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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.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Shaker Chicken Pudding
Chicken Pudding is a dish that had been in America’s cooking repertoire since long before this country was even a country. The first PRINTED recipe for a version of this dish is found in The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph in 1894. But this recipe far pre-dates Ms. Randolph’s penning of it. Shaker Chicken Pudding is a warm and comforting casserole with apples, cider, onions, nutmeg, and chicken its primary ingredients.
There is a version of this method purported to have been served to General George Washington at his home in Mount Vernon. The version I am sharing today is a Pennsylvania Dutch variation and despite the name, is NOT a pudding at all. It’s warm and comforting and thicker than a soup…in fact, it’s more like a casserole.
Fall is a time for sounds and smells. It sounds like crows cackling and cornstalks crunching under the weight of my step. And it smells like wet leaves and decaying crabapples. 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.
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.
How This Recipe Came About…
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.
I did not invent this recipe…for absolute sure! BUT…I did make attempts to research its history to the best of my ability and to reveal its evolution from a pudding to the lumpy, delicious, nothing-like-pudding casserole that it is now. The version I share is modified from an early Pennsylvania Dutch method. And, it’s fabulous…
Do You Have What’s Needed To Make Shaker Chicken Pudding? Check The List!
leftover white meat rotisserie or cooked chicken breasts
salted sweet cream butter
fresh apple cider
heavy or light cream
seasoned breadcrumbs, homemade breadcrumbs are fine, too
Fall for me is 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.
Dutch barns remind me of autumn, maybe because the best of their years are behind them, much like summer foliage as it weakens going into shorter, cooler days.
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.
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. 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.
I paid $3 for an 1894 copy of “The Virginia House-Wife” by Mary Randolph. It is among my most prized kitchen possessions. I really believe the seller did not understand what she had.
This book has been updated, reprinted, and in some cases, translated from American Colonial ‘isms’ to now.
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 our little house on Madisonville Road, were exactly what Mary Randolph would have had access to.
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.
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.
“Chicken Pudding” is said to have been on the menu at Mount Vernon. I am sure I would not recognize it by all accounts given the severity of change this dish has undergone through a couple of centuries.
Not anything that that remotely resembles a pudding, this dish is cubed cooked white meat chicken breast is a resplendent sweet and savory sauce of cider and apples and onions. Fresh nutmeg is the key to unlocking each profile and making it pop.
How To Make Shaker Chicken?
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.
Essentially, everything is baked together in a pretty casserole dish. Before that can happen though, every element is gently cooked or sautéed atop the stove so that juices and aromatics have a chance to ‘dance’ once they’re finally united.
I use two apples for this recipe. 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.
Normally I would say that leftover rotisserie chicken would be great in a casserole. But not in THIS casserole. If you’re looking for ways to use leftover rotisserie, One Pot Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup, and How to Make Homemade Chicken Stock are good posts to reference.
For this, I only suggest cooking two large chicken breasts and dicing into squares for this. Rotisserie has too many other ‘flavor things’ going on that mar the point of the cider and the apples.
And speaking of cider…cider is NOT THE SAME as apple juice. Use cider, not apple juice. Fresh pressed apple cider is sold cold and usually only has a one week shelf life in your refrigerator once opened. Again, this is a good way to use a cup or two of it if you think you cannot drink it quickly enough.
What Are The Best Kind Of Apples To Use For Shaker Chicken?
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 Walnut Bottom Apple Pie or Bourbon Pecan Apple Pie Cheesecake maybe.
For this version of Shaker Chicken Pudding, use any apple variety you like. I grab one each of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. Golden Delicious practically melt into the sauce and make things thick and sweet. Granny Smith hold their shape and lend balance introducing a tart element to an otherwise sweet-before-savory dish.
What To Eat With Shaker Chicken Pudding?
Shaker Chicken Pudding is a warm and comforting casserole that pairs well with wide noodles, Spätzle, or rice. Warm homemade biscuits would make a nice pillow for a heaping spoonful of this casserole to rest on, too.
Shaker Chicken Pudding
- an 8 x 8-inch or 9 x 9-inch baking dish
- 2 – 3 cups leftover white meat rotisserie or cooked chicken breasts diced into 1 x 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup apples diced, about 1 large or 2 medium-sized apples
- 1 cup sweet onion such as Vidalia rough chopped
- 1 cup celery chopped
- 4 ounces salted butter
- 4 ounces fresh pressed apple cider divided
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- pinch fresh nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 12 ounces cream may substitute whole milk
- ½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs may substitute homemade bread crumbs
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare a baking dish by liberally 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. NOTE: you may either peel your apples or leave the skin on. I use two apples, peeling one and leaving the skin on the other.
- 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. NOTE: if using homemade bread crumbs, consider adding dried herbs to enhance their flavor such as oregano, basil, and marjoram.
- Pour the chicken mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until casserole bubbles. Serve over Spätzle, wide noodles, or rice.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.