Chicken Delicious, from the Thorn Grove Baptist Church cookbook, is kind of like the casserole version of the everything bagel. It combines several different elements of 1960s/1970s cuisine into a single dish, and then amps it up to eleven by wrapping everything in bacon and seasoning with MSG. Outside of whatever fungal matter exists in the canned mushroom soup there’s nary a vegetable to be found. The coup de gras is the chipped beef, which lines the bottom of the casserole dish. In context of the overall dish it’s wholly unnecessary. It adds a little bit of color and maybe some saltiness, but it’s more like a garnish than anything else. Maybe everything bagel is the wrong comparison. It’s more like those hamburgers with pastrami and a fried egg and grilled cheese sandwiches for buns.
The original recipe calls for monosodium glutamate (MSG) in an unspecified amount. I am a big fan of MSG in most situations but here it’s just plain overkill. Between the mushroom soup and bacon you’ve already got plenty of umami bomb going on, and I’d recommend leaving the MSG out altogether. When I make this I don’t even salt the chicken because there’s already enough salt in the soup and chipped beef. If you live near a Trader Joe’s I’d recommend seasoning the chicken with their 21-Seasoning Salute spice blend instead of salt and pepper. It’s salt-free and MSG-free but adds plenty of flavor and a smidge more umami without taking it over the top.
The woman who contributed the recipe, Virginia C., and her family are responsible for some of the best recipes in the Thorn Grove Baptist Church cookbook, including the Fire and Ice Tomatoes. This family clearly doesn’t do anything halfway. Mrs. C. died a couple of years ago, just a month shy of her hundredth birthday. If I ate food like this all the time I’d be surprised to make it past fifty.
- 1 5 oz jar sliced dried beef (such as Hormel or Armour brand)
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- freshly ground black pepper
- monosodium glutamate (in original recipe, but not recommended)
- 6 strips thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon
- 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (low-sodium variety, if available)
- 1 pint dairy sour cream
- tabasco sauce
- Butter a 13 x 9 casserole dish and line with chipped beef, overlapping as needed to cover the bottom of the dish.
- Season chicken breasts on all sides with salt and pepper. There is a lot of sodium elsewhere in this recipe so keep a steady hand with the salt. Wrap each breast with a bacon strip.
- affix the bacon to the chicken with a toothpick. Sear the bacon-wrapped chicken breast in a hot skillet 2-3 minutes on each side until bacon is a little bit crispy and chicken in nicely browned. Remove the toothpick.
- Place the bacon-wrapped chicken on top of the chipped beef in the casserole dish. Combine soup and sour cream with the tabasco sauce and pour over the top.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour at 325 F. Uncover and bake for an additional hour or until chicken is cooked through (165 degrees internal temperature) and mixture is bubbly and lightly browned around the edges.