chestnut chickens

To Roast a Fowl with Chestnuts

Roast some chestnuts very carefully, so that they may not be burnt, and then take off the skins, and peel them. Cut about a dozen of them small, and brake them in a mortar. Parboil the liver of the fowl, bruise it, and cut about a quarter of a pound of ham or bacon, and pound it. Then mix them all together, with a good quantity of chopped parsley, sweet herbs, some mace, pepper, salt and nutmeg. Mix these together, put it into your fowl, and roast it. The best way of doing this is to tie the neck, and hang it up by the legs to roast with a string, and then baste it with butter. For sauce, you may take the rest of the chestnuts peeled and skinned, put them into some good gravy, with a little white wine, and thicken it with a piece of butter rolled in flour. Then lay your fowl in the dish, pour in the sauce, garnish with lemon, and send it up to table.

From T. Williams, The Accomplished Housekeeper, and Universal Cook, 1717

Chicken Stuffed with Chestnuts (modern)

  • 5 to 6 lb chicken, cleaned. Save the packet of innards that are in the cavity of the bird.
  • 12 roasted chestnuts, chopped fine
  • ¼ pound of cooked ham, chopped fine
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Italian herb mix
  • ½ teaspoon ground mace
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven at 450.
OPTIONAL: Take a small saucepan with some water, place over high heat and allow it to come to a boil. In the packet that came out of the bird is the liver, which is kind of mushy. The other parts are usually the neck, heart, and the lungs, which can be discarded. Take the liver and put it in the boiling water. Reduce heat and allow it to cook for 10 minutes. Once cooked, drain and mash it fine.

In a bowl, place all of the ingredients, except the chicken, and mix together well. Stuff the chicken with the mixture. Put in a roasting pan that is lined with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Cook for 1½ hours until the juices run clean from the thigh (pierce the thigh with a fork to check). Remove from oven and allow to rest covered in aluminum foil for about 15 minutes. Carve and serve. You may serve the stuffing if you wish with your portions.

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.