Now, before you think I'm on Avonmore's payroll, I promise you, I am not. This is my third and last entry for the blogger's recipe competition using their new Cooking Cream. What can I say, I'm having fun coming up with recipes and I still really want to win. Fair enough?
Like my Butternut & Orange Soup recipe, Chicken a la King has been something on my to-blog-list, literally, for years.
I actually think of Chicken a la King as somewhat of a Retro Recipe. Even the name feels retro, some throw back from the 80's when including "a la" in a recipe title made it poncy and trendy, as if some high brow French chef had thought it up, which, from what I understand of the 80's, meant it made it a worthy dish. (Side note... I'm so glad I was born in the 80's, it means that I can't take credit for my poor wardrobe choices which included wearing 3 or 4 pairs of socks at the same time, all neon colours, and rolling them down so you could see each sock colour in a band around my ankles. That and the crimped hair!)
According to Wikipedia, this dish is so desirable that several chefs have laid claim to its creation, but it's thought that it actually belonged to Philadelphia's chef William King in the 1890's. The dish was originally bits of chicken, mushrooms, truffles, green and red peppers in a cream sauce. It sounds lovely, doesn't it? Unfortunately the version that I was given growing up was somewhat different.
I have a clear memory of sitting down to a plate of white and grey with bits of nasty soggy green peppers on a bed of the most boring rice ever.
Now, don't get me wrong, my mother was a fantastic cook, but Chicken a la King just wasn't all that in the hands of a housewife on a tight budget. No truffles, no fresh cream, instead a packet of instant mushroom soup subbed out both of those ingredients. As for the peppers, I've always hated the green kind. I don't mind other bell peppers, like the sweeter red or yellow, but green peppers are like olives. You love them or hate them. I hate them. (Not the olives! I love the olive!)
So why on earth would I keep this recipe on my list if I wasn't all that impressed with it back then? I don't know. Maybe it's because I could see the potential (I'm a food whisperer...). Chicken in cream = good. Mushrooms = good. Those things served on a "nice" rice = good. This retro recipe could be something great!
My first thought, bring some colour into the dish! I know, a little strange attacking the look before the flavour, but I think the look of a dish can be just as important as the flavour. The first thing you do is look at something and say, "Oh, that looks amazing, I bet it will taste great!" (and hopefully it does).
Besides, in this instance, by changing the appearance, the flavour was going to be better too.
I'm going to give you a brief "timelapsed" version of my changes, just because they're probably not as interesting as I think they are. Here we go *cue comical speedy music*
Brown the chicken, ditch the button mushroom & use ones with more flavour (chestnut, shitake, oyster...) real cream (Avonmore Cooking Cream, in this case), add garlic, add thyme, replace nasty green peppers with sunny yellow, orange and red, serve on long grain & wild rice with fresh flat leaf parsley (because every 80's dish needs parsley). Taadaaa! A Rejuvenated Retro Recipe! Thank you, thank you...
In all honesty, they were just logical changes to make. Browning your meat gives it more flavour. Subbing more flavourful mushrooms (and they can be any you can find) will instantly add more to the dish, including seeing bits of rich brown hiding in and amongst those lovely bright peppers.
And I tell you, when I dug in to my bowl of Chicken a la
Mandy King, it was tasty creamy goodness, especially good with the nasty weather we're still having. This is a comfort dish, yet it's not heavy and it packs loads of flavour. And, it's even better the next day!
So here's to the 80's (or 1890's...) and all dishes containing the words "a la". Enjoy!
Chicken a la King
Serves about 4
4 Skinless Chicken Fillets, cut into strips
250g Mixed Mushrooms, sliced
1 large Onion, sliced
1 large Clove Garlic, chopped
1/2 Yellow Pepper, sliced
1/2 Orange Pepper, sliced
1/2 Red Pepper, sliced
250ml (1 cup) Milk
125ml (1/2 cup) Avonmore Cooking Cream
2-3 Tbsp Flour
1 tsp Chopped Fresh Thyme
Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
Olive Oil & Butter for frying
300g Uncooked Rice
Handful Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, roughly chopped
- Heat a medium sized frying pan on high, once hot, add splash of olive oil
- Fry chicken strips until golden, stirring occasionally
- Remove chicken from pan and set aside
- Add splash of olive oil and 1 Tbsp salted butter to same pan
- Reduce heat to medium high and fry mushrooms just until they start to brown
- Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside
- Cook rice according to packaging in a large pot
- While rice is cooking, heat a large saucepan over medium heat, once hot, add splash of olive oil and 1 Tbsp salted butter
- Add onion and a small pinch of salt and sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally
- Add sliced peppers and sauté for further 5 mins
- Add garlic and sauté for about 20 seconds
- Add chicken, mushrooms, milk, cream & thyme and leave to simmer on low heat for about 5-8mins, until chicken is cooked through
- Sprinkle flour evenly over the surface and stir in
- Increase heat to medium high and cook until thickened, about 5 - 10mins
- Check for seasoning, and add salt & pepper to taste
- Serve over cooked rice with freshly chopped flat leaf parsley