Chicken a la KingThat old Billy King, what a rascal. No one’s ever heard of him save the fact that he invented one of my favorite comfort foods, Chicken a la King.

King was a hotel cook at the Bellevue in Philadelphia. His obituary in New York Tribune in 1915 had this to say:

“The name of William King is not listed among the great ones of the earth. No monuments will ever be erected to his memory, for he was only a cook. Yet what a cook! In him blazed the fire of genius which, at the white heat of inspiration, drove him one day, in the old Bellevue, in Philadelphia, to combine bits of chicken, mushrooms, truffles, red and green peppers and cream in that delight-some mixture which ever after has been known as ‘Chicken a la King.’ “

There wasn’t a restaurant in the greater Chicagoland area that didn’t serve Chicken a la King in the 1960s, but you can barely find it now. What a shame since we have something in 2014 that Billy could never have dreamed about – supermarket rotisserie chicken. Rotisserie chicken comes under the heading of “I can’t make it better.” I am a purist when it comes to Chicken a la King. I only use the white breast meat, saving the legs and thighs for another use. You can also poach chicken breasts for this recipe, but why would you do that? The package of chicken breasts will cost more than the entire rotisserie chicken and they won’t be half as good.

Chicken a la King
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 4 puff pastry shells
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large shallots minced
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • ¼ cup Madeira
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Breast meat from a rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • ½ cup frozen peas
Instructions
  1. Prepare the puff pastry shells according to the package directions
  2. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms. Saute until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms are browned. Add the Madeira and deglaze the pan. When all the alcohol has evaporated, add the flour and stir thoroughly.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and add the chicken stock and heavy cream. Stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the parsley, thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
  4. Add the chicken and the frozen peas. Heat for 3-4 minutes until the chicken and peas are warmed through. Serve in the puff pastry shells.
 

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