Updated Saturday, March 16th, 2013
Total Time: 45
Yield: 4 to 5 servings
Chicken a la King dates back more than 100 years--to sometime 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 Chicken a la King 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).
Over time the recipe for Chicken a la King morphed into a heavy glop of chicken swimming in overly flour-thickened sauce. Midcentury 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, so we updated it with more vegetables, fresh herbs and shallots, less flour, and creme fraiche (or sour cream).
Note: You can poach your own chicken for this recipe, but you can save time by using the meat from a rotisserie bird.
Want more? Read about this adaption of Chicken a la King.
Set a large pot of water seasoned with 2 teaspoons salt over high heat.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring broth and sherry to a simmer.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add oil, shallots, peppers, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt to the skillet and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, when the water is boiling, add the egg noodles and cook according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Add flour and paprika to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add hot broth mixture in a thin stream, stirring as you go. The sauce should bubble and thicken. Add tarragon sprigs.
Reduce heat to low and add chicken, creme fraiche (or sour cream), and parsley. Cook 10 minutes, then serve over the egg noodles, with a sprinkling of additional parsley.
In this issue: Summer Off the Beaten Path
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