Chicken Pudding, a Favourite Virginia Dish

A favorite dish in its day, this chicken pudding combines elements of a quiche and a cake. Savory yet wholesome, this dish could easily become a favorite in your family, too.

18th Century

Beat ten eggs very light, add to them a quart of rich milk, with a quarter of a pound of butter melted, and some pepper and salt; stir in as much flour as will make a thin good batter; take four young chickens, and after cleaning them nicely, cut off the legs wings &c. put them all in a sauce pan, with some salt and water, and a bundle of thyme and parsley, boil them till nearly done, then take the chicken from the water and put it in the batter pour it in a dish, and bake it; send nice white gravy in a boat.

Randolph, Mary, “The Virginia Housewife,” 1827.

21st Century

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups of milk (or 1 ½ cups milk and ½ cup cream for richer flavor)
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup or more of flour (for thickening)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 cups of pre-cooked shredded chicken meat (mix of light and dark)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of parsley flakes
  1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk until blended well.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter and whisk in flour, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add a little more flour if it is too thin.
  3. Add the egg and milk mixture to the butter and flour combination. Whisk until smooth and remove from heat.
  4. Add the chicken, thyme and parsley to the above mixture and blend well.
  5. Pour into a greased casserole or a deep 9” pie plate.
  6. Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted halfway between the center and side comes out clean.
  7. Allow to rest 10 minutes and either slice or spoon and serve.
  8. Optional: You can serve this with a light chicken gravy.

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18 Responses to “Chicken Pudding, a Favourite Virginia Dish”

  1. May 16th, 2013

    theo says:

    This sounds yummy, but don’t you need to temper the egg/milk mixture before adding it to the butter/flour mixture?

  2. May 17th, 2013

    Isara says:

    Theo: I just made this dish and you don’t need to do anything special. Just as the recipe says

  3. May 18th, 2013

    theo says:

    Thanks! I’m out of town this weekend but I think this is Sunday dinner next.

  4. May 18th, 2013

    Dennis Cotner says:

    Theo and Isara,
    You don’t need to temper the mixture but it will work if you feel comfortable doing it that way. It is pretty straight forward. Thanks for your comments.
    Dennis Cotner

  5. May 24th, 2013

    Helen Robison FitzGerald says:

    This receipt has fascinated me for years. I am anxious to try it out, finally. I have few questions on this dish from a historical perspective:
    1. It’s my understanding that sacrificing a chicken to eat was quite an extravagance. And 4 – no less and specifically for this dish (not leftovers from a roast).
    2. The ingredients of many eggs and rich milk! Wow.
    3. A “made” dish.

    I am interested in the Foodways team’s thoughts on this dish as a table presentation. What would the diners have thought? Further, without a delicate means of controlling the heat, this dish could very well turn out tough, rubbery, etc. – A great waste of such expensive ingredients.

    Best regards as always,
    Helen
    P.S. I’m sorry to have missed you. I was in town for “The Chesapeake House” conference and only made it to the Governor’s grounds past five.

  6. May 25th, 2013

    Glaiza Manas says:

    In which country did this dish come from? What is the history of this dish? 🙂

  7. June 12th, 2013

    Pam Williams says:

    Some random ramblings…
    Mrs. Randolph doesn’t say anything about removing chicken from the bone. I have eaten this dish, with the chicken still on the bone. It wasn’t visually attractive – not that it had an 18c requirement to be so. Is this one of those deals where one is supposed to “intuit” the removal of c hicken from the bone? And I fully understand that the bone does imbue flavor to the dish.

    The modern adaptation calls for “shredded” chicken. By this recommendation, are you inferring the removal of chicken from the bone? Because it seems to humble me that, if one heads to the local grocery and purchases a package of Mr. Perdue (or others – no commercial intended here!) pre-sliced/shredded c hicken…one will not arrive at the same taste.

    I could SWEAR I made this someplace and cooked chicken and removed from bone. Old brain cells dont remember having “a bone to pick” while eating when I made it – as opposed to my first experience!!!

    • June 18th, 2013

      Historic Foodways says:

      Hi Pam,

      Your comments on the pudding are well founded. It is always a tough thing in historical research to understand the wording and the work of our 18th century counterparts. Period recipes work on the principle that you know how to cook whereas today we are generally following a recipe verbatim. It is generally inferred in something like this recipe that the bones are removed (but not always). We decided to say ‘shredded’ in the modern translation because it will be easier to eat that way. Shredded would mean without bone of course. You can use just white meat if you want or a mixture, the choice is yours.

      Thanks for the comments.
      Dennis Cotner

  8. June 13th, 2013

    Ana says:

    Oh, this sounds yummy!

  9. June 18th, 2013

    Pam Williams says:

    Thanks, Dennis…

    The bone in chicken was, to my modern eye and “service” ethic, unattractive and awkward! But…I underscore the word MODERN here!!! I am always of the belief that the inclusion of dark meat with light from any fowl gives a tastier product – I use both in my chicken salad. My mother always insisted the meat be cooled in the broth as well – for added flavor! And, I would make the assumption that our “forecooks” used both as well. But…that’s my 21st century ASSUMPTION!!!! Someday, maybe one of us will stumble upon a document that defines the 18th century culinary vocabulary – and mind!!! – more fully. But…gotta say… it is sure fun (and fattening) to figure it out!!!

  10. June 18th, 2013

    Jo Ann Ptack says:

    The great debate…to bone or not to bone…I would agree with removing the bones but the directions say to “boil them till nearly done”. Working on the principal that Mrs. Randolph knows how to cook, she would have known that it comes off the bones much easier when fully cooked. To remove the bones when “nearly done” would require cutting it from the bones. It finishes cooking when it’s baked. It’s not as attractive, but I vote she means bone in.

  11. June 21st, 2013

    Helen FitzGerald says:

    I vote for bone in as well. I’ve never eaten an “old chicken” – fowl as I understand it was termed. But certainly chicken that needs to cook a long time and be the better for it, is better cooked on the bone. Modern legs and thighs could be used.
    It occurs to me that my daughter and I had “Beggar’s Chicken” last summer in Shanghai. The entire chicken was cooked somewhat with the idea of “in a case” in that it was wrapped in lotus leaves and then clay. When opened, ALL of the meat came off the bone and could be eaten with fingers or a fork.
    Great discussion! Keep them coming, and thanks.

  12. June 22nd, 2013

    Pam Williams says:

    I think that I had a bad case of looking at this receipt with 21st century “aesthetic” eyes. And imparting present day “likes” on it.

    If you search this receipt on the net, you get a number of hits for later ones – mid to late 19c. Every single one of them is specific…put the whole chicken parts, with bone, into the pudding. ONLY modern “iterations” call for boning. And, I’m sure that, out there in the world of cuisine, there is a recipe from Perdue that tells you to use their precooked, shredded stuff!!!!

    Sensibly, taste wise, any dish with meat left on the bone, and any use of dark meat does make a dish more flavorful.
    So. Whole parts for me now!!!!

  13. October 29th, 2013

    Alli Batchelder says:

    I’ve made this per Randolph’s “the Virginia Housewife” as well as the 21st century version. The above presents an improvement. Specifically, cooking the flour and in those proportions achieves a lighter pudding batter. Some changes I’ve made over the years are as follows– use two shy shakes of a good curry to add depth of flavor; used a Bachamel sauce with a sweet onion base-has been indespensible. Laborious but worth it. Use a dash of nutmeg in Bachamel, luscious; simmered breasts, chicken tenderloins, and a chicken cut-up and tenderloins seem the least gamey, which was I think the point of the original simmer-in-herbs recipe. But the subtle herb taste mixes so well with salt and pepper so don’t miss out! People go nuts over this dish. Just don’t overcook the pudding or undercook the chicken with bones- easy to do if not slowly simmered. And rename the dish since the name”chicken pudding” makes people nauseous. Personal taste-I get rid of the skin and it’s goopy soft texture. But hey, to each her own ! PS “notes on pudding” is good to read from T. V. H., a fascinating book.

  14. March 23rd, 2014

    Malyson says:

    We hosted an open-fire period recipe cook-off yesterday and I made the Chicken Pudding. I doubled the recipe and baked it in a Dutch oven. I opted to use boneless breasts and thighs, cut in large pieces, and sauteed them in butter before adding to the pudding, along with some diced carrots, onions, and celery. It was delicious!

  15. July 21st, 2014

    Alex Colvin says:

    I’m not a huge fan of Thyme, but this dish may have converted me. 🙂 Was excellent. Garnish is a Black-eyed Susan from my garden.

  16. February 1st, 2016

    foxhunterbabee says:

    I have made this dish numerous times with great success! The herb mixture mixed with the the other ingredients imparts a rich buttery taste. Do not be scared of the name; it is not a pudding in the 21st century sense.

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