Holly A. Heyser
It's fascinating to what lengths we will go to recapture a taste of our childhood, especially as we approach middle age. With the passage of so many years, those early memories are always in soft focus, the music of the period wafting in and out of hazy scenes we can only imperfectly recall. Food becomes the anchor, the one vivid thing within the clouds.
Shining through is this recipe, a rich, ruddy chicken casserole my mum called "Saturday Chicken." I remember loving this dish, which we would often have on days other than Saturday—a fact that confused my little brain. Should it be called Tuesday Chicken, then? No, mum said, it's always called Saturday Chicken. But why? It just is.
The flavor of this dish, which we always ate with baked potatoes, is instantly recallable even 30 years later. Mushroomy, creamy, "red," and a little burnt-crispy. We always savored the caramelized skin of the chicken pieces that rose from the simmering sauce like islands in a lava flow.
Mum grew busier as I grew older, as did I. I can't exactly remember the last time she made Saturday Chicken for me, but it has to be before 1990. Over the years the dish faded in my culinary memory, but it never quite flickered out.