I Made Milk Chicken So You Don’t Have To

You know this card. It has been passed around the internet again and again and again. It inevitably ends up on lists of bad retro foods.

milk_chicken cardAnd rightfully so! Look at that gravy–it’s like someone poured a vat of plaster on those chickens and then garnished it with banana slices.

Yes. Those are banana slices.

This piece of art is a Marguerite Patten Recipe Card (1967, Paul Hamlyn, Ltd.). And no, I didn’t just pluck this from the internet. I am a proud owner of this set of cards.

marg cards

this picture is from etsy

(You may recall that I made Golden Cap PuddingSausage Boatees, and Hot Cross Buns)

But what in the world would compel me to make MILK CHICKEN???

  1. this year Marguerite Patten would be 100
  2. there is a blog-along happening in honor of Ms. Patten’s birthday, to which I was invited.
  3. I made this so you don’t have to! 

Here’s the recipe (which I totally lifted from Vintage Recipe Cards because I am lazy and my computer is being a complete bitch when it comes to uploading images):

Cooking time: 1 – 1/2 hours
Preparation time: 15 mins
Main cooking utensil: large saucepan
For 6-8 people you need:
2 small roasting chickens, approximately 2 1/2 lb. (when trussed)
2 stalks celery
2 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg yolk
1-2 hard-cooked eggs
1-2 bananas
cooked mixed vegetables
1. Put the whole chickens (or joint them if pan is not sufficiently large) into pan, add diced celery, water, and seasoning.
2. Bring to boil; remove any scum from the top of the liquid, cover pan, lower heat, simmer gently – allow 45 minutes for jointed chicken, 1 hour for whole birds – until tender but unbroken; lift onto hot dish.
3. Blend flour with half the milk, stir into stock, cook until thickened.
4. Add the butter and the egg blended with the remainder of the milk, and COOK GENTLY without boiling for several minutes.
5. Strain some of the sauce over the birds, then garnish with the sliced hard-cooked egg, bananas, and vegetables.
TO SERVE: With the rest of the sauce and mashed potatoes
TO VARY: Serve with cooked macaroni instead of potatoes; add a little cream and sherry to the sauce at stage 4.

To begin my celebration, I invited one of my besties, Miss Iris, over and we got our Marguerite on…

Well, I don’t know where anyone gets chickens that tiny, so I used Cornish hens. And mini bananas. Because tiny chickens call for tiny bananas.


Let me point out that Marguerite’s recipe is quite vague. The card just says SEASONING. What the hell does that mean?

I made a guesstimate and sprinkled a ton of poultry seasoning onto the little hens, water, and celery.

And then got them boiling. I cooked them in the water for the full hour.

In the recipe card photo, it looks like the chickens are a little roasted, so I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen, but since the chicken was not completely submersed, the top part just steamed and, lo and behold, there was almost a little browning on the tips of the wings and the legs:


So then we made the gravy. We strained out the celery and then stirred in the flour, milk, butter, and egg. To get a nice consistency we did add more flour and milk than what Marguerite deemed appropriate.

Iris went roux-crazy.

And here’s the finished dish with mashed potatoes and mixed veg:


The hard-bolied egg was too big to have two slices on the of the chicken with the banana on top, so we just threw it in the back of the dish.

But overall a pretty good replication, no?

C’mon, give it to me–there was no way I could ever make a gravy that pasty. WHY IS IT SO WHITE?! Whyyyyyyyyyyy?

Anyway, we ate it.

milk chicken dinner

And, it was delicious! With the exception of the banana slices. There was no good reason why there would be banana slices. Why in the name of all that is holy were there banana slices?

But, it was the 60s and a lot of people did a lot of questionable things with food in the 60s. Amiright?

So overall, right on, Marguerite. Right on. And happy birthday!

Want more? Look for the #Marguerite100 hashtag on twitter, facebook, instagram and pinterest!

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13 Responses to I Made Milk Chicken So You Don’t Have To

  1. Heather says:

    I’m not even sure bananas qualify as a garnish. White on white does nothing for the looks of this dish. In any case, thanks for the public service. 🙂

  2. Dad says:


    You know how much I LOVE banana. I would have eaten those as well. Too bad the dish is not too visually pleasing. There has got to be someone to offset the look of “plaster.” Perhaps orange and lemon slices instead of banana?


  3. Kari says:

    I would say that yours, with the realistic gravy, looks a lot more appetizing! And I wonder if the bananas were added because the English were banana-deprived throughout WWII? Perhaps for years after, people added bananas to everything, just because they could.

  4. FINALLY! Someone has actually made this and it’s edible! I think that surprised me more than anything.

  5. Ruth says:

    Well, Cornish Hens are actually a small chicken, just given a fancy name! It’s a type called a broiler and can be either male or female. (Quoting Wikipedia here.) So you are good there. And I’ve always loved the white gravy you get at restaurants and other places for chicken and potatoes but have never been able to figure out how to make it either. I usually get something more beige-y. I’ve even considered buying the canned or bottled stuff.

  6. Eat The Blog says:

    I have the Victory Cookbook, and after seeing what she was forced to put together with war rations, I’d er…go bananas for every luxury fruit I could get too. The recipe cards make more sense after all the war and post-war deprivation.

    Super-thick, white milky gravy is popular in the Midwest on chicken fried steak, but not on a boiled chicken. I’ve never seen anything quite like that. I think the bright whiteness is just flour, milk, and what I suspect is Crisco.

  7. Yinzerella says:

    Ruth, I can’t make biscuits to save my life, either.

  8. Hunter says:

    I am thrilled you made it so I don’t have to. But since you testified it was good I am now going to make it! I will leave out the mixed vegetables though. Those perfect little squares of carrots have always grossed me out.

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