Growing up in the country of western Pennsylvania exposes one to a lot of food traditions that you may not appreciate until you move away and find yourself at a grocery store deli counter struggling to explain what you mean by “chipped ham.” (Y’all are missing out, I tell you). Like many people, there are certain foods I will always associate with home. Some were common in the area, like pierogies, and sweet corn from Ambrose Farm Market. Others were specialties in the Limbaugh household, like black raspberry jelly, rhubarb crunch, and homegrown Limbaugh’s Legacy Potato-Top tomatoes. (Seriously. They’re really called that.)
This recipe falls into the latter category. I sometimes wish I could think of a name more descriptive than what we always called it: Tully Chicken. So named because my mom got the recipe from the Tullys, a family that attended our church. I have to wonder what the Tullys called it, and if they have any idea how famous their name’s become amongst a group of chicken casserole lovers.
With the chilly grey skies that have been enveloping Buenos Aires lately, comfort food’s been the name of the game and I was really craving some Tully Chicken. But even though this recipe is so simple, this city is missing two crucial casserole ingredients: cream of chicken soup and Ritz crackers. Or so I thought. As I strolled through the aisles of the newly-opened Carrefour in our neighborhood, I spotted a package of Rex galletitas. How had I never noticed these Ritz-look-alikes before? After a close inspection to confirm their validity, I swept a pile into my basket and rushed home to look up cream of chicken substitutes on the interwebs. Double score! Leave it to the Southerners to figure out how to make a casserole in a pinch.
While Mom always boiled a whole chicken to make Tully Chicken, I prefer to roast it. Mostly because that crispy skin can’t be used in the casserole, so it goes directly in my belly. But I also find the texture and flavor a bit more pleasing. The downside is that it may be tempting to skip the recipe entirely once your chicken comes out of the oven all golden and crispy-like.
Like most casseroles, it ain’t healthy. But isn’t that the point of comfort food?
TULLY CHICKEN CASSEROLE
One whole chicken, about 3 – 4 pounds
One can cream of chicken soup, or use this substitute
About 12 ounces of sour cream (more or less, to taste)
Two sleeves of Ritz crackers, or 4 bags of Rex crackers
Stick and a half of butter (about 170 grams)
Roast or boil the chicken and let it cool enough to pick the meat from the bones. (I like to use Thomas Keller’s simple roast chicken method). Combine sour cream and cream of chicken soup in a large bowl, and add the chicken. Stir until chicken is evenly coated. Spread the mixture in a 9 x 13 pan or casserole dish.
Melt butter in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Place crackers in a large Ziploc bag and seal, letting out as much of the air as you can. Crush the crackers in the bag using a rolling pin. I like to leave some larger chunks of cracker – don’t go overboard or you’ll make a powder out of it. Combine the crushed crackers and melted butter, then spread the mixture on top of the chicken.
Bake at 375° F for about 20 minutes, until bubbly and slightly browned.