Recipe 2: Good Housekeeping’s Chicken Terrapin (1909)

I have learned several things during my first week as a blogger:

  • Chances are, my “original ideas” have been done online.
  • Lots of people enjoy vintage/retro cooking.
  • There are many knowledgeable individuals online in the area of vintage/retro cooking.
  • Blogging takes a lot of work! It amazes me that other bloggers can make such wonderful posts and make it look effortless!

All of these things are in my mind as I time travel to 1909 thanks to the assistance of the Good Housekeeping Woman’s Home Cookbook. This has always been one of my favorite times in the 20th Century (I even did my first research report in 5th grade on life in the early part of the 1900’s). I was excited to see how things were done when my Great Grandma (the only great-grandparent I ever knew) was 12 years old.

This book is very interesting if you ever get a chance to read through it!

I am very naive and innocently thought that “Chicken Terrapin” was a cute name for a certain kind of chicken preparation. Perhaps it is the chicken made the way it is in Maryland (the terrapin is mascot for the University of Maryland)? WRONG! As I learned from blogger Julia Baird on Cloud 9 Cookery the original recipes prepared in this way used ACTUAL turtles but shifted to other meats as the terrapin population declined around the turn of the century. There are horrifying (to me) descriptions of how to cook a turtle online, so I will spare you the details. I am learning that these vintage recipes mean what they say and say what they mean, no cute names or descriptions.

The recipe is as follows: “Make a sauce with two level tablespoons of butter, two of flour, and one cup of cream, or half cream and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. When boiling hot remove from the fire, add two well-beaten eggs and one pint of chopped cold chicken. Butter individual dishes or one baking dish, pour in the chicken mixture and place the dishes in a pan of hot water. Spread crumbs on the top and bake in a moderate oven for twenty minutes. Serve at once. ” (page 168)

So, first I boiled the chicken, I used white meat chicken breasts), chopped it, and let it cool:

Then, I started the sauce as described above and started beating the eggs:


My husband helped me with the water bath, which neither of us had ever done before:

The last step was covering the dish in breadcrumbs and sticking it in the oven! We baked it for about 30 minutes or so on 350 degrees (we went a little longer than the recipe said).

When it was removed from the oven, we were unable to get a good picture of the actual dish (you know it’s a bad picture when I won’t show it given the quality of some of the others that I have posted).

The final product looked like this:

Overall, this dish was very different that any that we normally have. My father predicted that food from this time period might taste blander than modern food because of the availability of spices, and I think he was correct. However, the lack of spice was balanced with an abundance of cream and butter. Therefore, it is no surprise that my husband thought that this dish was “fantastic” and that he would definitely eat it again.

Time Travel Experience: This one was different…from the water bath to the whole cup of cream involved in cooking, I really could imagine eating this in 1909 (but ONLY the chicken version, I do not want to imagine eating terrapin or any other animal cooked like this). The recipe was simple and the flavor was mild, so to us it felt like a dish out of another time. My husband said it felt very French, and while I don’t think this is based on a French dish I know very little about the history of cooking and am probably wrong.

Overall Verdict: 10/10 (husband) 7/10 (me)-I told my husband that not everything we ate could be a 10/10 and we had to give honest criticism. This was a very good dish, but I am not sure it is perfection. It was a little bland and a bit rich for me, but I did enjoy the crunchy bread crumbs on the top. I think my husband would say anything with this much butter and cream is phenomenal…

…and I think Chloe agrees!

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