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Military Bride-In-Training - Rosemary Chicken

By: Allison Vencel

As a new Air Force bride in “Jolly Olde England”, I was at a loss. It was my first time living away from family, I was only twenty-one years old, and although adventurous by nature, a little overwhelmed. Cooking on a budget became my mission, as well as what brought me life-long friends.

I remember the milk, in glass bottles delivered to our doorstep. How fun it was to pour the bit of cream at the top into your morning coffee! How thrilling to be able to walk to the local, quaint shopping “centre” and get fish, golden brown and piping hot, along with “chips” (French fries), and mushy peas. Add a lovely cup of steaming hot tea, and life was good!

It was also charming to see the little children, dressed in their uniforms and white tights, lining up at the sweet shop, getting a little candy before strolling home, giggling and chirping like a happy flock of birds. It may have been the 1980's, but it felt like an earlier time.

The spouses I met were the most helpful people I had ever known. Many had already been military spouses for quite some time, and showed me the ropes of antique-hunting, the best places to go when the Commissary was closed, and how to cope in a foreign land, albeit an English-speaking one.

When my tiny British car broke down, on ancient cobbled streets, right smack-dab in the middle of the Cathedral Square in Peterborough (in the East Anglia area of England), there was no shortage of wonderful British and American help. After all, here I was…..a bug-eyed newbie, whose husband was off flying all over Europe. These people also contributed to my early culinary education in ways I will always remember.

I was highly dismayed when I bought my first batch of fresh chicken in England. It tasted funny! Like fish! Then, another wife told me that they feed the chickens fish meal. Ahem. What to do? Well, I had always enjoyed using the chicken thigh, as it was more flavorful than the breast, but inexpensive. Cookbook collection became a major obsession, and this is one of the first recipes I ever adapted to become my own. It was from the Family Circle Creative Chicken Cookbook, and called simply “Rosemary Chicken”. Family Circle Creative Chicken Cookbook, Arno Press, Inc., 1978.

What I love about this recipe is that one simply brings the sauce ingredients to a boil, pours them over the chicken and onions, and bakes the whole thing until done. Served over rice or pasta, with a green salad or vegetable, and you have an easy (especially for new cooks) and tasty supper. Here is the recipe as I adapted it;

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs (allow two per serving)
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flake

Method:

  • Place chicken, skin-side down, in a single layer in a shallow baking pan, top with onion slices.
  • Mix ketchup, vinegar, butter or margarine, garlic, rosemary, salt, mustard and pepper flake in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and pour over chicken.
  • Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn chicken, skin-side up, baste with sauces in pan, and continue baking and basting for another 30 minutes or until tender and glazed.

It was and is, delicious. Now, almost thirty years later, I still make it. Oh, and it does completely mask “fishy chicken”. Eat well, my friends, and help someone new to the game. That's what military spouses are known for, and expert at doing.

Thank you to those wonderful wives at RAF Alconbury. You did not know it then, but you gave me wings of my own.