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Chicken Surprise

Watch our historic foodways staff cook this recipe, then try it at home

This is a wonderful use of leftover chicken, turkey, pork or even shellfish. It might really be handy around Thanksgiving when there are plenty of the necessary ingredients just waiting for some new combination.

18th Century

If a small dish, one large fowl will do; roast it, and take the lean from the bone; cut it in thin slices, about an inch long, toss it up with six or seven spoonfuls of cream, and a piece of butter rolled in flour, as big as a walnut. Boil it up and set it to cool; then cut six or seven thin slices of bacon round, place them in a patty-pan, and put some force-meat on each side; work them up in the form of a French roll, with a raw egg in your hand, leaving a hollow place in the middle; put in your fowl, and cover them with some of the same force-meat, rubbing them smooth with your hand and a raw egg; make them of the height and bigness of a French roll, and throw a little fine grated bread over them. Bake them three quarters of an hour in a gentle oven, or under a baking cover, till they come to a fine brown, and place them on your mazarine, that they may not touch one another; but place them so that they may not fall flat in the baking; or you may form them on your table with a broad kitchen knife, and place them on the thing you intend to bake them on. You may put the leg of a chicken into one of the loaves you intend for the middle. Let your sauce be gravy, thickened with butter and a little juice of lemon. This is a pretty side-dish for a first course, summer or winter, if you can get them.

— Glasse, Hannah, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” p. 100

21st Century


  • 1 cup of cooked and shredded chicken breast
  • 5 cups of your favorite stuffing mix
  • 6-7 Tbsp. of cream
  • 1 teaspoon butter rolled in flour
  • 2-4 thin slices of Virginia ham, or Canadian bacon, or regular ham cut into 2-inch rounds
  • fine bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • optional: gravy with the juice of ½ a lemon and butter added


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly coat a cookie sheet with vegetable spray.
  2. Cut ham slices into 2-inch rounds using a cookie or biscuit cutter and place on cookie sheet.
  3. Prepare your favorite bread stuffing mixture. Make sure that if you use raisins, nuts, celery, etc., in your stuffing that these items are minced very finely. This will make the molding of your stuffing into a container much easier.
  4. Shred the cooked chicken breast into thin pieces using a knife or your fingers. Place meat into a saucepan and add the 6-7 tablespoons of cream and the 1 teaspoon of butter rolled in flour. Cook over low heat until butter has melted and mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Use a flat cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter as a mold, put a 2-inch slice of ham at the bottom, and build up the sides with your prepared stuffing to a height of 2 inches.
  6. Once all containers are made, make a depression in each patty and fill it with cooled chicken mixture to the top of each container.
  7. To create lids, take some of the remaining stuffing and flatten in a round form large enough to cover over the top and place carefully on the top of your filled stuffing container.
  8. Beat the yolk of 1 egg with ½ teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush, very gently brush the sides and the lid of the container. Sprinkle fine bread crumbs lightly on top.
  9. Bake in a 325 oven for 45 minutes or until container is lightly golden in color. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing from cookie sheet with a broad flat spatula.
  10. Optional: pour warmed gravy (either homemade or bottled), to which you have added the juice of ½ a lemon and a teaspoon of butter, over top of the stuffing containers when serving.

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