Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Church Cookbook Recipe Renovation- Company Chicken

Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away.... no wait. That's a different story. Well just about that far away and long ago my late mother-in-law used to make this baked chicken dish. She called it Company Chicken, and she got the recipe from the cookbook assembled and published by the ladies at the Evangelical Covenant Church in Des Moines. She made this dish all the time, and man oh man, was it ever good. Naughty. Really naughty and totally not healthy in any way. Company Chicken was simple to make and required ingredients most people had on hand: chicken, bacon, canned soup, sour cream and a jar of dried chipped beef. 

Like so many old church cookbook recipes, there wasn't a lot of seasoning or herbs going on. Just basic belly-filling food. Here's the deal- take a boneless skinless chicken breast half, wrap it in a couple slices of chipped beef, then wrap that in a couple slices of bacon and put it in a casserole dish. Mix together canned cream of something soup (usually chicken) and a cup of sour cream and pour that over. Bake it, probably about an hour, seems like most of those dishes are 350 degrees for an hour, and you get this rich, creamy sauce and these juicy chicken breasts wrapped in salty savory goodness. Add some mashed potatoes and a vegetable and it's "good enough for company." It really was good! I've even made it a bunch of times for my own family.

Times have changed and while I am not particularly concerned about turning those recipes into health food, they often do need an upgrade- modern ingredients and new techniques (or heck, old techniques, just new to the dish) and fresh combinations can take those dated old recipes and turn them into something totally new. I've talked about how my mom cooked every evidence of life and freshness out of just-picked garden-grown vegetables. So did Evelyn. Freshly snapped beans looked like they came from a can from the grocery store, spinach or broccoli cooked into oblivion. What they did to asparagus would make you cry. My renovation includes fresh asparagus as well as red bell pepper and keeps the fresh flavor and texture intact. I still use a can of cream of chicken soup, but the sauce is a little less rich with half the sour cream and milk added. Let's get this renovation on the road!

Modern Company Chicken

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 slices bacon
small bunch scallions
1 large red bell pepper
1 bunch asparagus
Penzey's Greek Seasoning*
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper

Clean the scallions and cut into 2-3 inch pieces. Cut the bell pepper into julienne strips. Snap the ends off the asparagus. Set vegetables aside.

In a small bowl, stir the soup until it's smooth, adding the sour cream and milk. Pour into a large baking pan, like a lasagna pan, or a deep 9x13 pan. Set aside for now.

Pound out the chicken breasts to an even thickness. On a board, lay on strip of bacon, pointing away from you. Lay the chicken breast on top of the bacon, so it's centered underneath. Sprinkle liberally with the Greek Seasoning. On each breast lay 3 or 4 pieces of scallion, 3 or 4 pieces of red pepper, and 5 or 6 asparagus spears. Roll up using the bacon strip to help, and securing with a toothpick. The bacon makes it easy to secure with pick. Place the roll in the baking dish in the sauce. Continue with all the chicken breasts.

Sprinkle additional Greek Seasoning over, and salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for about an hour until chicken is cooked through, bacon is crisp and the sauce is thickened. Serve with rice, spooning the sauce over.

*I used Penzey's Greek Seasoning for this dish but you can use any seasoning blend you like. Italian seasoning is also delicious.

This was such a great update to a classic homestyle recipe. The vegetables inside the chicken were cooked perfectly and the sauce is rich and creamy without being overly heavy. I'm a huge fan of roasted vegetables and the asparagus and pepper had that roasted flavor and texture. The bacon is super crispy and delicious on top, but on the bottom it stays soft, and the fat from the bacon lends another savory element to the sauce that's really delicious.

For me, this was such a successful "renovation" I think I'll spend some quality time with those old cookbooks, and see what else could use a little remodeling.


  1. This looks delicious! Adding it to my menu sometime soon.

    1. It was soooo good. I love anything with asparagus in it