I don’t see many recipes for casseroles when browsing through hundred-year-old cookbooks. There are a few casserole recipes in 1922 cookbooks, but they didn’t become really popular until the mid-20th century. In any case, I was intrigued by a casserole recipe that I found in a hundred-year-old cookbook for Escalloped Celery with Chicken, and decided to give it a try.
Though I made this recipe from scratch, the Escalloped Celery with Chicken brought back vague memories of creamed chicken and celery dishes I ate as a child that were made using cream of celery soup. In any case, I enjoyed this dish. It was tasty and made a nice casserole.
Here’s the original recipe:
I used a little less salt than was called for in the original recipe. It called for boiling the celery in water with 1 teaspoon salt, plus an additional 3/4 teaspoon salt in the sauce. I decided that an additional 1/2 teaspoon would be plenty – and the recipe tasted fine. I also thought that 500° F. seemed very high – so I baked at 425° F. until the bread crumbs were lightly browned and it was hot and bubbly (about 15 minutes). The recipe says it serves four. In my opinion, if this is served as the main dish, that it is a little skimpy for four, so I listed it as 3-4.
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Escalloped Celery with Chicken
2 cups celery, diced into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt + 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced cooked chicken
3 tablespoons pimento, diced
2 tablespoons butter + 1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup celery water (reserved when celery is drained after cooking)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup fine dry plain bread crumbs
Put diced celery in a saucepan. cover with water and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until the celery is tender (about 10-15 minutes). Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the celery water.
In the meantime, preheat oven to 425° F. In a skillet, using medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter; then stir in the flour. Gradually, add the milk, cream, and celery water while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the white sauce thickens. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Add the cooked celery and diced chicken. and stir to combine. Put in a 1-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and using 1 tablespoon of butter, dot with small pieces of butter. Put in oven and bake until hot and bubbly, and the bread crumbs are lightly browned.