The community cookbook most important to my development as a cook and, particularly, as a Southern cook, is "The Pick of the Crop." It was published the year after I was born in 1978 by the North Sunflower PTA of Drew, Mississippi. I do not know the details of the book’s journey out of the Delta and 100 miles east to the red clay hills of Mississippi in which I was raised, but it was hands-down the most constant source of recipes that sustained my family.
My mother’s copy is littered with her left-handed checks and notes like “try this!,” “soo good!,” or “easy!”. Mark’s Chicken, Cabbage Casserole, and Sausage-Rice Casserole were all in regular rotation on the McGreger supper table, but the first dish that I personally ever became known for was Mrs. Archie Manning’s Chicken Spaghetti I.
This recipe makes a mountain of spaghetti. You could halve the recipe, but I recommend doing what my sister and I do when we make it for our modest sized families: Make it all and freeze half for later. You’ll be very glad you did. Also, I’m not saying I don’t like it with Velveeta, but I am more likely to make it these days with cheddar or, even better, Gruyere. A dash of hot sauce doesn’t hurt either.
Chicken Spaghetti I
6 cups chicken, cut in bite size pieces
Cook a large hen in lots of water, let hen cool in broth, cook spaghetti in chicken broth, let cool in broth. Saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms 15 minutes in butter over low heat. Add flour. This will be real thick. Add broth gradually, add tomatoes, garlic, onions, and cheese. Cook over low heat. In buttered casserole put layer of spaghetti, layer of small English peas, layer of chicken mixture, top with bread crumbs (I toast hot dog or hamburger buns for this) and dot with more butter. Chopped olives or pimiento can be added for more color. Serves 12 to 20.
– Mrs. Archie Manning (Olivia), New Orleans, Louisiana
Today's post comes from SFA member April McGreger. A native of Vardaman, Mississippi, April now lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she owns and operates the Farmer's Daughter brand of artisanal pickles and preserves. You can follow April on Twitter at @farmersdaughtr.