Chicken a la King is a simple dish and a great way to stretch out leftovers. With Thanksgiving coming up, this nostalgic meal (with Philly roots?) came to mind as I eagerly anticipate the feast to come.
That’s right. Although the true origin of Chicken a la King is disputed I’m happy to report that one version has it starting in Philadelphia circa 1890.
The name of William King is not listed among the great ones of the earth. No monuments will ever be erected to his memory, for he was only a cook. Yet what a cook! In him blazed the fire of genius which, at the white heat of inspiration, drove him one day, in the old Bellevue, in Philadelphia, to combine bits of chicken, mushrooms, truffles, red and green peppers and cream in that delight-some mixture which ever after has been known as “Chicken a la King.”
I don’t have truffles (if you have some please fwd!) and the version I had as a kid was a little different. There were definitely peas and Chicken a la King was always served over white toast. This an update to what I vaguely recall having when I was younger. The vegetables included in my version are mushrooms, red pepper, shallot, and frozen peas. Rather than white toast I’m serving Chicken a la King over homemade biscuits. You probably have some left over from Thanksgiving dinner, right? Ooh! Maybe serve this over stuffing! Instead of heavy cream I’m using a roux with chicken stock plus one tempered egg.
It seems mandatory to use heavy cream in Chicken a la King but this recipe has none. When you look at older recipes you might find the over-use of some ingredients we can now ignore or easily replace. We have better/more stuff available to us and better cooking techniques these days. I think we also have a more refined palate than we used to because food has gotten exponentially more delicious thanks to better ingredients. We used to think milk was really good for us but recent studies have suggested that lactose is possibly harmful to people over four years old. So, if possible, I like to replace dairy with better ingredients. In this case I just don’t find that it’s necessary at all. Sorry, tradition.
When I made this dish I slowly poached some chicken breast in chicken stock with lots of herbs and plenty of salt. Ideally though you’ll use any left over poultry you have on hand. Chicken or turkey, dark meat or light, cubed or shredded; all are 100% perfect.
The recipe card is below but I like to give a quick synopsis here in the description. Sweat shallots with fresh thyme in butter, cook veggies for a few minutes, cook flour for a minute stirring, add stock then a tempered egg, add cooked chicken and fresh parsley, season with salt and pepper. DONE!! Assuming you already have the chicken prepped this maybe takes ten minutes to cook. I’m a big fan of ten minute meals using up leftovers taking up space in my fridge.
In last week’s Buttermilk Biscuit recipe I mentioned that it was a two part recipe. Chicken a la King is the second part! I want to note that I made the biscuits for Chicken a la King a little differently. Because I was substituting for the toasted white bread I had as a kid I wanted the biscuits to be a little larger and a little flatter. I used a four inch cookie cutter instead of a three inch for a larger biscuit. I also used regular milk (because that’s what the Fanny Farmer recipe called for) instead of buttermilk. This actually reduced the amount of rise you get from the biscuits. While it wasn’t exactly my initial plan, I was very happy with the results.