promise I will move on to other topics after just this one last post – for now.
Sissy Eidt is a caterer in Natchez and provided my tour group with a very tasty lunch one day.
Isn’t that pretty? I have never met Sissy but I can report that she knows her Southern food, through and through. First of all, you’ll notice that the finger sandwiches are crustless. This is key. You can always spot a Yankee finger sandwich a mile away because the crusts are still on the sandwiches, which is completely barbaric. No offense. At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the women in charge of receptions have been known to discreetly remove crusted finger sandwiches from the reception table and take a knife to them in the kitchen.
Secondly, Sissy has a cookbook/primer on the ladies of Natchez and their propensity to just take over everything (in a nice way) and run the show as it should be run. I understand this mentality completely. If I lived in Natchez I would knock down every door to join them. And listed as ingredients in her recipes, not exclusively of course, are these Southern necessities: cream cheese, frozen whipped topping, poppy seeds, Jiffy cornmeal mix and – last but certainly not least – cream of fill-in-the-blank soup.
You can not underestimate the importance of cream of fill-in-the-blank soup in the all-encompassing arena of casseroles. There are uninformed people who tend to be snobby about this. We look down on them because they are morons. They also don’t understand the intrinsic value of Crisco, Velveeta or Bourbon Slush. But I can assure you the ladies of Natchez do.
So when I got back from Natchez, I was feeling a little homesick for this boozy, eccentric and charming small town. And I made Sissy’s Chicken and Artichoke Casserole just to make myself feel a little better. You have to love a recipe with a sauce made from two types of cream of fill-in-the-blank soup and a soup can of mayonnaise.
- 1 10½-ounce can cream of chicken soup
- 1 10½-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 soup can of mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 box Wild Rice Blend (cook as directed)
- 3½-4 pound chicken, cooked, deboned and cut into bite size pieces
- 2 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
- 3 cups grated Cheddar cheese
- Freshly chopped parsley for garnish
- Blend the soups, mayonnaise, basil, thyme, lemon juice, pepper and Worcestershire sauce together. Reserve.
- In a 9 by 13-inch casserole, layer the rice, chicken and artichoke hearts. Top with sauce, cover and chill overnight or 3-4 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Bake, covered, until hot and bubbly, 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with cheese. Let rest a few minutes and sprinkle with parsley.