It was “the day before“, the day before the wedding of my niece Rhoda. Rhoda has five brothers but no sisters. Her three oldest brothers are married. She grew up learning to work hard. Her parents, Nathan and Anna, have a fruit orchard and thousands of strawberry plants. Plus, they raise chickens, so it was only fitting to have chicken on the menu for the wedding! Chicken is a popular meat for Amish weddings in this era.
This article is a part of "The Amish Cook Column", a weekly series of featuring a story & recipe from Gloria Yoder, Amish widow & mother of six from Flat Rock, Illinois
Editor's Note: This week's column is written by Dorcas Raber, Gloria's mother.
Every one of their family pitched in to get ready for the wedding day. Many, many hours of preparation went in, from cleaning the house top to bottom to endless lists of outside work to building a shop where the reception would be held,to decid ing who will be servers or navahuckers(witnesses) etc. etc. Amish weddings spell work this way- W.O.R.K.
Next-door neighbors were asked to host the services. They had ample space on the top story of their barn.
Returning to the day before, my mom, two sisters, and I joined the other helpers at Rhoda’s home place. In front of the newly built shop was a rented walk-in cooler and a cook trailer. This cook trailer is amazing; it is loaded with appliances, everything you need to prepare food for a wedding, from kettles to pairing knives to measuring cups, and on and on. Four stoves are spaced conveniently inside, and there are enough windows to create a bright atmosphere. It’s on wheels, so it gets moved all over Holmes County from one wedding to the next.
I joined my sister and nieces to frost layer cakes that were filled. Since it was for a wedding, special pains were taken to do a neat job.(They were rectangular and placed on pretty plates, and the next morning were topped with fresh fruit. It was a work of art! and just as good as it looked!) We had a good time working together, with lively discussions and laughter. A carry-in lunch was provided before we left for home.
The next morning it dawned perfect, absolutely perfect, for a wedding day. After cloudy and rainy days, it was extra appreciated. The air was crisp and cool in the morning, then warmed up throughout the day. Niece Rhoda looked lovely in her ivory-colored wedding dress and white prayer covering. The witness girls wore blue, and the boys wore black suits with white shirts. We were both blessed and challenged by sermon tidbits we heard throughout the morning.
Over 400 guests were there to rejoice with Merle and Rhoda as they said their vows. There were rows and rows of servers and cooks. It made me aware anew of all the planning and fine details that go into an Amish wedding. Almost all Amish weddings have their guests sit at tables and serve them, and this takes a lot of organizing beforehand!
After the last song was sung, we all made our way to the reception area in the new shop. The tables were stunning, wooden board tables, with a white runner down each center. On the runner was greenery topped with real apple blossoms. The evening before, the bridal pair, Rhoda’s mom, three of Rhoda’s brothers, and three grandchildren went to the apple orchard and picked close to 200 apple blossom stems! It was worth all the effort that got put in. It added a unique original touch. Wedding meals are always anticipated. There was pan-fried chicken that Rhoda‘s aunts and uncles on her mom’s side fried.
They fried 250 pounds of chicken! There were mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, tossed salad,The layer cakes, small individual containers of ice cream,and red mug coffee. The coffee was made from freshly ground beans and was the best! I know there are hundreds, even thousands of restaurants spread across the United States, but nothing tops an Amish wedding meal for me!
After the meal, there was a short service of songs, and then a devotional by my brother Marcus. Some of my family also sang “Stairway to Heaven” in memory of loved ones who have passed on, including Gloria’s Daniel. Beautiful. Touching. Very fitting. After that, I joined Mom, my two sisters, and several other ladies to wash dishes. We washed hundreds of pieces of silverware! We were also assigned to take care of leftover food. Leftover food is put in small containers, some is given away, and some is frozen for later use. And of course, some is enjoyed the next days too! I did not help with the leftovers because it was time for David, I, and our daughter Keturah to head home after washing the dishes. We had a long trek for home, 400 miles.
And so, yet another wedding is history. Rhoda and her new husband, Merle, are renting a home 20 miles away from her home place, but close to Merle’s parents. We wish them grace and peace on their journey. We all know that life holds many bumps among the blessings as we journey on. This has become especially real to us since a year ago when Daniel passed away(since he has gone Home as Gloria often says). Sometimes it is unreal to me yet! Again, again, and again, I remind myself that God is bigger than anything we face, and again, again, and again, I think God for providing for Gloria. Somehow praising God for that, is healing for me. And it is true, He is providing again and again and again,regardless what Gloria and the children face.
My sister Sharon made a yummy underground chicken casserole for the “day before the wedding”lunch. I want to share that recipe with you.
📜 Editor's Notes and Photos for Amish Underground Chicken
"Underground" meals are popular among the Amish. Underground Ham Casserole is especially popular. All the "underground" means is the "good stuff", the meaty and creamy goodness is buried under a layer of mashed potatoes, which you'll have to dig through (tough job) to get to. Underground Chicken Casserole is a favorite recipe among the Amish because of the very simple ingredients. This is one probably my favorite Amish chicken casserole.
As you can see, my parents mashed their own potatoes, but you can use instant. You could even use a good brand of frozen mashed potatoes and use those if you are in a real time crunch.
📋 Tips, Tricks and Variations
Here are some tips to make a good underground casserole:
- This is obvious, but use good quality ingredients. This will make a big difference in the taste of your casserole.
- Don't overcook the chicken. It should be cooked through, but you don't want tough, chewy meat.
- Don't overbake the casserole. It should be heated through and bubbly, but not dry.
- Optional: Top with shredded cheese and bacon before serving. This will add a delicious crunch and flavor to your casserole.
- You can use any type of chicken cut you like in this recipe. The recipe works best with breasts, but you can use thighs. You can tear meat off a rotisserie chicken and use that. Undergroud casserole is also a great way to use leftover chicken.
- If you don't have Velveeta cheese, you can use any type of shredded cheese you like. But a good melting cheese like Velveeta does work best.
- You can add other favorite veggies to this casserole according to your taste.
- This casserole is a great make-ahead dish. You can assemble it the night before and bake it the next day.
- This casserole is also a great freezer meal. You can freeze it unbaked and then bake it when you're ready to eat.
Pasta can be added to this dish as a nice twist. I think that's a bit starchy for my taste with the mashed potatoes already in, but you can try it. If you are going to use pasta, egg noodles are my recommendation. Black pepper or red pepper flakes are a nice bit of heat if you like that. Celery salt adds super taste. A few parsley flakes add some green and taste. Garlic, oregano, or diced onions would add some flavor also.
I'm surprised my parents didn't add mushrooms to this, they would probably go well in this.
Leftovers of this dish can be covered with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and then reheated in the microwave. A side salad goes well with this meal.
🙋 Underground Chicken Casserole FAQ
A 9 x 13 glass baking dish works well. But a 2-quart casserole is fine, or even a Dutch Oven.
This recipe works fine with any meat! You can use hamburger, ham, turkey, venison, or a meat blend. Hmmm, not sure how fish would taste in this but if anyone tries it let us know!
A melting cheese works best, but you can use any kind of shredded cheese as a substitute.
🍗 More Amish Chicken Casseroles
Gloria's Cheat Chicken Casserole - So good!
Farmhouse Chicken Macaroni Casserole - Wow!
Church Committee's Chicken Casserole - Super good!
Famous Chicken and Rice - Another hearty one!
🖨️ Full Recipe
Underground Chicken Casserole
- 2 ½ pound chicken breast, grilled or pan fried
- ¼ cup butter
- 4 tablespoons white flour
- 1 quart water
- 1 /2 teaspoon seasoning salt
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ package brown gravy mix
- 1 cup Velveeta cheese
- Cook chicken and then cut into small pieces, set aside.
- For a gravy, melt and brown butter.
- Add four heaping tablespoons whiteflour. Stir well.
- Add 1 quart water, seasoning salt, and salt. Heat until thickened, stirring well.
- Add brown gravy. Stir in Velveeta cheese.
- Mix liquid with chicken pieces and put into the bottom of a large casserole dish.
- Top with 3 quarts prepared mashed potatoes.
- Put potatoes on top of gravy and chicken mix.
- Drizzle with brown butter.
- Bake at 275 1 ½ hours or until heated through.