Words written by Kirsty. Images by Dana.
Cathartic & comforting is the best way I can put into words spending an afternoon at my sister’s house going through my mom’s old recipes cards and handwritten journals. As with many of her belongings, we had split them up when she passed away. Years later, we’re now sorting and sharing these beloved recipes as we celebrate her memory.
I’ve spent the past nearly 10 years dealing with the different stages of grief. Losing your mom just plain sucks, and losing mine as I was about to become a mother myself literally takes my breath away every time I think about it. To think that my kids, the two most important people in my life now, will never meet someone as important to me as my mother. It breaks my heart routinely.
Through all of the grief and pain, there is also laughter and comfort and familiarity. I have her recipes. I have the Chicken Cacciatore recipe that reminds me of being a teenager and that my kids now gobble up on a regular basis. Or the lasagna recipe that I had for my 12th birthday.
My husband, and high-school sweetheart, knew my mom for many years and he fell in love with her through her food. He grew up in a meat ‘n’ potatoes house and I’ll never forget the first time he came over for mom’s homemade curry. She served him curry on a bed of chips (or fries for you Canadians) and with one taste, Dan was head over heels. Sometimes I wonder if that’s one of the reasons he married me. 🙂
It’s funny to think back on how I try to emulate my mom in the kitchen. After years of experimenting, a committed cooking class, and a good friend’s help, I finally made the perfect golden Yorkshire pudding and it brought tears to my eyes.
There is something about creating food (sometimes trying to make it even healthier!!!!) from her recipes that makes the world seem OK, even on those days when I am looking at my children and thinking about how unfair it seems, and how ripped off that I feel not to have her with us. I am keeping the memory of their grandmother alive through her love of food and am so grateful that I have these memories through recipes to hold on to.
Mom’s Chicken Cacciatore
Preparation Time: 1 hour, start to finish
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 10 oz can condensed tomato soup
- 3/4 cup dry red wine (half a bottle is usually fair: some for the pan, some for your glass)
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1/2 tsp each of dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 green pepper, sliced
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
Chop your pepper and mushrooms, set aside. Dice your onion and garlic, set aside. Cube your chicken.
Preheat a large frying pan on medium heat.
Add the flour to a large Ziploc bag and drop your chicken chunks into it. Shake. Be sure to completely coat all of the chicken with the flour.
Add oil to the pan and add the coated chicken chunks. Brown each piece on all sides, about 3 minutes each side.
Turn the heat down to low, add the condensed soup, red wine, seasoning, bay leaf, onion, garlic (everything except for the mushrooms and peppers). Cover pan and let simmer for 30 minutes, checking that the bottom isn’t burning every now and then.
Add mushrooms and peppers; cook, covered, for another 15 minutes.
Remove bay leaf; serve hot over noodles or rice.