Monday, June 13

Retro Recipe: Chicken A La King

I love old kitchen utensils, vintage aprons and old recipes from family and friends. I fondly remember this dish from my young adult years but haven’t had it in ages.
I decided to track down a Chicken A La King recipe that would bring back the deliciousness of the dish and this one nailed it.

Many really good recipes have been ruined over the years by all sorts of shortcuts and substitutions and this dish is no exception.
Many recipes also fell out of favor because of trends, fad diets or just people more willing to buy convenient processed foods and not bothering to cook fresh.  
But many people are beginning to realize that a lot of the foods we were told were bad for us maybe are not so bad. And that all that convenient processed food comes with a price:  Americans are sicker than ever.
We try to eat a more natural diet, one which includes many vegetables (and meat) we grow ourselves,  home cooked meals with real ingredients and purchasing organic or foods with very few ingredients. 

Chicken A La King History:
There are several stories about this recipe’s origins and we may never know the truth. 
One story claims it was created by Delmonico's chef Charles Ranhofer as Chicken à la Keene in the 1880s, named after Foxhall Parker Keene.
Another version claims it was created in 1881 at Claridge's Hotel in London and named for James R. Keene, father of Foxhall.

An old Brighton Beach Hotel postcard

And a third account claims Chef George Greenwald of the Brighton Beach Hotel in Brighton Beach created it in 1898, naming it after patron E. Clarke King II and his wife.
It is even said that Chicken A La King was invented in the kitchen of  Thomas Jefferson. He did take his domestic servant James Hemings (now believed to be his son) to Paris in 1784 to learn French cookery, and the dishes served at Monticello were renowned. Jefferson was such a huge inventor it seems everything is attributed to him!

Old Fannie Farmer Cookbook
But the most likely account is that Chicken à la King was created in the late 1800s by hotel cook William "Bill" King of the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia. Several obituaries in early March 1915 credited King after he died on March 4, 1915.A New York Tribune editorial at the time of King's death stated that he was the inventor of this delicious recipe.

Fannie Merritt Farmer included this dish in her 1911 publication on catering. And the Fannie Farmer Cookbook included a recipe for Chicken à la King in 1906.
It became an extremely popular dish during the middle to late 20th century.
During those years, the dish was a regular fixture at wedding receptions, in banquet halls, and at fancy and even not so fancy events.

This recipe for Chicken à la King is from the October/November 2008 issue of Cook's Country magazine. The recipe recommends letting the chicken marinate a little for a Chicken à la King that isn’t bland or dry. The chicken is marinated in cream, lemon juice, and a little salt before adding it to the pan—the salt acts as a brine and keeps the breast meat moist.

Marinate cut up chicken

In the Cook’s Country magazine test, tasters preferred the lighter, cleaner versions of Chicken à la King made without traditional egg yolks.
And some of the cream is replaced with chicken broth creating a slightly lighter dish and then rounded out the sauce’s flavors with Madeira wine, a little parsley, and lemon juice.

Chicken á La King

3 to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Dice the onions, bell pepper and mushrooms
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ onion, chopped fine
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup Madeira wine
1 ½ cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
8 slices Italian bread, buttered and toasted (see directions below)

Lightly brown the onions and then saute all the diced vegetables

Whisk ½ cup cream, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Cut chicken into strips or cubes and combine chicken and cream mixture in a large bowl or Ziploc bag; refrigerate 30 minutes.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook onion until golden, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper and cook until vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over sauteed vegetables

Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add Madeira, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon, and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Add broth and remaining cream and cook until sauce is very thick and spatula leaves a trail when dragged through the sauce, about 5 minutes.

Stir in chicken mixture and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring frequently, until chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in remaining lemon juice and parsley.

Simmer chicken and sauce until chicken is no longer pink

For Toasted Bread:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange eight 1-inch-thick slices of Italian bread on baking sheet. Brush 2 tablespoons of melted butter over both sides of bread slices.

Toast bread until golden brown, about 10 minutes, flipping slices halfway through cooking.
For a quicker version of toast, put bread in toaster, toast till golden brown and add butter.
Spoon chicken à la king over toast and serve.

I served my Chicken A La King with Roasted Asparagus, yummy!


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1 comment:

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...
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