Chicken à la King
I’ll come right out and say it. I’ve never liked Chicken à la King. Not only does the name do absolutely nothing for me, but I also never liked the consistency. Mushy, cooked to death and just bland. Also, I despise green pepper and Chicken à la King ALWAYS had tons of the stuff, boiled to mush. I also really didn’t like the fact that all the flavours, cooked together made a stew-like dish that just tasted of everything and nothing at the same time. The chicken tasted of green pepper, the green pepper tasted of onion and the mushrooms tasted of nothing. Can you tell I really didn’t like Chicken à la King?
Then I met Chris and one day his brother cooked this despised dish for dinner. I smiled politely and pretended that I liked it when in actual fact I was dreading the moment I had to fake enjoy it. But that moment never came. You see, C’s brother actually made a delicious Chicken à la King. It was incredibly creamy, the chicken wasn’t boiled to pulp and the vegetables still maintained their own character while subtly infusing the sauce with their flavour. Delicious!
So, a few weeks ago I made it my mission to create my own version and I think I’ve pretty much perfected it. I tried not using too much cream (C thinks it should have more but I just can’t get myself to use more than 3/4 cup of cream) and instead, used the liquid the chicken was poached in to make a smooth, rich white sauce. I also sautéed the vegetables individually before adding them to the sauce to simmer for a while with the chicken. I found this to be incredibly delicious and comforting. Proper homefood, done right. And not a green pepper in sight!
- 1 whole, free-range chicken
- 1 carrot, quartered
- 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
- 1 leek, washed and roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 1-2 cups chicken stock (chicken's poaching liquid)
- ½-1 cup milk
- ¾ cup cream
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
- 250g mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1.5 cups frozen peas
- juice and zest of 1 lemon
- salt & pepper to taste
- In a large stock pot, place the chicken, carrot, celery, leek, onion, garlic and herbs.
- Top with cold water and place over medium heat.
- Allow to the chicken to simmer for 1 hour-1 hour 15 mins until it's cooked through.
- Remove the chicken from the liquid and allow to cool.
- Drain the stock through a muslin-lined sieve, reserving the liquid. (This makes the most delicious chicken stock so freeze the left-overs in freezer-proof bags for later use.)
- To make the chicken a la king, sauté the onions and peppers in a splash of olive oil until golden brown and cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, fry the mushrooms until golden brown then add the garlic and fry for another 30 seconds then tip into the same bowl as the peppers.
- Poach the peas in boiling water until de-frosted then drain and set aside.
- In a large pot, melt the butter then whisk in the flour to make a roux.
- Slowly whisk in the stock, milk and cream and allow the sauce to simmer until thick and smooth. You might not need all of the liquid.
- Shred the chicken, discarding any skin, boned and cartillage. I break the chicken meat into large chunks as I don't like it when it loses its texture.
- Add the chicken and vegetables to the white sauce then stir well. If the sauce is too thick at this stage, simply add a splash of milk/stock.
- Add the lemon juice and zest and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes.
- Season to taste then serve with rice/mashed potatoes.