In 1931 Irma S. Rombauer self published The Joy of Cooking. It became the United States' most published cookbook. One recipe in there is Chicken breast baked on a bed of mushrooms. A simple and tasty dish, I devoured it as a child (yes, even the mushrooms),
Fast forward to 2011. The recipe is the same, the ingredients the same and we followed all the same steps, so what went wrong? The chicken is not tender, mushrooms not moist and the sauce nonexistent. We look down on the oversize, plump chicken breast taking up 3/4 of the plate and have to wonder if herein lies the culprit.
Most store-bought chicken is treated with antibiotics, water injection and cage breeding so that it's plump, juicy and large. Why? Because that's what people buy. They look at the size and get the double D's. They want more breast meat because of the lower calorie count. Never mind that a plain grilled chicken breast really doesn't taste like much anymore. So you add all sorts of spices, marinades and dipping sauces to add flavor. There goes the calorie count.
The chicken aisle is also getting bigger with organic, free range, hormone free, and the latest - heritage birds. It's up to the consumer to decide which chicken we want. Fair enough.
But none of that changes the fact that some tried and true recipes are no longer a slam dunk. If a recipe that was written before 1980 calls for chicken breast, there is a 50/50 chance the proportions will be off.
Since Rombauer's initial run of Joy, the book has been edited and published several times, but h the 1975 edition is still the most popular. It makes use of ready made products that were all the rage in the '70s like cream of mushroom soup and frozen peas. Is it time for another reprint for this homemaker's classic? Because truth be told, the size of a chicken breast in 1975 is not the same as today.
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