Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Homestead Company Supper or How Old-Timers Cooked Chicken

Back in the days of old, dear children... before the internets, before the Food Network, and EVEN before Julia Child dropped that turkey on PBS, recipes were passed from hand to hand by people who prepared food from memory, from experience, and from their hearts... and then tried to reduce all that to a 3x5 index card for their pals.

I remember one sweet, little old lady who knew how to bake the world's greatest sweet potato pie but didn't know how to read or write.  Although we begged her for the recipe, well... she couldn't oblige because there just wasn't one.  So one of us had the bright idea to invite her over to bake one of her pies while eagerly recording her every move.  It started out something like this:
"First you git y'self a saucer and you dip out about 3 saucers of flour..."
Yeah, that was the end of that idea.  I've never forgotten those glorious pies, though...

But I digress.  The reason I bring up old recipes is because I have one to share.

This recipe is a good 150 years old from the days when people kept a coop full of (free range) chickens and a (grass fed) milk cow in the barn, when you slaughtered your own (humanely raised) pig every year and cured your own (nitrate-free) bacon in a smokehouse in the yard.  Don't worry; I'm not going to ask you to do any of those things (unless you really want to.)  What I am going to ask is that you respect a recipe that might sound kind of weird.  Back in Granny's granny's granny's day, it was company supper.

Now let's get started.  First you git y'self three or four pounds of bone-in chicken parts...  

Thighs are great for this recipe, and I prefer skinless, but there are no rules.

You also need
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 quart plus 1/4 cup of whole milk
    4 strips of bacon
    5 tablespoons of butter, cut into pats
    a cup or two of crushed cracker crumbs
          (Ritz, saltine, gluten-free Nut Thins, whatever)
Preheat your oven to 400F.  In a pie pan, blend together the 2 beaten eggs and the 1/4 cup of milk.
Spread the cracker crumbs in another pie pan.

Dip each chicken piece first into the egg mixture and then into crumbs to cover.  Layer the chicken pieces into the bottom of a deep, heavy casserole dish.  Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the 4 strips of bacon and the pats of butter on top.  Pour the remaining quart of whole milk over all.

Place the casserole on the center rack of your oven, and bake... until it's done.  UNTIL IT'S DONE!  That is exactly what my old recipe says.  But I recommend an hour to an hour and a half until very brown and very bubbly.

To serve this, carefully remove the crusty chicken pieces to a serving platter.  (They will be fall-off-the-bone tender.)

Do not be daunted by what remains:  a goopy, sometimes curdly-looking mess.  Transfer that mess to a hot skillet and whisk it smooth.  (Add salt to taste and a little more milk or some chicken stock if you wish to thin it out.)  It will make the thickest, smokiest, tastiest sauce you've ever had.  You can spoon a little over the chicken pieces.  You can serve it as a gravy with some cooked rice or mashed potatoes.

This recipe is actually a two-fer.  Because whatever sauce you have left over can also be used in place of canned cream of chicken soup in any number of recipes that call for that particular ingredient, like
this simple but delicious one-skillet breakfast.
It won't be as fantastically neon yellow as the canned stuff, but it will be fantastically yummy.

Company Chicken


3-4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 eggs, beaten

1 quart plus ¼ cup whole milk

4 strips bacon

5 Tbsp. butter, cut into pats

1-2 cups crushed cracker crumbs

Salt and pepper

Chicken stock (if needed)

1.    Preheat your oven to 440 degrees F.
2.    In a pie pan or shallow dish, blend the beaten eggs and the ¼ cup milk.
3.    In a second pie pan, spread the cracker crumbs.
4.    Dip each chicken piece first into the egg mixture, then the crumbs to coat.
5.    Layer chicken pieces into a heavy casserole dish.
6.    Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
7.    Arrange the bacon strips and butter pats on top of the chicken.
8.    Pour over the remaining quart of milk.
9.    Bake on the center rack for an hour to an hour and a half until very brown and very bubbly
10. Transfer the very tender chicken pieces to a platter and keep warm.
11. Transfer the remaining sauce-like substance to a hot skillet and whisk until smooth.  Add a bit of chicken stock to thin if needed.
12. Spoon prepared sauce over the chicken pieces to serve.


  1. I love, love, love this and I love your blog! YES! Good ol' fashion cooking at it's finest! How many of our problems would be solved if we just cooked and ate this simply (yet deliciously) everyday!

    I love recipes where you just throw stuff together, let it cook, and them make some gravy out of what's left! I've never seen this recipe and can't wait to try it!

    Found you on Full Plate Thursdays!

    1. Trisha, you're awesome! Thanks so much, and come back again!

  2. This looks delicious!

  3. Using the leftovers for cream soup replacement is awesome. The best recipes are the ones passed down. They are tried and true. I wonder if I could use panko for the crackers? Thanks

    1. I don't see any reason why you couldn't use panko, Margaret Anne. The coating doesn't get crispy because there is so much liquid, but it all melds nicely to make a thick sauce. If you try it, let me know how it turns out. And come back again!

  4. This sounds yummy! :)

    Thanks for joining the Link Up this week!

  5. This looks delicious! Not to mention, fairly easy to make, which I love:)
    Thanks for sharing this on the Mommy Needs A Time Out Thursday Link up!

  6. Congratulations!
    Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday this week. Enjoy your new Red Plate and your weekend!
    Miz Helen

  7. All of my grandmas and great grandmas cooking was way better than any other food I've ever had, so I won't be knocking any of it. And this has to be good- bacon, butter, cracker crumbs? Yum! I love that you make a gravy with the leftovers in the pan too! This looks and sounds amazing. I'm looking forward to trying it (and thank you, by the way, for not making me figure out when "until it's done" is). ;)
    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe with us at Delicious Dish Tuesday! <3

  8. I love this! And I so wish I could have been in that kitchen while y'all were getting her recipe lol! Thanks so much for sharing, your post was the most viewed this week and is featured in tonight's linkup! Pinned :-)

    Ashley @

  9. Love this! Thanks for linking up with "Try a New Recipe Tuesday." Hope you can join us again this week.

  10. This sounds divine and I just so happen to have all of the ingredients right here at home! Any thoughts on the use of buttermilk in this recipe instead of the whole milk? I've been starting to use more buttermilk in my cooking, especially for fried chicken and I'm in love! I just didn't know how it might come out in the sauce. Don't want to ruin this tasty dish, lol. I think this is going on next weeks meal plan, though the chicken thighs aren't bone in, so I may have to adjust the cooking time. Thanks for sharing this on the Sunshine Life Blog Link Up!