Considered a retro dish, chicken à la King was highly popular from the 1950s to the 1990s. Some say the dish has been in existence much longer than that although it went by other names. The invention of chicken à la King as we know it today has been claimed by more than one persion but food historians are still debating which claim is the real deal.
Chicken à la King is one of the favorite dishes of my husband and his mom used to cook it everyday for his birthday. I make it pretty much the way she did except for the bell peppers and mushrooms. She used canned but I’ve always cooked chicken à la King with fresh bell peppers and button mushrooms.
There’s also the matter of how the dish was served. In the past, my husband always paired chicken à la King with bread. He still does but, for my younger daughter and I, we have since discovered the joys of tossing chicken à la king with buttered pasta.
Cooking chicken à la King begins with deboned chicken. We use fillets which we cook in seasoned water, cool and cut into cubes.
Making the sauce starts with a roux. Butter and flour are cooked together for just a few minutes. Chicken à la King has white sauce so the roux shouldn’t be allowed to to dark as it does when cooked much longer.
Bell peppers are added and the cooking continues. Should the bell peppers be red? No. In fact, there was one Christmas when I made an effort to get both green and red, and use them for my chicken à la King for a more festive look.
Chicken broth is poured in and the contents of the pan are cooked with constant stirring to make sure no lumps form. You may use the liquid in which the chicken was cooked. Or you may use a more robust chicken broth. Whichever you use, adjust the seasonings as needed.
The fresh button mushrooms go in next. They don’t need a long time to cook. So, just after stirring them with the rest of the contents of the pan, the milk is poured in.
The cooked chicken is added and the almost-done chicken à la King is left to simmer until the meat is heated through. Seasonings are adjusted, sweet peas are stirred in and the chicken à la King is ready to be enjoyed.
Chicken à la King
- Boil three to four cups of water in a pot with a teaspoon of salt and a generous pinch of pepper.
- Slide in the chicken breast fillets.
- When the water boils once more, set the heat to low and cover the pot.
- Cook the chicken for ten minutes then turn off the heat and let the chicken continue cooking in the residual heat for another ten minutes.
- Scoop out the chicken and cool; reserve the broth.
- Cut the chicken into-half-inch cubes.
- Melt the butter in a shallow pan.
- Add the flour, all at once, and stir quickly to remove lumps.
- Over medium heat, cook the roux for two to three minutes.
- Add the bell peppers, stir and cook for 30 seconds.
- Slowly pour in one cup of the reserved broth, stirring as you pour.
- Stir in the diced mushrooms.
- Pour in the milk.
- Stir in the cubed chicken.
- If there is too little sauce or if the sauce is too thick for your liking, add more broth and milk.
- Stir in the sweet peas.
- Bring to a simmer, taste and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
- Serve your chicken a la king with rice, noodles or bread.