A classic chicken dish, Chicken à la King is tender chunks of chicken, onions, bell pepper, garlic, mushrooms and pimento immersed in a white sauce flavored with sherry. Often served over rice, toast points, pasta, mashed potatoes, chow mein noodles, biscuits or pastry shells, it is versatile in its presentation. When served over pastry shells, Chicken à la King makes an elegant appearance!

A Little Background

As a Home Economics major in college I was required to take a course in Food Preparation. I first encountered Chicken à la King in this class. One of our class objectives was to learn to prepare a white sauce which is the basis for many soups and sauces.

To learn to prepare white sauce, we made Chicken à la King! It was a popular main dish in that time period; in fact, you could buy Chicken à la King in frozen pouches at the grocery store. The frozen pouch was immersed in boiling water for a prescribed time and then served over rice.


The exact origin of Chicken à la King is unknown but it seems to have appeared in the 1880’s. In Fannie Farmer’s updated version of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1896 there was a recipe for Chicken à la King. The recipe may have been developed to use leftover chicken.

Recipe for Chicken à la King

Chicken a la King
Serves 4
Tender chunks of chicken with mushrooms, pimento, onion, bell pepper & garlic in a white sauce with sherry.
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Ingredients
  1. 2 chicken breasts, cooked & chopped
  2. 1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil)
  3. 1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
  4. 3/4 cup onion, chopped
  5. 1 clove garlic, chopped
  6. 1 4-oz. can sliced mushrooms -OR- 5 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  7. 2 ounces diced pimentos
  8. 6 tablespoons butter
  9. 6 tablespoons flour
  10. 1 teaspoon salt
  11. 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk (1 1/2 cups)
  12. 1 cup of chicken broth or stock
  13. Fresh parsley, chopped fine for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil in a skillet. Add onions, bell pepper, mushrooms and garlic and saute until tender. Add chopped pimento.
  2. In saucepan, melt butter (6 tablespoons); add flour and cook for a few minutes. Add salt.
  3. Add milk and chicken broth and stir until thickened. Add the sherry to the sauce.
  4. Add the sauce to the chicken-vegetable mixture and stir until well-blended.
  5. Serve over rice, biscuits, pasta, pastry shells, chow mein noodles, mashed potatoes or toast.
  6. Optional: Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
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 White sauce is the foundation for so many recipes.

White sauce is the foundation for so many recipes – from cream soups to macaroni and cheese. White sauces are classified according to the thickness of the finished product: thin, medium or thick. I created this chart for easy reference.

I’ve known folks that are afraid of making a white sauce or gravy! It’s really not difficult. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour and keep it moving for a few minutes, which allows the taste of “flour” or starch to dissipate. Add the salt and milk.  

The next step is where problems are encountered – the mixture must be stirred constantly in this part of the process! Keep stirring and soon the mixture will thicken. You may need to increase the heat to medium, but if the mixture gets too hot it will burn on the bottom of the pan. Patience is necessary in making white sauce!

In conclusion, retro recipe Chicken à la King is definitely worth a second look! I cooked some brown rice to go with the leftovers and it was really good! Try some Chicken à la King for a trip to the past and a delicious “comfort” food meal! (Don’t leave out the sherry – the flavor it imparts is wonderful!) Don’t be afraid to tackle the white sauce either!

Remember to Savor the Flavor!

Janet

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