Grit Blogs > At Home in Ohio

Birds of a Feather Float Together

Connie MooreJanuary brings birds of all kinds and sizes to our house. Outside, that is. Inside the only birds dealt with are devoid of all feathers and ready to cook. Chicken, turkey, Cornish hens, a duck (only once) and a wish for a goose (a long time ago).

chicken head with beady eye

Normal bird fare is chicken. Versatile, relatively inexpensive and tasty, they can be enjoyed whole roasted, bone-in and boneless fried, baked on dressing, dressed in creamy sauces and otherwise cold with mustard on toasted bread.

Not until recently did we come to the knowledge we could float chicken and dine on canary.

There are two schools of thought regarding floating chickens. One is soup. Chicken and various vegetables float in broth. Noodles are sometimes included. Chicken soup works wonders for colds, they say.

Another way to float the unfeathered friend is in a cream sauce. In Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, meats which are cooked and portioned out, laid on toast, and usually swathed in sauce are said to be floats. There are chicken floats, goose and turkey floats, ham and oyster floats and if the toast doesn’t run out, rabbit, pig and black bird floats. (In my father’s day they set dried beef to sail on a toast raft but it wasn’t called a float!)

Of course, in past times, setting toast rafts afloat required a basic knowledge of cooking white sauces, ranging from thick to thin. Some of us cooks never did take to making the sauce, much like some don’t do gravies for fear of the dreaded lumps syndrome. More than one time in my kitchen, a cup of gravy or white sauce has turned into a few quarts with a process of thinning out lumps, then thickening the lot only to find the lumps forming again. Manic whirling of a mad-crazed whisk turned this moxie cook into a stark-raving crazy lady who, to this day, weeps at even the mention of making a sauce.

To the rescue comes Ragu Classic Alfredo sauce and Pioneer Country Gravy mix, two local brands of manufactured ingenuity. Either one, thinned with a little milk or cream becomes a reasonable substitute that won’t send this cook over the brink. After all, in this day and age one has to be willing to go out on a limb to catch a bird, get it on a raft and float it into a comfort food supper.

The canary is a play on words from long ago. It is a colorful, refreshing salad that is as bright as the little songsters. It is from an ancient fundraiser booklet published in Brookville, Ohio when the phone numbers were still written as Phone 23 (Macy’s Market) or Phone 125 (J.H. Smith’s Grocery).

Easy Chicken Floats

Remains of cooked chicken, bones removed (about 1/2 cup per portion)
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup or 1 can mushrooms, drained
Diced green pepper, celery and onion
1 jar Ragu Classic Alfredo sauce
Toasted, buttered bread, 1 slice per portion

1. Melt butter in large skillet.

2. Add mushrooms, green pepper, celery, onion, amounts up to the cook.

3. You can leave the veggies out if you want but we like the extra boost they give to the flavor.

4. Sauté the veggies until soft.

5. Add chicken and sauce. Sauce may be thinned with a little cream or milk or water. Heat through.

6. Pour over toasted bread for each serving. Toast may be cut for points or circles or logs.

7. Sprinkle with paprika.

Canary Salad

1 cup grated raw carrot
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup diced, peeled apples
1/2 of a seedless orange, peeled, segments diced small

Mix together and combine with a little mayonnaise. Chill thoroughly, serve on lettuce leaves.

For most cooks, the 1/2 orange left would be irritating. You can go ahead and use the whole orange, peeling, dicing the segments. You can double the other ingredients so as to have a double batch or two canaries.

Contact Connie at