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Mystery Meals: Russian Chicken

Yay for the first mystery meal of 2023! We have so many new readers so let me explain what this series is all about. Growing up I was fascinated by my grandmother’s little wooden recipe box which contained all the quintessential things you would expect including clippings out of newspapers, the back of margarine boxes, recipes from church ladies, notes on the back of bank receipts and more. I always thought it was so cool and wanted to cook everything I saw but of course my grandmother had her tried and true recipes with few of these being brought out into the real world. Flash forward to a few years ago, she passed away and I inherited her little time capsule of mid 20th century cuisine. I decided to let my curiosity get the better of me and found it to be a great way to connect with her memory.

So why is it a mystery? Because I quite literally stick my hand in randomly and pull something out. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the order so I never know what I’m going to get. As long as it is within reason, made with ingredients that are still somewhat accessible and not outrageously expensive, I’ll try it. I’ve had cakes, bread, quiche and muffins. All have been very 1970s church-potluck-dinner-esque but not one has been terrible which may say more about my palate than the quality of these recipes. So what do we have today?

An ATM receipt from a now defunct bank circa 1992 and it’s written in my mother’s handwriting so that’s even more exciting. She must have thought it was worth sharing. I’ll admit I’ve heard of Russian Chicken before though I don’t remember ever having it nor truly knowing what it contained. Good news is that I now know what ingredients it contains but the bad news is that I don’t have a clue how much of each to include because it’s just a list of ingredients. I can’t tell you how many of these recipes I have found that seem to rely less on measurements and more on the Spirit to guide you. Luckily for me, you can find tons of recipes online for something similar so I just went with that. Also, I had to substitute French dressing for Russian because apparently that is not a thing in America anymore. You could order it online but it must be made by fairies with unicorn tears because it was crazy expensive. I’m all for authenticity but not wastefulness and I saw many people say that you could make this substitution so I trusted in my fellow internet baking friends. I also used jelly that I had leftover instead of buying a jar of preserves for one recipe.

Cooking wise, everything was simple enough but what surprised me is that it was more of a chicken-teriyaki-stir fry-pour-over-rice-and-veggies type of thing than a chicken main to be served next to a potato and sides. Just not what I was thinking but still a cool concept, in theory. So what are my thoughts?

First, prior to baking it looks like what can only be described as vomit. I’m sorry but it’s true. Second, the onion soup mix is coming through HARD! Like how one little packet can out flavor so much dressing and jelly is wild to me. I know onion soup mix was all the rage in the 70s and 80s but it’s kind of strange in this scenario. The flavor is fine but doesn’t seem to meld fully with the other ingredients. Also, biting into little rehydrated onion bits is strange in this mix. I love onion soup and onion dip but it just seemed out of place here.

Actually, if I’m honest this tasted like a concoction I would have created in elementary school when I would stay home alone watching the Food Network during the summers. I’d try to be creative with whatever ingredients were available knowing I could only use the microwave and pretty much came up with similar dishes. I can honestly say that I’ve been eating it for a week now and I still can’t decide if it’s bad or good. Could Russian dressing be that much better? Surely not if it’s out of production in most areas. I’ll give it props on keeping the chicken moist but that’s the only definitive claim I can make. Please let me know if you’ve had this before or if you bravely try it. I’m just curious.


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