Friday, February 3, 2012

One Great . . . retro favorite

Everyone has their guilty pleasure, and one of mine is "Pan Am." Improbable plots and all, I watch it for the '60s furnishings and clothes, and the fantasy that the "single-girl life" was all that simple in 1963.

I also keep watching to see if Christina Ricci or one of her flygirls ever whip up Apricot Chicken.

Apricot Chicken was one of those early '60s recipes that was pitched as perfect for young working women. It went by a lot of names, including Russian Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken and Apricot Chicken. But the names that give away its origins were First Date Chicken or Party Chicken.

It used several hot, new products of the day, most notably Lipton's Onion Soup Mix, the miracle powder behind everything from pot roast to California dip, and a bottle of dressing that varied from Russian to Catalina to that orange version of French dressing. Some versions add a can of cranberry sauce; others add bourbon or orange juice.

The recipe certainly migrated from that "Sex and the Single Girl" vibe. A search online turned up a big following for it in Australia, and it even got adopted as a Passover staple. My friend Jean Anderson turned up a version from the book "Best Recipes of the Great Food Companies," by Judith Anderson that turned it into Sweet 'N' Spicy Onion Glaze, to be used on chicken, ribs, hamburgers or hot dogs.

If Valentine's brings you a date night and you need something really simple, put together a batch of this. Serve it with rice or wild rice to put all that sauce to use. Just don't get sauce on your Pan-Am uniform.

First Date Apricot Chicken

1 package chicken pieces (or use all thighs or thigh-leg quarters)
1 envelope onion soup
1 cup Russian (or French or Catalina) dressing
1 (12-ounce) jar apricot preserves

Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place the chicken in the pan in a single layer, skin-side up. Mix the soup mix, dressing and preserves. Pour over the chicken. Cover the pan with foil and place in a 350-degree oven.

Bake 1 hour. Uncover and continue baking 15 to 20 minutes, until the sauce forms a glaze.

Yield: 6 servings.