A warm and comforting casserole with apples, onions, and chicken its primary ingredients.
Shaker Chicken Pudding is an Historic recipe, reimagined...
This recipe and its method go back in some form or fashion, to our beginning as a country.
I am about to get nostalgic on everybody for the next few minutes as you read this post. There are days I want to go home. Not home to my house here in Charleston, rather home to where I am in my element in New Jersey. Autumn is my season if people can ‘have’ seasons. And autumn in the North is a sensory experience that is so powerful that its effects become one with you.
The warm summer days give way to long shadows on the ground, the result of perfectly clear blue skies, but a waning sun. The leaves, as if on cue, begin to shiver and shake just a bit. In a week’s time, they have turned a beautiful golden or purple or red color. They too, want to go home. They make a single debut, and dance on the wind as they flutter to the ground and become earth once again.
Fall is a time for sound and smell. It sounds like crows cackling and cornstalks crunching under the weight of my step. And it smells like wet leaves and decaying fruit. But this is all magnificent. It is Mother Nature at work. She is busy putting new elements into play, not minding me or you. It is the changing of her guard.
This creamy Shaker Chicken Pudding is not my only comfort dish! Consider my
a personal favorite, Best Chicken and Dumplings
In case you want a Hex sign of your own, they're available. This form of Dutch art survives, and is most notable in the rolling farmsteads and fields of Pennsylvania. Click image for pricing.
Shaker Chicken Pudding is a warm and comforting casserole that pairs well with wide noodles, rice, or with homemade biscuits.
I could go on about autumn, but you are here for a chicken casserole recipe. So, I guess I would best get busy. I prepared Shaker Chicken last night. I snapped a few photos but was not prepared to share this until I prepared it prettily. That went out the window, as the September and October calendar of recipes for Not Entirely Average is super tight. That, and I feel like I mentioned it in my post for Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake. So, a promise is a promise.
My Gram called it Shaker Chicken, but I believe the true name for the consistency of this dish is Shaker Chicken Pudding. There are many variations, but I know I have the tastiest. Yes, you will need an apple. And cider. You will definitely need cider. No lemon, no eggs. Think creamy, sort of savory and sweet at the same time, good smells wafting from your oven…that’s Shaker Chicken Pudding. It is thicker than soup and feels more like a casserole.
Hex signs are a form of Pennsylvania Dutch folk art found in the Fancy Dutch tradition in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Barn paintings, usually in the form of "stars in circles", began to appear on the landscape in the early 19th century.
Fall in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the New England states means apples. And given I have had several requests just since Thursday for apple recipes, here we go. Sure, there are probably recipes out there that call for the use of more than just an apple or two, but none are going to be this comforting. Well, except apple pie or apple Bundt cake maybe. Fall for me meant hopping in the car on a Sunday and driving out through God's country. Pennsylvania. Apple country. Home of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking and the most pristine farms and livestock barns in all the United States, the Amish farmstead. I feel cradled there. At peace in a way I feel in no other place. The entire countryside spanning multiple counties is my church.
I paid $3 for an 1894 copy of “The Virginia House-Wife” by Mary Randolph. It is among my most prized kitchen possession. I really believe the seller did not understand what she had.
One of my diversions is to glance through old cookbooks. Get me into a used bookstore and you will likely not find me come up for air for a while. Anything from 1935 and earlier excites me. I recently purchased a tattered copy of Mary Randolph’s “The Virginia Housewife.” This book has been well loved. By that, I mean used.
There are whole pages missing and some print that is not discernable. I did not buy it to cook from per se, but I noticed a bunch of recipes for things that I have different names for in my collection. This origin of recipes or heritage cooking is stuff I think Anthony Bourdain would have gotten into. It fascinates me. And one page I came across in this book and a few later ones from various church groups, was for Chicken Pudding.
The roots of American cooking.
A dish that had been in America's cooking repertoire since long before the turn of the century, chicken pudding was still holding steady into the 1900s. First published in January of 1824 The Virginia Housewife was one of, if not the most important cook and household management books of the 18th century in America. When The Virginia Housewife was published, the Shakers who settled in America from Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries had already made an impression with their belief in the rich rewards of simple living.
This had no bigger impact than it did on food, food consumption, food habits, and especially the way in which food was being prepared at that time. That simplicity is still evidenced today in many parts of Pennsylvania among the Amish. Period cooks had few options but to use fresh homegrown and home raised food sources and find inventive ways to prepare them.
Gifts for the foodie, or for yourself. Home chef necessaries, click images for pricing.
Growing up on a 260-year-old farmstead in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, I felt a connection to Mary Randolph. The gardens that Miss Emma cultivated in the decades before my parents bought the little house on Madisonville Road, were exactly what Mary Randolph would have had access to. I would like to think that Mary Randolph passed a torch of sorts to ladies like Miss Emma, and Miss Emma on to us. Mary’s now vintage recipe for Chicken Pudding has been interpreted to the best of my ability, modifying it for today’s eating habits and more readily available ingredients.
I grabbed two golden apples for this recipe, but any apple variety will work. The recipe specifies one apple. I add additional because they break down. At the end of the cook, I like to still have some apple going on, so I add additional. I also prefer the sweet over the savory, so the extra apple lends what I am looking for in terms of flavor. I use a mixture of both seasoned and panko bread crumbs. No, Mary Randolph did not call for breadcrumbs, but to simplify matters, I am. You can use whole milk in lieu of cream, but I do not advise it as your sauce will not thicken properly. I also use butter to grease my baking dish. Do not skip these steps. They all impart flavor to the finished bake, right down to the salt and pepper.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
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- baking dish
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Ingredients for Shaker Chicken Pudding
- 2 - 3 cups chicken cooked and diced
- 1 cup apples diced
- 1 cup onion chopped
- 1 cup celery chopped
- 4 ounces salted butter
- 4 ounces apple cider divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- pinch fresh nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 12 ounces cream
- 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Heat oven to 350°F.
- Prepare a baking dish by greasing with 1 ounce of butter. Set aside.
- In a medium non-stick sauté pan, gently sauté apples, onion, and celery in 2 ounces of the butter until soft. Add cider, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Simmer on very low heat, covered, for 1/2 hour until the vegetables are very soft.
- Melt the remaining 1 ounce of butter and add the flour to the melted butter. Whisk until the flour is incorporated.
- To the pan of vegetables, add the flour mixture and the cream and bring to a boil. Allow to cook over high heat for 2 minutes. The mixture will thicken. Remove from the heat. Add chicken and stir.
- In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with 2 ounces of melted butter. Stir to combine.
- Pour the chicken mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until casserole bubbles. Serve over wide noodles or rice.
Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only.