This creamy chicken a la king is a healthy make-over of the classic comfort food dish. This chicken a la king is loaded with fresh vegetables and only a splash of half-and-half. So that it can come together quickly for a weeknight meal in just a half hour, I skipped the fussy puff-pastry in favor of steaming hot pasta.
When we renovated our kitchen last spring, I had to put all of my cookbooks into boxes and store them while the dust flew. When it was time to reload my cookbook shelf with my favorites (the less used ones go in the book shelf in the hallway) I realized it was time to part with some of the ones I had been holding onto for years but still didn’t use. Buh bye freebie Carrot Cook book that I will never in a million years use, or the un-named vegetable book from the ‘90s that disappointed me over and over. I sold them in a flash at our garage sale early in the summer, and now they are in someone else’s kitchen, hopefully getting a lot more use.
It was around then that I realized I didn’t have any of the classics that I had grown up watching my mom use; so I got on amazon and bought myself used copies of the Joy of Cooking and the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. I can’t believe it took me so long to have my own copies of these two iconic cookbooks!
Inside the cover of the Better Homes book is an inscription “Best Wishes Maggie and Jason From Ed and Helen.” My guess is this was a wedding present that went the same way my carrot cookbook went.
Though in this case I am the happy recipient and my kitchen is thrilled to welcome it to the primo spots on the cookbook shelf.
I’ve been looking through both of these books a lot lately. My daughter, who’s cooking dinner once a week now, is looking for easy dinners. So the photographs in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook are great for her to relate to.
And I have been pouring through the Joy. What an incredible book! After going through the process of writing my own 100 recipe cookbook, getting to know a culinary tome like this is truly humbling.
It was actually not on the cookbook shelf, but on my desk the day that I sat down to write the hypothesis draft for this Chicken a la King recipe. I was trying to remember if Chicken a la King was in fact the dish I remember my mom making with the chicken in creamy sauce served in the little bowls made out of puff pastry. Instead of googling it, I looked in the Joy of Cooking. Not to disappoint, the answer of course was within the pages. It was indeed that very dish I remember. I wonder if my mom had used that recipe!
I knew I wanted to make it in my own healthy veggie-heavy way, but to give it that creamy comfort food classic flavor at the same time. I also wanted to make sure it was a simple enough recipe that it would be ready in a half hour for a busy weeknight.
Here are some of the ways I made it easy and healthier:
Normally I would have started a recipe like this by cutting the raw chicken into cubes, and sautéing it in a skillet to get fond, taking that out of the skillet and adding in the veg, and deglazing. But I knew that staging it like that would A. yuck up my cutting board with raw chicken and B. take too long. So instead I poached the chicken, and then cut it up after it was cooked through. Meanwhile I made the veggies and sauce, and then stirred the chicken in a the end. It ended up being full of flavor (thank you sherry- my favorite secret ingredient, and thyme.)
I only needed a little bit of half and half at the end because the thick sauce has such a velvety flavor, that it really didn’t need much fat to add to the mouth feel. I also skipped right over the fussy/fatty puff pastry business, and opted for pasta instead. According to the Joy of Cooking, almonds should be scattered on top. I am not sure I remember my mom doing that, but I tried it and loved the texture contrast. I think it’s especially nice when served over pasta for that reason.
What cookbooks are always on hand?
Have you ever gotten rid of old cookbooks?
Do you remember certain recipes from the Joy of Cooking or the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook?
Have you ever had Chicken a la King in the puff pastry shell?
This creamy chicken a la king is a healthy make-over of the classic comfort food dish and is loaded with fresh vegetables and only a splash of half-and-half. Pasta replaces the fussy puff pastry, so that it comes together in just 30 minutes making it a perfect weeknight meal!
- 8 ounces pappardelle pasta or whole wheat egg noodles
- 2 large chicken breasts, about 1 pound
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons organic canola oil or avocado oil
- 1 10-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- ¼ cup half and half
- ¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook whole-wheat egg noodles according to package instructions. Drain well and keep hot.
- Meanwhile, place chicken breast in a medium saucepan and cover completely with cold tap water. Place over high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, turning in the poaching liquid occasionally until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and cooked through, 12 to 16 minutes, depending on thickness of the meat. Remove the chicken and cut into cubes.
- While pasta and chicken cook, heat butter and oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to melt butter. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have softened and released their juices, and the juices have evaporated and the vegetables are starting to brown, 8 to 12 minutes.
- Add sherry to the mushroom mixture and cook, stirring until evaporated. Stir in flour to coat the vegetable mixture. Add broth and cook, stirring constantly until the flour is dissolved into the broth. Bring to a simmer, stirring often.
- Add chicken and return to a simmer, stirring often until the chicken is heated through and the sauce is thick. Remove from the heat and stir in half and half.
- Serve the chicken and sauce over the noodles. Top with almonds and parsley. Serve hot.
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