“Usually prepared in mediocre fashion, it is found in many tearooms and restaurants. Their version has little to do with the original, which is really quite good if done with care and fine ingredients. It should be served at once and not kept hot over water for hours - this can kill even the best food.”
While Burros lists two or three possible origins for the name “a la king,” the current Wikipedia article lists five possible origin stories. Some were named “Keene” and some named “King,” and they were mainly the chefs or patrons at well-known restaurants at the end of the 19th century when the dish first became popular. The 1906 edition of the Fanny Farmer cookbook offered a recipe for it. Its popularity lasted well into the 1960s or so. I think it is one of several dishes that were good and even imaginative in their original form 100 years ago or so, but degenerated into commercial mediocrity or downright ickiness.
For some reason I occasionally make this dish (which I associate with school cafeterias and other institutional food) but I use decent ingredients, and it’s not that bad. Last night I had some very rich chicken stock that I made when roasting a chicken. A really good sauce made from such stock is in my opinion necessary (not the pasty white or yellow glop that was a standard feature of the dish in my past).
|Ingredients for decent chicken a la king: home roasted chicken, roasted red peppers,|
frozen peas, chopped green onions, and really good fresh mushrooms.
|I add the chicken at the last minute because I don’t like it to be overcooked.|
|Garnished with the green onions, and eaten with home-baked sourdough bread and a fresh salad and cranberry chutney…|
Not bad at all!
Blog post and photos © 2023 mae sander