Updated Chicken a la King Recipe
Yankee Plus Dec 2015
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Yankee Magazine has been in print for more than 75 years, which means that we have a wonderfully deep archive of recipes and food stories to tap for inspiration. One of our favorite jobs is to pull out an old recipe and see if we can update it to appeal to contemporary tastes, which is what I did today with an old recipe for Chicken a la King.
According to The Food History Timeline, the dish dates back more than 100 years—some time between 1800 and about 1910. As with many recipes, there are several stories of its origin: was it an invention of a chef named William King, who worked at Philadelphia’s Bellevue Hotel? A creation of chef George Greenwald, in honor of his boss, Mr. King, at New York’s Brighton Beach Hotel? There are a few other theories, but no one knows the answer for certain.
In any case, the fundamentals of the dish include chicken in a cream sauce with mushrooms and peppers or pimentos, as well as some Sherry or Madeira. Older versions of the recipe called for thickening the sauce with a combination of cream, egg yolks, and roux (a flour-butter mixture). It was classic turn-of-the-century food, and probably very tasty. But over time the dish morphed into a heavy glop of chicken swimming in overly-flour-thickened sauce. Mid-century recipes even replaced the original sauce with cream of chicken soup. It became the stuff of cafeteria lines.
But there’s still a gem of deliciousness in this recipe, and I’ve come up with an adaptation that I like very much. Compared with my source recipe, it uses more vegetables, fresh herbs and shallots, less flour, and crème fraîche instead of cream.