Chickens Surprise

Take half a pound of rice, set it over a fire in soft water, when it is half-boiled put in two or three small chickens truss’d, with two or three blades of mace, and a little salt; take a piece of bacon about three inches square, and boil it in water whilst almost enough, then take it out, pare off the out sides, and put it into the chickens and rice to boil a little together; (you must not let the broth be over thick with rice) then take up your chickens, lay them on a dish, pour over them the rice, cut your bacon in thin slices to lay around your chickens, and upon the breast of each a slice. This is proper for a side-dish.

From Elizabeth Moxon, English Housewifery, 1764

Chicken Surprise (modern)

  • 1 cup rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 chicken cup up into pieces or 4 chicken breasts
  • 3 blades mace or 1½ teaspoons ground mace
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 slices thick bacon, uncooked
  • 4 slices thick bacon, cooked

Take the chicken pieces and brown in the stew pot, cooking for 5 to 10 minutes on each side. Remove and add the 3 cups water to the pot. Stir to remove the brown bits on the bottom. Add the rice, chicken, mace, salt and uncooked bacon. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, cover and cook for approximately 20 minutes. If the rice is not ready, but there is no liquid, add up to ½ a cup of water until all is cooked. When dishing out, place one slice cooked bacon on each serving to garnish.

This project was developed through a Teaching American History Grant partnership between Anne Arundel County Public Schools, the Center for History Education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and Historic London Town and Gardens.