Made with chunks of deboned chicken, mushrooms and bell peppers swimming in a buttery and creamy sauce, chicken a la king is Speedy’s favorite dish. His mom made it every year for his birthday.
Even after we moved into our own house, Speedy’s mom still made chicken a la king for his birthday and she’d call up to remind him to pick a container that she had reserved for him. Sweet, isn’t it? Just like the wine that adds an indescribable depth and richness to the dish. Sherry is the traditional choice but I have discovered that sweet rice wine like sake or mirin does the trick equally well.
Speedy will celebrate his birthday in two days — yes, on this year’s Father’s Day. His mom has gotten at that age when she no longer cooks. So, I cooked chicken a la king.
Why two days early? Because from today until Sunday, I will be cooking the rest of Speedy’s favorite dishes. Carrot cake tomorrow. Steak on Sunday. Alex will be making her famous pistachio sans rival after that. Right now, it’s just me doing the cooking because both Sam and Alex have work. So, today is chicken a la king day.
To make chicken a la king, I started by pan grilling seasoned chicken breast fillets then cut them into cubes.
In a tablespoon of melted butter, I sauteed sliced button mushrooms with salt and pepper until lightly browned.
I scooped out the mushrooms, moved them to a plate, melted another tablespoon of butter in the pan and sauteed the diced bell peppers with salt and pepper.
The bell peppers were moved to another plate and more butter was melted in the pan to make the roux that would form the base of the sauce. When the butter was melted, I dumped in the flour.
I mixed the flour and butter until smooth, and cooked the mixture until the edges started to brown. Then, I stirred the thickened mixture.
Chicken broth and sweet rice wine were poured into the roux to make a thick paste. Then, cream was stirred in. Salt, pepper and a little nutmeg were added.
When the sauce was simmering, the bell peppers and mushrooms were added back into the pan. As soon as the sauce started to come to a simmer once more, the chicken cubes were stirred in.
Seasonings were adjusted one last time then I waited for ten minutes before serving the chicken a la king. Why the waiting time? The sauce thickens as it cools and I wanted it to be at the perfect consistency before serving the dish.
Chicken a la King
- Rub the chicken fillets with salt and pepper. Poach, steam or grill. DO NOT OVERCOOK. How long the cooking time is depends on the thickness of the fillets.
- Cool the chicken fillets. Cut into one-inch cubes.
- Heat one tablespoon of butter in a pan. Cook the mushrooms over medium heat with a little salt and pepper until nicely browned. Scoop out and move to a plate.
- Heat another tablespoon of butter in a pan. Over medium heat, cook the bell peppers with a sprinkle of salt and pepper for about four minutes. Scoop out and transfer to another plate.
- Add the remaining butter to the pan. When melted, throw in the flour. Mix thoroughly. Cook over medium heat until the edges start to brown. Stir.
- Pour the chicken broth and rice wine slowly into the butter-flour mixture while stirring with your other hand.
- When the mixture is smooth, taste and add salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
- With the heat at the lowest setting, stir in the cream. Taste and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
- When the sauce starts to simmer, add the bell peppers and mushrooms to the sauce. Stir.
- When the sauce starts to come to a simmer once more, stir in the chicken. Cook until the chicken cubes are heated through and the sauce is simmering.
- Taste the sauce one more time and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- Let the chicken a la king sit in the pan, uncovered, for about ten minutes to allow the sauce to thicken (it thickens as it cools).
- Serve the chicken a la king over toasted bread, rice or pasta.