A newsroom test kitchen and famously exploding recipe are just the icing on this food editor’s cake

Helen Dollaghan was The Denver Post food editor from 1958 to 1993. Here she tests recipes in her Arvada kitchen.

Denver Post file

Helen Dollaghan was The Denver Post food editor from 1958 to 1993. Here she tests recipes in her Arvada kitchen.

In her 35-year career as food editor at The Denver Post, Helen Dollaghan wrote hundreds of stories and published thousands of recipes on cooking, with an emphasis on high-altitude adjustments.

Affectionately known as “Helen D” to her admiring coworkers, she was such an important part of the paper that management built her an entire kitchen in the newspaper’s offices, complete with stoves, multiple ovens and cookware to test her many recipes.

Her food followers were so fervent that in 1974 the paper started an entire section devoted to cooking, where she often incorporated mail-in recipes and suggestions from readers in her articles. She also wrote weekly for Empire magazine, the paper’s Sunday supplement.

In 1980, she published “Helen Dollaghan’s Best Main Dishes,” a cookbook that continues to attract readers around the country. In the dedication, she thanked her mother, “who taught me how to cook, beginning with the basics of making gravy.”

She went on to produce dozens of at-home recipes, many of them staples of the kitchen and often utilizing cream of mushroom soup as a base. But one that was published in 1982 — and that lives on forever — was what came to be called “Coq au Blam.”

Chicken with Apricots was a simple baked-chicken recipe with a saucy European twist. The recipe called for the chicken to be basted with brandy while it baked. Over-enthusiastic cooks added extra brandy and wrapped the chicken in foil, creating a chicken time bomb. The high cooking temperature, 450 degrees, caused the liquor to vaporize and explode, blowing the doors off several unfortunate cooks’ oven doors. To avoid lawsuits, Post management hastily contacted all the “victims” and paid for the damages.

Dollaghan, a quiet, soft-spoken woman with a good sense of humor, took it all in stride and continued to be a popular feature in the paper until her retirement in 1993.

Chicken With Apricots (Poulet à  l’Abricot)

Empire Magazine, Feb. 7, 1982


  • 2 frying chickens, cut in serving pieces
  • 1 stick (½   cup) butter
  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon flour
  • 5 large cloves garlic
  • 2 cups apricot brandy
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 6 ounces dried apricots


Wash and pat chicken pieces dry with paper toweling. Melt butter and oil in a skillet over moderate heat. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time.

Cook over moderate heat until chicken is golden on all sides. Transfer chicken to a large, shallow casserole. Pour off all but about ¼ cup of the fat from pan. Add flour to fat in pan. Cook over moderate heat a few minutes, stirring.
Crush garlic through a garlic press into pan. Mix well. Add brandy, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Arrange apricots in the casserole, tucking them in among the chicken pieces.

Pour the sauce over chicken and apricots. Bake, covered, in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 to 30 minutes longer or until chicken is done. Baste chicken occasionally with sauce in casserole.
Serves six.

Disclaimer: We’re not responsible for any “Coq au Blam” damage

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