By Angela McRae, The Shopper Kitchen

“There’s no way those ingredients could taste good together.” Have you ever thought that? I sure have.

While I enjoy reading vintage recipes and cookbooks, sometimes the ingredients strike me as hard to swallow—literally. An old Marshall Field’s restaurant menu once listed among its lunch selections a “Minced Tongue and Horseradish Sandwich.” I’ll stick with the pimiento cheese, thank you very much.

Some recipes’ ingredients reveal food fads of another day. Marshmallow recipes, for instance, became popular in the thirties, and who would argue that those marshmallow-filled fruit salads and marshmallow-topped sweet potato casseroles haven’t stood the test of time? I wonder whether such recipes were viewed skeptically when they first appeared.

I have to admit that some unusual-sounding combinations of ingredients have turned out well. When I first heard about fudge made with Velveeta cheese, for instance, it sounded far-fetched but actually tasted good. And what about that mainstay of many a potluck, those tiny sausage links all gussied up with barbecue sauce and grape jelly? They may be low-fuss treats, but I’m always happy to see those on a party table.

Several years ago, I began to really study my collection of tearoom cookbooks, not all of which are from tea-and-crumpet establishments. This country’s earliest tearooms served hearty fare and were more likely to resemble meat-and-three restaurants than the Palm Court at the Ritz, so some of their recipes are just old-fashioned comfort food. Stella Riley Pinson of the now-closed Idyl Hours Tea Room in Cypress, Texas, published a book of her recipes years ago, and I discovered “The Idyl Hours Cookbook” for sale online. Once I read it, I had to try one of the entrée recipes out of sheer curiosity. A chicken dish made with onion soup mix, French dressing (which I do not like), and apricot preserves? It sounded just odd enough to be intriguing, and it was both simple and delicious.

If you want an easy weeknight meal, give this one a try. Just don’t tell your family what’s in it!

Almond and Apricot Baked Chicken
1 envelope dry onion soup mix (store brand is fine)
1 (16-ounce) bottle Ken’s Country French dressing
1 (18-ounce) jar apricot preserves
8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, add the onion soup mix, French dressing and apricot preserves, stirring with a wire whisk until combined well. Using a 9×13-inch pan prepared with cooking spray, spread one-third of the sauce mixture. Add chicken breasts to the pan, then pour the rest of the sauce evenly on top and bake for 1 hour. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt butter and sugar over medium-high heat, until the mixture is bubbling. Add almonds and stir constantly until all the almonds are coated well. Remove from heat and set aside until chicken has cooked. Use the caramelized almonds as a garnish when chicken has finished baking. Serve over rice if desired.