Chicken Dinners: Herbed Stuffing Chicken Crunch Bake


A retro favorite [Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

I love this dish. Chicken crunch is a retro dish that was one of those super kid-friendly chicken recipes that I'd constantly beg my mom to make while growing up. Cream of mushroom soup-dipped chicken drumsticks and thighs are completely enveloped in crunchy instant stuffing crumbs, and then roasted up good and golden. I recently rang my mom up and scribbled down the recipe, then did a quick online search out of curiosity. I was shocked by the results. You see, for the longest time I believed my family had invented the dish because it had been labeled "Aunt Judy's Chicken Crunch" in my mom's cookbook. Sorry, Mom, but it was Campbell's Soup.

However, after reviewing the present Campbell's chicken crunch recipe online, I noticed something was amiss. This was clearly not the recipe that I remember, and the one that my mom had just given me. Chicken parts had been replaced by white meat chicken breast, and the chopped mushrooms and onion had completely disappeared. What the heck? After a bit more online digging, I found a copy of "Campbell's Chicken Crunch" from 1965 and sure enough, it matched mine.

The idea of a chicken bake with canned soup and instant stuffing scared the crap out of my Aussie husband (he ran off to grab takeout), but I couldn't wait to savor this tasty American dish from my childhood. His loss. I'm happy to sit with my memories and the whole damn dish all to myself.

In keeping with the spirit of the original, I started off with moist and flavorful dark meat chicken and dipped the pieces in the mushroom soup mixture before rolling them heavily in the crushed stuffing crumbs. While the original recipe adds a few chopped mushooms and dehydrated onion to the soup mixture, I wanted to beef up the mushrooms in my dish, so I sautéed a few handfuls (I used shiitake) with a fresh onion, and then spread them into the baking dish as a base for the chicken. I tripled the crumbs (the crunchy coating is the best part), and then drizzled the extra soup mix in between the chicken pieces. After baking, the extra crumbs that fell to the bottom nicely soaked up the liquid of the soup, the chicken juices, and the mushrooms.

While the original says to pour the extra soup over the chicken as a gravy, I prefer the all-in-one nature of this bake. Crunchy coating all over the top, with moist stuffing in between. A simple spinach salad on the side completes the meal. I guess I've rewritten the recipe back into the family cookbook.

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Herbed Stuffing Chicken Crunch Bake »