Maryland Spring Chicken

I just couldn’t wait another day, so here’s a preview of what’s to come once the Dang Good Cooking! blog goes live next week! I’ve got some Sweets, some Man Food, some Comfort Food and a few tips and tricks lined up. Hope to see you on August 18th!  This is Maryland Spring Chicken – Yum!

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Say hello to a dish that was created on a train – Maryland Spring Chicken!  During the golden age of Pullman cars, a creative chef in a cramped train kitchen invented this recipe.  I found it in a church supper cookbook, at a tag sale, WAY back in the early 1970’s. 

I loved the idea and story of the dish so much that I just had to try making it.  And once I made it, I was in love!  A chef on a train figured out how to make a gourmet chicken dish using only a few simple ingredients and one cast iron skillet – what’s not to love about that?!

Over the years I’ve tried variations on the recipe but always come back to the basics.  So here goes – gather up these ingredients and cook up some delicious tonight.

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Now that you have all your goodies assembled, it’s time to chop up the bacon and get it into the skillet.  I like my bacon cut into 1″ pieces. 

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Slide your bacon pieces into the skillet, then turn the skillet to medium heat to let it gently cook and brown.  You don’t want it to brown too quickly, so adjust your heat till it’s just a gentle sizzle, not a full-on-gonna-have-crispy-bacon-slices sizzle.  Stir them around a bit to break apart the chunks.  You want the entire bottom of the skillet to be covered in bacon!

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Once the bacon is doing its thing in the skillet, it’s time to breakdown the chicken.  For anyone who hasn’t done this before, it’s easy peasy!  Start by removing the spare parts from the inside of the chicken, then rinse it well under cold water.  Set the rinsed chicken on some paper towels to drain, then proceed as follows:

Lay the chicken on a cutting board, then cut through the breast.  Slice around the breastbone on the right side of the bird, then press down hard

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with your knife to split the chicken open.  Now use a paring knife to carefully cut around the piece of breastbone and cartilege that’s hanging off of the left side of the breast.  See?  That wasn’t so hard!

Next, flip the chicken over and use your butcher knife to rock down HARD on the backbone.  This will split the chicken and you’ll end up with 2 equal halves.  Now turn the halves right side up again and finish the last two steps. 

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Take the half chicken in your hands and pull the leg portion away from the breast.  You’ll need to really force them apart.  Do it hard enough and you’ll hear the thigh bone pop out of joint.  Once the joint has popped, place your knife in the crevice you created and slice right down through it to create 2 pieces of thicken.  Repeat the procedure with the other half of the chicken. 

  Now grab the breast portion and use your hands to pull out the wing till you hear a pop, then slice off the wings at the joint you created.  Repeat for the other breast and you’re almost done.

 

 What’s left?  Just removing the wing tips my friend and then rinsing the pieces and patting them dry… good job!!

 

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 While the chicken is air drying on your freshly cleaned cutting board, go give your bacon a gentle stir.  It should be quite soft now, but not browned yet.  If it seems to be browning, turn your heat down a bit.

Back to the chicken.  It’s time to lightly oil and flour the skin side of the chicken pieces.

Just a light coating of oil, and nope, it doesn’t really matter what oil you use, just grab whatever you have handy!  And now start sprinkling the skin with your seasoned flour.  Sprinkle it till the chicken has absorbed all it can hold and looks nice and white. 

These are some of my favorite kitchen helpers. They're Dang Good and I love 'em!

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Time to add the chicken to the bacon!  Here’s what the bacon should look like by now.  Give it a good stir, then sprinkle about half of the teaspoon of nutmeg into the bacon.  Yes, I know that you can see that I don’t hand grate my nutmeg, so I’ll just fess up right here – ready?  I almost ALWAYS use herbs and spices in a jar!  Uh huh, I do and I don’t feel guilty about it.  They’re easy and they taste good.  Nuff said.  😉 

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Now add your chicken pieces to the skillet, skin side down.  You want them squished into the pan so that they get all touchy feely in there! If you see any bacon peeking out, smush a hunk of chicken over it.

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Once you have all the chicken in the skillet it’s time to sprinkle the rest of that nutmeg over the bare side of the chicken.  Oh yeah, I call that the nekkid side, or bare side, as opposed to the skin side. Why?  Ummm, cuz I’m weird that way?

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Now it’s time to let the gentle heat and the bacon work their magic.  Turn the heat to medium low, then walk away.  Just walk away I say!  Don’t touch the chicken for at least 20 minutes. 

Did you wait 20 minutes?  You did??  YAY!  Then you have my permission to gently lift up one chicken breast to check it.  You want to see a nice brown, crispy skin and some bits of brown bacon sticking to that skin.  If you see that, it’s time to turn over the chicken.  If not, turn up the heat a bit and leave it for another 10 minutes.

Ready to turn your chicken over?

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Just look at that golden brown skin and the awesome hunks of bacon all over it!  Oh gosh, made myself drool…sheesh.  Time to add the first can of evaporated milk.  Just pour it right into the skillet, but don’t pour it on top of the chicken, don’t want that skin getting mushy now do we?  Do we??  Oh sorry, got carried away for a minute there. 

So add that first can of evaporated milk, then turn up the heat to high to bring it to a rolling boil.  Once it boils, turn the heat back down to medium low.

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Here’s a little trick I learned several decades ago.  If you want to cook stovetop chicken all the way through, while keeping it nice and moist, but NOT turning the skin to mush, offset a lid on top of the pan.  Here’s how I do it:  I place a heavy wooden spoon halfway into the skillet, with the handle resting on the handle of the skillet.  Then I put a large pot lid on top.   That lid has seen better days, but it still does the job, so I keep it hanging around in the back of my pan cupboard. 

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Ok, back to the recipe.  Let the chicken simmer for 10 minutes, then lift the lid and pour in the second can of evaporated milk.  Simmer for another 10 minutes and it’s ready to serve!

I like to pile all the chicken pieces onto one large plate, then pour about half of the sauce over the top to coat the chicken just before serving.  I use the other half of the sauce to pour over mashed potatoes or rice (it all depends on what I have handy in the cupboard – I’ve even been known to pour it over biscuits if the pantry is bare).  Whatever you pour it on, be sure to sop up every last tasty bit – that’s what bread is for, right?

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Maryland Spring Chicken
 
Say hello to a dish that was created on a train! During the golden age of Pullman cars, a creative chef in a cramped train kitchen invented this recipe. I found it in a church supper cookbook, at a tag sale, WAY back in the early 1970′s.
Author:
Recipe type: One Dish Chicken
Cuisine: Old - very old!
Ingredients
  • 1 4-5lb. Fryer Chicken
  • 4 tbsp. Canola Oil - or whatever oil you have handy
  • ½ cup Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 6 slices Bacon - Cut into squares (just cut the whole slab of slices with a pair of scissors)
  • 1 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 2 cups Cream or 2 Cans of Evaporated Milk (they used evap. milk on the trains)(Toni uses Evaporated Milk)
  • Paprika for added color- Optional
Instructions
  1. Fry bacon pieces in a large skillet over medium-low to medium heat until slightly brown but not crispy.
  2. Cut chicken into quarters, then remove wings to make 6 pieces of chicken. I like to also remove the wing tips - they just get in the way anyways!
  3. Brush with oil and dredge with flour, salt, and pepper.
  4. Stir bacon, then sprinkle half of the nutmeg over the bacon.
  5. Place chicken skin side down on top of bacon (without draining off fat). Sprinkle the chicken with the rest of the nutmeg. Leave the skillet uncovered and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
  6. After 20 minutes, check the chicken. The skin should be golden brown and some bits of bacon should be stuck to the skin. If not, cook for another 10 minutes. Once the skin is golden brown, turn chicken pieces over.
  7. Add 1 can of evaporated milk or 1 cup of cream, turn heat up to high to bring to a boil, then return to medium-low, and cook uncovered (or with an offset lid) to let milk cook down. After 10 minutes, add the remaining evaporated milk or cream.
  8. Turn heat up to medium and let the chicken simmer for 10 minutes, then serve hot.
  9. To serve:
  10. Spoon cream gravy over chicken pieces, sprinkle with paprika to garnish. Is awesome served with garlic mashed potatoes to use up the extra sauce!
Notes
Toni's Notes: To cut a bit of the fat and calories you can drain off the bacon fat after you render it down and you can use skim evaporated milk in place of the cream/evaporated milk. You can also spray the chicken with Pam spray instead of using oil before the flour. The flour will stick just as nicely using Pam.

 

Comments

  1. jimt1939@frontiernet.net'Marylyn & Jim says

    I ALWAYS knew you were a fabulous cook!! Now I can have some of your great knowledge. If I gain a million pounds (and I know that is coming), I am both blaming and thanking you!! Keep up the grewat work, my friend.

    • Toni says

      Thank you so much Marilyn! You’re such an encouragement AND my oldest and dearest friend. Tell ya what, you gain a million pounds (hah, you were always the skinny one!) and I’ll come visit you and make you tons of diet meals. Deal?

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