Surprise…It’s Chicken!

When I was a kid my mom cooked a home-cooked dinner almost every night.

She and my dad preferred pretty classic meals; meatloaf, roast beef, steak on the grill, baked chicken, fried pork chops, rinse and repeat… So when something new was introduced to our weekly menu it was pretty darn exciting.

This recipe is one that my Mee Maw (for those of you new to my blog, Mee Maw was my beloved grandmother) made for us once and we all swooned. It quickly became a regular at our house because it cooks for several hours, making it simple for my mom to throw it in the oven mid-day while things were a little calm around the house and it would be ready for dinner.

We would tease my dad when he would ask what we were having for dinner. We would reply, “It’s a Surpriiiiiiise!!!!”. When the dish was delivered to the table, we would proudly yell, “Surprise!!!! It’s Chicken!”. And now you know the secret behind this recipe title.

The ingredient list is pretty simple. And you can substitute just about any piece of this… prefer light sour cream, no problem. Like cream of chicken instead of cream of mushroom, okay. Scared of dried beef, try prosciutto. Tired of boneless, skinless chicken, try it with pork tenderloins.

The concept is the meat is cooking low and slow in a sauce that will keep it tender and the salty dried beef provides flavor and further moistens the meat.

Now…I need to talk to the product folks at Armour. Seriously, that photo they have placed on the label of this product is just not appealing. What is that???

But listen, don’t let the label throw you off, it is a simple ingredient that has a ton of flavor and really makes this delicious and salty.

When you pop the lid off of the jar, this is what you’ll find inside. The meat is the texture of pepperoni, but it is not greasy feeling like that. It’s just thinly sliced, salt cured beef.

See? No crazy potted meat type substance happening here. No offense if you like potted meat, I don’t mean to put it down…but Ewwwwwwwww! If meat has jelly around it, I’m not eatin’ it. Just sayin’.

It’s pretty isn’t it? I actually like to use dried beef at breakfast time in lieu of bacon or sausage when I’m making biscuits. I use a little bit of olive oil and just cook the beef until it gets crispy. It is delicious on a biscuit with scrambled eggs and cheese.

I know, I’m hard selling the dried beef…but if you’ve never used it before it seems like a weird ingredient. But we really enjoy it.

And remember how I love jars? I keep these jars too. They are the perfect size for a little sip of juice. Or if you’re OLD like me, this is my favorite glass to get a sip of water when I take all of my pills.

Did I mention that I’ll be 36 in two weeks? Yeah, roll out the walker and those little trays with the days of the week so I can keep my pills straight.

Anyway, now that I’m thoroughly depressed, my point is you might enjoy keeping this little glass for pencils or a rose bud, or heck…just throw it away like a normal person. But if you’re crazy like me, you’ll love it!

For this recipe, just spray a casserole dish with cooking spray, then lay out the dried beef to cover the entire bottom and sides of the dish.

Then lay the boneless, skinless chicken breasts on top of the dried beef.

This is my latest, cutest ‘lil kitchen tool. I have passed them at William Sonoma 100 times and always think it would be such a handy sized spatula, finally I splurged and bought myself this tiny and useful tool.

No spoon would have gotten that much of the soup out of a can! Yay, purchase – justified. I’m sure over the life of that spatula I will scrape out at least $4 worth of soup trapped in the bottom of the cans. And if not, whatever, I have an adorable little pink spatula that will surely make my sister jealous! (That alone is worth 4 bucks).

Mix together the can of Cream of Mushroom soup and 8 ounces of Sour Cream.

If you choose to use light sour cream and/or fat reduced soup, the flavor will be great but the sauce will be a bit runny. Honestly, the runny sauce does not bother me at all, it is still creamy and tastes great over a baked potato. But it is slightly different…

After you mix the sauce, spread it all over the chicken. I try to get it evenly distributed across the pan.

Okay, I’m totally high-strung and I try to make it perfect. I spend more time spreading out the sauce than I’ve spent on any other part of this easy recipe. Don’t be like me! The sauce is going to melt and run all over the place anyway. Don’t waste your time on perfection.

But don’t judge me when you see me moving it all around 100 times until it’s juuuuuust right.

Then top the dish with a piece of aluminum foil and you’re ready to go! (I like the foil to be perfect too. Like, no wrinkles if I can help it and I prefer it shiny side up. I really should look into medication…)

Then you plop it in a preheated 275 degree oven for 3 hours.

In a hurry? 300 degrees for 2 hours.

Then fughettaboutit.

If you want to thicken the sauce up a bit, just remove the foil for the last half hour.

Serving this has lots of options too. My preference is to cut up the chicken and the dried beef in the casserole dish when it’s done cooking. I just chunk it all up and pour it into a baked potato.

My husband prefers to have a whole breast with the dried beef still attached served whole on his plate.

It is also great with rice, using the sauce as a gravy. YUM!

I got so excited that I ate mine all up without photographing the chicken all cut up. Whoops. But it’s really tender and yummy and salty. Mmmmm. It’s simple because you fix it and forget it until you’re ready to eat. But it is fancy enough that I’ve served it to company. As a matter of fact, I made this for our rehearsal dinner the day before we got married.

I hope you will surprise your family tonight, with CHICKEN!!!

Surprise…It’s Chicken!

Printable Recipe


1 can cream of mushroom soup

8 oz sour cream

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 2.25 oz jar dried beef

cooking spray


Spray 9 x 11 casserole dish with cooking spray.

Lay dried beef out in single layer in dish, covering bottom and sides of dish.

Place chicken on top of dried beef.

Mix soup and sour cream together.

Pour cream mixture over chicken, evenly spread mix over entire pan.

Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake 275 degrees for 3 hours.

*To thicken sauce, remove foil for last 30 minutes of cooking.


This entry was published on September 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm and is filed under In the Kitchen, Squawkings. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

13 thoughts on “Surprise…It’s Chicken!

  1. joybubble on said:

    Hi! I am enjoying your site and I would love to try this recipe… but I’m lactose intolerant! Any suggestions for what I should use instead of the Cream of Mushroom soup? Or does this recipe need cream?

    • I have been thinking about your comment…I don’t think it would be the same dish without sour cream and cream based soup. I haven’t come up with substitution ideas yet, but I’m thinking about it…
      Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  2. Oh wow, that looks incredible! I’m going to try this one. And that’s big for me because have I told you I don’t like to cook??? 😉

  3. Pat Luther on said:

    I have only made this a couple of times since your wedding because it just the two of us, however, I was just thinking about it the other day. Maybe because it is almost your anniversary? By the way we just printed a couple of pictures from your wedding on Sunday when my husband finally found his little printer. I will save them for you. Anyway, I’m off track. This is really a great dish folks!

  4. MeeMaw got this recipe from the 1971 cookbook put out by the Jackson (Miss.) Symphony League. It was called Festival Chicken. It said to wrap a strip of bacon around each chicken breast. I didn’t like the grease from the bacon in it and so omitted it. And I don’t cover with foil—so obviously both ways work just fine. I’ve used this same amount of sauce to cook as few as 3 or as many as 8 breasts. You’re right—it’s a flexible and forgiving recipe.

  5. We have a friend who used to make this chicken. It rocks! There’s another way to make it that’s yummy – omit the dried beef, but cover the chicken with the sour cream/soup mixture, then top with Ritz cracker crumbs that have been mixed up with some butter, and sprinkle a few poppy seeds on top.

    Anyone Lactose intolerant [I am, too] can just take a Lactaid before they eat this.

  6. I am totally going to try this one….I love the fix it and ignore option that isn’t in a crock pot. I am not afraid of meat ….in a jar….or a rounded edge rectangular can…..I am originally from Minnesota you know – so while not the delicacy it is considered in Hawaii….gotta love me some Spam!!! Especially fried Spam with eggs….nummy…I have just learned to ignore the gelatinous goo stuff that accompanies this 8th wonder of the world!

  7. Your wonderful, sweet father on said:

    I really like this a lot, but your Mother has a problem now. She doesn’t cook anymore!! Any way you will be in Savannah soon and make this for your hungry Daddy? You can bring my Son-In-Law too as I like him too!

  8. I couldn’t believe it when I saw this story. I literally was saying “no way!” and “I know!” as I read each paragraph. I’ve been making this dish since about 1986, and it’s on my menu for this week. I was even thinking of posting it on the Tasty Kitchen website once it was done and I could snap a good photo. No way! I know! One difference is that I use cream of chicken soup instead of mushroom. I serve it over rice, like you mentioned. I also like it cut up into pieces, and my husband likes it in whole breasts. No way! I know! I also keep the dried beef jars for juice glasses or votive candles when the power goes out. No way! I know! Thanks for amazing me and cracking me up. I guess it’s true…great minds think alike. No way! I know!

    • I forgot to say that this recipe is really delicious. Like magically delicious. It melts in your mouth because you cook it for so long. We call it “Chicken & Dried Beef” at our house…..cuz we’re creative like that.

  9. Yummmy, guess what I am craving now?! And did you get new countertops?! Did I miss something? Geez… I must be out of the loop. Anyway, I do love the pink mini-spatula, and have also looked at them at W-S before, and thought they were so cute! So, there are your four dollars for my jealousy. Love you lots!

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