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Monday, December 6, 2010

Chicken a la King - a Gutsy Cooks Selection

Chicken a la King? I said to myself when I saw this week's assignment. Seriously? The bane of all banquet goers? Fodder for stand-up comedians? Well, I had been happy to sign up for a cooking group where I didn't have to do the choosing, so I figured I'd better just make whatever comes along without whining. The full menu also included spinach timbales and kasha pilaf, but all that together sounded like a massive dinner, so I skipped the sides.
And the chicken a la king? Well, it turned out to be pretty good, in its Plain-Jane way.
Although this recipe would be a fine way to use up leftover chicken, or turkey, for that matter, I didn't have any, so I poached a chicken breast. If you look carefully, you can see it at the bottom of the pan.

While the chicken is poaching, you cook some vegetables in a mixture of olive oil and butter. The idea is not to saute them, but just to let them soften a bit. I used onions, red pepper, and mushrooms. This is just a minor variation from the suggested onions, red and green pepper, and mushrooms if you're making turkey a la king. The book suggests substituting zucchini for the mushrooms if you're making chicken. The mushrooms sounded much better than the zucchini.

By the time the vegetables are softened, the chicken is done, cooled, and ready to cut up. You make a simple sauce by cooking flour for a few minutes (to get rid of the floury taste) in the vegetable/butter/oil, and then gradually adding a combination of chicken broth and milk. I added just a soupcon of heavy cream for a little extra richness.

Served over broad egg noodles, it was a nice Sunday supper on a snowy, cold December day. All my instincts told me to add some garlic or herbs or something. And you certainly could do that, but the mixture has a surprising amount of flavor just from the aromatic vegetables. We've become so used to cooking with Moroccan spices, or making authentic gnocchi, or choosing among ten different kinds of fresh chile peppers that we've forgotten about the recipes our mothers and grandmothers used. I think this recipe is a good example of how tasty plain food can be.
I would never make this for someone I was trying to impress, but I'd certainly make it if I actually had some kind of leftover poultry.
If you'd like the recipe, check out Monica's rendition, which she did fancy up a bit.

Jim: I'll give it an 8. Surprisingly good, but not great.
Marie: 8 for me too. A solid recipe. I'd like it with homemade biscuits.


  1. Ohhh yours looks good, I thought of serving it over pasta too, but I did not have big noodles! But, you know what, you can totally fancy this up.. how? by making a puff pastry cup, and then using it to pour the turkey/chicken mixture on to of it, put the top on and FANCY-Jazzy!

  2. Monica,
    I was kind of surprised the recipe didn't suggest using a puff pastry cup, which is how it's usually served at banquets. Lukewarm sauce in soggy pastry cups. But if everything was done right, it could be good.