Experiment #8: Chicken a la Brezhnev AKA The Red Chicken

Slow news week, huh? What’s everyone been up to lately? We’ve just been sitting around, darning socks and watching the once-slow erosion of American democracy speed recklessly toward its inevitable conclusion like a sumo wrestler on a hotel waterslide.

*~*~TGIF, GUYS!~*~* cracks Lime-a-Rita

It seemed like a good week to take on a recipe from Peggy Smeeton Stanton, wife of J. William Stanton (R-OH). Before reaching the zenith of her career as Congress Wife, Smeeton Stanton—for brevity’s sake, we’re going to use her DJ name, P-Smeet—worked briefly as a journalist, appearing regularly on ABC’s hard-hitting afternoon show, “News with the Woman’s Touch.”

We’re not sure what news with a “woman’s touch” looks like—we think maybe swatching nail polish colors to match the feverish hellclouds from nuclear test sites?

Read-‘em-and-Smeet’s contribution to the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book was “Chicken a la Brezhnev, AKA The Red Chicken.”

The Red Chicken (Paramount, 2017): Liam Neeson stars as a vegetarian double agent in this madcap political thriller about Joseph Stalin reincarnated as a laying hen.

The dish was named for Leonid Brezhnev, the de facto leader of the Soviet Union from 1964 until his death in *gasp* 1982.

...et tu, Peggy? 

Anyway, we just thought the name of the dish was funny. There's absolutely no reason a Russian-themed Congressional dish would be relevant in today's political climate. 

No reason at all.

Smeetball's Soviet-style contribution to the NecronomiCongressional Club Cook Book seems appropriate when you consider that her husband, J. William Stanton, served in Congress at the height of the Cold War. 

John William Stanton served from 1965 to 1983 as a moderate Republican ("lol wut?" -Millenials) from Ohio's Clevelandiest district. Born in Painesville, Ohio, Stanton the Manton graduated from the Culver Military Academy and attended the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 1942 before serving in the United States Army from 1942–46—where he received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for various wartime daring-do.

J.W. Stanton, seen here telepathically selling you Chesterfield cigarettes.

In 1949, Stanton graduated with a degree in Business Administration from Georgetown University, after which he pursued a fulfilling career in Business as a Businessman, eventually working his way up to Prominent Businessman with a certificate in Business Studies. 

When Mr. Business Q. Business eventually got tired of shoveling paper down in the ol' business mines, he ran for the House of Representatives, becoming the ranking Strong Caucasian Jaw Republican on the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs.

Stanton was a fiscal conservative known to work well with opposing groups, and he managed to somehow appease both organized labor and business interests. His chief strategy as Master Negotiator seems to boil down to not sticking his name on any piece of legislation more controversial than a post office name change.

Stanton is, to date, the last Republican to represent his Cleveland district, which has been solidly blue ever since. We suspect this may be due to the fact that "moderate Republicans" like Stanton have been hunted to near extinction by a metal-hearted clone army of Dick Cheneys on their Big-League Game Ranch in Texas.

Anyway, on to the recipe. 


Four ingredients, folks. Say what you will about 1980s cuisine—it’s 100% Drunk Housewife-proof.

Setting: the suburban Ohio mansion of J. William (J-MONEY) Stanton. Dusk. A Lincoln town car crunches up the gravel drive. His wife, Peggy (P-SMEET), jolts awake and swings her bare feet off the floral davenport. She dashes frantically around the living room collecting bottles and ashtrays, then tips a generous armful of drained 40s of Old English malt liquor behind a potted plastic ficus.

J-MONEY: (calling from foyer) “I’m home from the business factory, my darling divine. What have you been doing all day?”

P-SMEET: (kicking empty jam jars and spent foil packets beneath the fridge) “Why, straining over a hot stove to make you this delicious dinner from scratch, of course!”


The recipe calls for “chicken pieces,” which seems criminally vague. Given the cook time (two hours), we’re going to suggest you use bone-in chicken thighs—unless you like your chicken breasts stiffer than a colonel’s lapel.

Smeetheart demands you “rub” the chicken with a whole jar of apricot preserves. The vibe here is very “duck à l’orange” minus the duck and the l’orange.

We’re not going to lie: this whole skin-rubbing process was uncomfortably intimate. It didn’t help that Liz kept calling it “The Ceremony.”

Blessed be the fruit.

Once you’ve thoroughly massaged your bird and swaddled it in jam, nestle those cozy comrades into a roasting pan.

We weren’t sure whether to layer the pieces skin side up or down—P-Smeet doesn’t say—so we split the difference and did half and half.

If you make this recipe, go skin side up unless you feel like going HOG WILD and flipping them halfway through—over the course of the long, slow bake in a lukewarm oven, the sugar browns (tans?) and candies the chicken skin into a not-entirely-unappetizing toffee-like consistency.


Festoon a bottle of Russian dressing with two packets of dry onion soup mix.

With only four ingredients—one of them chicken—Smeetgol’s recipe has managed to outclass even the Before Dinner Soup in the sodium department. This dish has a colossal 7,760 mg of sodium.

We suspect the true "Russian interference" was sneaking excessive salt and sugar into the American diet.

But the jokes on them: it’s nigh impossible for the proletariat to rise up and seize the means of production when the FREEDOM-SIZED bourgeoisie can crush discontents beneath the grinding wheels of capitalism their powered mobility scooters.


Smeety-Smeety-Stant-Stant says to bake this at 325° for two hours. Again with this nonsense. Did they not make ovens in the 80s that heated over 350°?

We’d never cooked chicken at this low a temp before. Given our experience with the vinegar pie, we were a little worried about salmonella. But after about 40 minutes, we started to smell the sugars caramelizing.

This actually had a fairly pleasant aroma while baking. Imagine the smell of old cartons of Chinese takeout wilting on a dashboard in July.

Don’t wince at us. Google how fish sauce is made. And fish sauce is amazing.


It’s hard to tell from the photo, but that chicken is floating leisurely in a brick-red bath of separated chicken fat and barely boiling sugar glaze.

…we don't endorse saving the drippings and repurposing them into a pan sauce. But the chicken itself came out fine. We would describe it as "cooked."

We both agreed that this was our favorite recipe from the cookbook so far. It's not even close. The meat itself wasn't strictly seasoned, but the sauce reminded us of the sticky-sweet, froot-adjacent taste of truck stop Panda Express. It was entirely edible. 

Sure, you’re getting more than your recommended daily sodium intake in one meal.

But Olive—lover of all things saltmeat—isn’t complaining.

ha ha totally staged she would never jump on the coffee table and steal bones from our hands she is so well behaved and definitely not a tiger that shrank in the wash ha ha #fakemews

Chicken a la Brezhnev AKA The Red Chicken
By Mrs. J. William (Peggy) Stanton
Adapted from the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book

4 to 6 pieces chicken
1 18 oz jar apricot preserves
2 envelopes Lipton onion soup mix
1 8 oz bottle Russian dressing (can use another 8 oz bottle for 10 pieces)
2 cans Hamm's beer

In this order: Rub each piece of chicken with preserves. Lay chicken in single layer in large roasting pan. Pour dressing mixed with onion soup mix over top. If serving large amount, go through 3 steps and layer chicken one on top of the other. Bake at 325° for 2 hours, uncovered. Drink Hamm's beer for 2 hours, uncovered. After cooking is finished, chicken may be kept in warm oven COVERED. Makes 4 to 6 servings. May be frozen.

Experiment #7: Vinegar Pie

As luck would have it, we're featuring another North Carolinian delicacy on the blog this week. 

A greasy, half-baked, unwholesome, totally unpalatable relic of a long dead era, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) represented the great state of North Carolina for 30 years before dropping dead at the overripe age of 86. Probably as a result of having to eat his wife's Vinegar Pie.

...we wish that were a euphemism. 

Vinegar pie, much like Sen. Helms, is a Depression-era invention that long outstayed its welcome. Vinegar pie belongs to a genus of "desperation pies," which feel aptly named—only the desperate would flavor a dessert with vinegar and margarine. 

But before we plumb the depths of Mrs. Helms' obvious culinary contempt for her husband and their guests, let us first explore the career of a man once called "Senator No" for his penchant for obstructing legislation and presidential appointees—and not, as we had assumed, for his answer to the question "Are Blacks and Gays People?"

Steadfastly opposed to both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, Helms defected from the Democratic to the Republican Party in 1972 due to the Democrats' support for legislated integration, affirmative action, and other pansy pinko values. He spent the next four decades doing his level best to hammer the final nail into Abraham Lincoln's coffin. 

We know what you're thinking—this Helms guy sounds like a Grade-A wang. But ask yourself this: would a bad guy have successfully blocked the ratification of the UN Treaty Against Genocide? 

Fortunately, Sen. Helms' legacy is far more nuanced and multi-faceted than his more infamous outbursts would suggest.

lol jk Jesse Helms is a moonfaced tubesock of hot compost.

In one of the prouder moments of his career, Helms led a 16-day filibuster to oppose making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a federal holiday. He also filibustered anti-apartheid legislation and the renewal of the Voting Rights Act (but denied either was motivated by racism).

Remember, folks: doing and saying racist things doesn't make you a racist. It's all about what you believe in your blackened, tobacco-engorged elephant heart.  

...Helms wasn't a big fan of gay people, either. In 1988, he introduced an amendment to a fiscal appropriations bill to prevent federal funding from going to AIDS research. ''We have got to call a spade a spade," he said. "And a perverted human being a perverted human being.''

...nor was he super duper into women (Helms opposed both the Equal Rights Amendment and Title IX) or feminists. "We must reverse the trend," Helms said, "that says that women must be liberated from the dignity of motherhood and from femininity of her natural development."

...OK, he also hated Communists, and described Augusto Pinochet's murderous populist regime as "motivated by high religious and philosophical principles and concern for his people."

Q. Was there anyone this guy liked?

A. You mean besides proto-fascist dictators? Nah. 

Source: The Jesse Helms Center for People Who Kept the Receipts
When he wasn't obstructing every piece of legislation that didn't align with Victorian family values, folksy Uncle Jesse loved serenading his female colleagues in elevators.

"He saw me standing there," Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun recounted at a National Urban League Dinner, "and he started to sing, 'I wish I was in the land of cotton . . . ' And he looked at Sen. [Orrin] Hatch and said, 'I'm going to make her cry. I'm going to sing 'Dixie' until she cries.'"

Don't worry, though—according to the Jesse Helms Center, "there was no ill intent."

We're glad Jesse Helms is dead. But don't get mad at us, because we say that with no ill intent. 

Step 1. Buy sticks(?) of margarine
Photos now with PROFESSIONAL LIGHTING aka we moved the $19.99 standing lamp from our living room into the kitchen.

Did you know margarine comes in sticks? Dorothy Helms does. She asks for them by name.

This may be the most dire ingredient shot we've taken yet. No salt. No sour cream. No condensed soup.

All of the flavoring in this pie comes from the vinegar and the vanilla—and the stick of melted margarine, of course.

Combine your stagnant pool of Believe-It's-Not with the sugar BEFORE you add the rest of the ingredients because reasons.

Step 2. Add gratuitous amounts of vinegar and vanilla

Throw a Gollum-sized palmful of flour in the bowl, then add your flavoring: two tablespoons of vinegar.

We suspect Dorothy's going for some kind of drugstore-perfume knockoff of Lemon Meringue here.

"Like citrus? You'll LOVEsettle for the tangy zip of distilled white vinegar!"

Don't worry. Plenty of time to mellow out thosethat flavors thanks to the also two tablespoons of vanilla extract. 

We've never had to unscrew the dispensing cap from the vanilla extract before. We're not sure this is the right occasion.
We love vanilla as much as the next palate-stunted Midwesterner, but this seems like an ill-advised amount. 

Step 3: Remember your whisking technique 

We've barely started, and we already pretty much have a pie. Just add three beaten eggs and get a sweet-ass action shot: 

And dump unceremoniously into your other ingredients.

Crack those Hamm's and take a brief moment to contemplate the kind of food it would take to curdle a man's soul. 

This mixture smells like a darkroom—it has the acid whiff of old photo-developing chemicals.

It's an odor that really "primes the pump" [TOPICAL].

Step 4. Prick your pie crust
crust stigmata. 

Liz has never made a pie (we’re not big bakers), but she thinks maybe you’re supposed to prick the crust with a fork? That's a thing, right?

She maybe overdid it a little. But the dewy, pasty dough looked a lot like Jesse Helms.

Step 5. ...Bake?

Dorothy instructed us to pour the mixture into an unbaked pie shell and then “bake at 325° for 45 minutes or until custard is set.”

Spoiler alert: the custard will never set.

This pie baked for 80 minutes and was still nowhere close to being done. We seriously began to wonder if there was something wrong with our oven, so we turned it up to 350° for another 10 minutes. Still nothing.

No matter how the warm air tried to coax it into something sweet, the pie resolutely refused to change.

This is a dessert truly befitting Sen. Helms.

NSFW Pie Hole

See what we mean? That exterior looks downright crisp. But apply the slightest pressure, and it crumbles like a racist’s sense of self-worth skin of ice on a spring-thawed pond.

Again, this pie baked for 80 minutes—10 at a higher temperature than the recipe called for—and was still a fatty, grainy, mulpy mess of wet egg and congealed sugar.

We waited an hour for it to cool, hoping it might set up. It didn’t.

Getting an even, pie-shaped piece out of the tin was like cranelifting a whale into a new pool. It took a series of short, tentative movements with a lot of precarious wobbling and a lot of horrified stares from bystanders.


Sheen level: Emilio Estevez

We don’t make a lot of custards, but we’re reasonably sure this isn’t “set.” The closest thing in texture to this we can think of is tapioca pudding, but that seems unfair to tapioca. This has the texture of glistening egg curds. It slid across the plate, leaving a greasy trail in its wake. It has a fatty mouthfeel from all that margarine and a vaguely off, vaguely citrus-y taste from the vinegar.

But hey, after 80 minutes in the oven, that crust was nice and flaky. No soggy bottoms, as Queen Mary Berry would say.

Vinegar Pie
By Mrs. Jesse (Dorothy) Helms
Adapted from the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book

1 stick margarine
1 ½ cups sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons vinegar
3 eggs, beaten
1 9 inch unbaked pie shell

2 cans Hamm's beer

Melt margarine. Add sugar. Then add remaining ingredients. Pour into unbaked pie shell, and bake at 325° for 45 minutes or until custard is set. Drink Hamm's beer until the custard is set. 

Experiment #6: Before Dinner Soup

Let’s set the stage.

You’re two courses into your Fancy Dinner Party for Fancy Ladies Who Have Never, Ever Licked Mayonnaise from a Fast-Food Wrapper and working on the third—the soup course—when your nemesis, Rhodelia Gobnoggle, chokes on a spoonful and adjusts her live peacock hat in horror.

“Is something wrong?” you ask. You taste the soup. It seems fine.

"Oh, nothing’s wrong,” she sneers. “Provided you’re comfortable eating a dinner soup before dinner.”

The ladies gasp. The string quartet stalls. The peacock molts contemptuously.

You swallow your mortal shame and know—you should have listened to Eugenia.

This week’s recipe comes to us courtesy of Eugenia Reid Gudger. It’s a soup with that sophisticated, Ladies’-Aid touch that only a dash of Pepsi can bring. It’s a soup that’s chock full of tomato-y goodness and green peaness.

It’s a soup that knows its place in the culinary canon. Prepare ye the way of the BEFORE DINNER SOUP.

As always, we must first encounter the man behind the woman behind the soup, the incomparably named Vonno Lamar Gudger Jr. (D-NC) who is sadly a Congressman and not a second-generation evil magician.

He’s also low-key adorable. Lamar looks almost exactly like cartoon Ed Asner from Disney’s Up! Just look at that side-by-side comparison:

Disney®: super chill about copyright and fair use since 1923.

Born in Asheville, NC, in 1919, Lamar (may I call you Vonno?) served North Carolina’s 11th congressional district from 1977 to 1981. As did so many other men of his (Certified Greatest) generation, the Gudge served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and returned home with a Meat-Ration-calibrated taste for his sweetheart's atomic-age food. He served a single term in the North Carolina house in 1951–52, then worked as a lawyer until his second stint in the state senate in the 1970s.

Once elected to the House of Representatives, Von the Mon sponsored a hefty slate of environmental legislation, including bills to designate the Trail of Tears as a National Historic Trail and to establish a Mountain Experience Center in western North Carolina.

...okay, so The Gudge sponsored 20 bills in total, none of which became law. But he did co-sponsor an awful lot of bills (also conservation-focused) including one that designated September 18, 1980, "Constantino Brumidi Day” (ironically, this became law on September 19, leading us to wonder if Constantino Brumidi, a Capitol-favored fresco painter, was ever duly celebrated).

"I came here to paint cherubs and drop the cheddar biscuits off at Table 12, and I'm all out of cheddar biscuits." 
—Constantino Brumidi

Gudger also sponsored H.J.Res.109 to amend the Constitution to mandate balanced budgets and eliminate the national debt, because Gudger knew that the largest economy in the world requires exactly the same approach as an Asheville law firm.

After losing his 1980 reelection campaign, V. Lamar settled down in Buncombe County as a special superior court judge and started a law firm with his son, Vonno Lamar “Butch” Gudger III, in 1998.

As you might expect from a man who chose to call himself "Butch" with the given name VONNO LAMAR, L'il Gudge was disbarred for embezzlement (among other minor infractions) in 2016.

Eugenia was spared the embarrassment, as she died in 2013. But we like to think of Butch Gudger whipping up his mom's canned aperitif whenever he's in the mood for some liquid nostalgia.

Just not for dinner. He may be an embezzler, but he's not a philistine.

Step 1. Gather your concentrated beef water

Ceci n'est pas une Hamm's. 

This soup has four ingredients, and all of them are shelf-stable. If you're willing to go without the lemon [froot points!], they're bomb-shelter-stable.

This was one of the first recipes we made from the cookbook, so we hadn't yet realized the Hamm's was necessary. But Liz is a real whiz with Microsoft Paint, so it's kind of like they were there all along. 

Step 2. Open your cans and—wait, green pea soup?

In addition to beef consommé and canned vegetal tears, Eugenia's recipe calls for "green pea soup." We’d never heard of this soup before, and it was nearly impossible to find. None of the grocery stores in the metro proper carried it. Luckily, Campbell’s has an Arcane Soup Locator on their website.

...We know what you’re thinking, and no, Campbell’s isn’t sponsoring us. Based on the number of recipes in this book that call for unfashionable condensed soups, I think it’s safe to say we’re sponsoring them.

But we'll save you some clicks: this soup is literally only available at Wal-Mart.

The color of a Great Value® 

Horror-film lighting aside (thanks, LED bike lamps!), this soup has exactly the texture and color of supermarket wasabi paste. And somehow over 500 calories per can.

BONUS: once you factor in the Other Cans, the soup has a whopping 7,410 miligrams of sodium (7.4 grams! We moved the decimal so you don’t have to!), so it doubles as an organ brine.

Step 3. Add Pepsi because reasons

We suspect we should be making a Kendall Jenner joke here, but we're not entirely sure who he is. Write in and supply one of your own. 

The final step of this recipe—recipe being a generous term for "open some cans and pour them in a feeding trough"—is to add some Pepsi "to cut tart taste."

We’re not entirely sure what Eugenia was going for here. While this soup certainly has a…taste, we’re not sure we’d go for “tart” first. If it weren’t for the green pea (and the Pepsi), this would just be an exceptionally thin, salty Bloody Mary. Even the consommé fits—a friend of Liz’s used to bartend at a TGIFriday’s and insists beef boullion is key to a good Mary.

We kept adding Pepsi to the pot, hoping naively that it would be the catalyst for some pre-meal magic, but it wasn't really discernible. We recommend pouring the Pepsi into an elegant ceramic carafe instead so your guests can add more at the table.

Final verdict: This is by no means the worst thing we've made, but it's also not terribly appetizing. The pea soup is the only interesting part of the dish, and it's "interesting" in the vein of a bad piece of performance art. The pea lends an underappreciated note of quiet desperation. It's a pulsing, vaguely unsettling funk, like the bass player in a middle-school garage band.

Gross admission: We made this back in March and stuffed a Tupperware of leftovers in the back of our fridge…and promptly forgot about it. It is now May, and said Tupperware is still in our fridge, unmolded and unmolested. If you’re planning on spending months at sea traversing the Northwest Passage in an ancient frigate, this is the soup for you. No preservatives necessary: it’s pre-salt cured.

Before Dinner Soup
By Mrs. Lamar (Eugenia) Gudger
Adapted from the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book

2 cans beef consommé
2 cups V-8 juice
½ lemon, juice only
½ can green pea soup
dash of Pepsi Cola to cut tart taste (optional)

Heat consommé, V-8 juice, and lemon juice and slowly stir in green pea soup. Heat through and add dash Pepsi Cola. Serve cup of soup before dinner. Makes 8 servings.