Don’t you love coincidences, especially ones that make you smile? I have a wonderful friend, Mary Louise from Georgia. She is the epitome of the gracious Southern hostess, and a lovely, talented lady. I adore her. We met many years ago at the National Chicken Contest held at Hilton Head Island and have been friends ever since. Imagine my surprise when I opened up an email this morning from Mary Louise with the subject title, “About the southern funeral book,” referring to my blog yesterday, which you can read below. It seems that one of the recipes in the book, Chicken Lasagne Florentine, is the recipe of her late beloved mother, Bessie Burk.
Bessie Burk’s recipe was originally featured in a 1995 Southern Living magazine, and repeated in the annual cookbook. Bessie won numerous cook-offs over the years, and the lasagne took first place in a Georgia Dairy contest. Mary Louise recalls with fondness how she and her mother had worked on “gilding that lasagne” with the nutmeg, soy sauce, and butter pecan topping to hopefully give the recipe an edge in the contest. And it did.
Mary Louise had purchased the book with the plan to take it on an upcoming trip. She decided to take it along and read as she waited for a doctor’s appointment one day. Mary Louise was amazed when she came across the recipe and realized it was indeed her mother’s recipe, word for word. Another strange coincidence was that Bessie was buried exactly that same day, two years earlier. The doctor’s mother and Bessie were best friends, so the doctor was very familiar with the recipe. He and Mary Louise decided that Bessie was watching over Mary Louise, and that all would be well with her life and health.
Here is the winning recipe from the gentle Southern spirit of Bessie Burk. And this Yankee will declare what I can hear Mary Louise saying:
BON APPETIT, Y’ALL!!
Bessie Burk’s Chicken Lasagne Florentine
6 lasagne noodles, uncooked
1 package (10 ounces) chopped frozen spinach, thawed
2 cups cooked chopped chicken (about 3 medium breasts)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 carton (8 ounces) sour cream
1/3 cup homemade mayonnaise
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or to taste)
Butter Pecan Topping (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside. Drain the spinach well, pressing between layers of paper towels. Combine the spinach, chicken, cheddar cheese, onion, nutmeg, salt, pepper, soy sauce, soup, sour cream, and mayonnaise in a large bowl; stir to blend.
Arrange half the lasagne noodles in a lightly greased 11-by-7-by-1-1/2-inch baking dish. Spread half the chicken mixture over the noodles. Repeat this procedure with the remaining chicken mixture and noodles. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Butter Pecan Topping. Bake, covered, for 55 to 60 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting. Serves 8.
Butter Pecan Topping
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup chopped pecans
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat; add the pecans and cook for 3 minutes. Cool completely.
Note: In the book, it says this is so good it’ll kill you!
Thank you for sharing this true story about my precious mom, Bessie. I think she would enjoy knowing that she lives on through her love of sharing wonderful foods with others.
You are so welcome, Mary Louise. I love mom stories. Bessie was obviously an extraordinary mom because she had you for a daughter. I would be honored to write about either one of you anytime!