Introduction: Chicken a La King
This was a favorite snack as kids when we came home from school. Baloney sandwiches don't tide you over from lunch.Through the miracle of flash-freeze technology there were a few frozen TV dinners that we could stick in the toaster oven to warm up. No one could afford a microwave back then. And then there was those prepared frozen meals that came in a plastic pouch. Just drop in a pot of boiling water to heat up, no more having to rotate your TV dinner or stir the apple cobbler and mashed potatoes to ensure that they got defrosted. Well, this is my take on Chicken a la King. I think it is still in production.
I was making another batch of my SOS for breakfast and was thinking, this is the same stuff/technique for Chicken a la King. A retro recipe or blast from the past that I should share.
Chicken a la King is essentially chicken in a cream sauce served over something like rice, toast points, noodles, pasta or in puff pastry bowls. It really is a versatile dish to use your leftovers. You can even substitute tunafish from a can, turkey, or any other meat instead of chicken. It's a stick to your ribs meal and classic comfort food.
Learn to cook, an essential survival skill.
Step 1: Shopping List...
Chicken a la King is kind of like a stone soup - whatever you have on hand, throw it in.
You need some cooked chicken. Leftovers are best since the chicken has already been cooked to fall apart tender. I pulled off the meat from the wholesale club rotisserie chicken, which is also great for making quick quesadillas. You can poach some chicken breasts in stock if you do not have any precooked chicken on hand.
I had on hand my selection of veggies:
You will also need some flour or cornstarch for thickening
half and half or milk
chicken base, bullion or stock to up the flavor
and what you will be serving the Chicken a la King over like rice, noodles, pasta or toast points
Step 2: Rice Burner...
To speed things up, get your rice going first.
I have about three cups of dry rice measured in the pot.
Traditional Asian way of making rice, wash it out first. I know, I know, you are taking out the added vitamins and stuff but it removes the excess starch that makes it all sticky. This is long grain rice where you want separate fluffy grains. Rinse and agitate about three times and the water should be clear and not cloudy.
Fill with water for cooking. I can gauge the right amount by having the water level be one finger joint deep above the rice.
Put it on high heat to get it to boiling. Watch so it does not boil over and make a mess on the stove.
When boiling, you can give it a stir once to get all the rice stuck on the bottom floating in the liquid and break up any big clumps.
Lower the heat and cap loosely to let it continue to cook and absorb the liquid.
You can then cover completely and let it cook for another 10-15 minutes.
Turn off heat. You can then just let it rest in the hot pot until ready to serve.
Step 3: More Prep...
Get a small bowl with a spoonful or two of cornstarch.
Add a spoonful of chicken base. You can then mix with about a cup of water to make a slurry/stock for the dish.
Dice up the veggies.
I only used half a red pepper. Core out and dice. Traditional recipe calls for pimentos. I think they come in a jar but fresh is always better. Maybe they are all consigned to be stuffed in olives.
Chop two stalks of celery into small pieces.
Dice up or shred your pre-cooked chicken.
Step 4: Sweat It Out...
Begin the cooking by sauteeing the veggies.
I put some oil in a hot pan.
Mushrooms and onions first. You can season with some garlic powder, salt and pepper. The mushrooms will absorb the flavors.
When the onions are starting to get translucent, throw in the peppers and celery.
Ooo, and I forgot the peas. I had some frozen peas and carrots. The more, the merrier.
Stir fry everything to get all the flavors mingling.
You can add a big pat of butter for extra flavor.
Step 5: A Chicken in Every Pot...
If you are using flour as your thickening agent, I would sprinkle it on and let it coat the veggies and absorb the grease to make the roux. You need to let it cook a bit to get rid of that raw flour taste.
You can now add in your chicken to warm up.
It's okay to get some bits of the cold chicken stuck and browning on the pan. It will add some more flavor to the dish.
When everything is hot, pour in your half and half or milk to almost covering.
Bring that to a simmer or just boiling.
You can now add in your cornstarch slurry to thicken things up.
Keep stirring to avoid lumpiness in your gravy.
Be sure to scrape off those stuck bits on the bottom of the pan for flavor.
Add more water or milk if it gets too thick.
Step 6: Chicken a La King...
You should now have a nice batch of chicken and veggies in a creamy sauce.
Your rice should be ready too.
To serve, plate it next to or over your starch accompaniment.
Douse with hot sauce and enjoy!