26-3. Ladies Bridge Lunch: Chicken a la King

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“We nibbled on cucumber sandwiches with our iced tea before dining on chicken ala king, tomato aspic, peas with onions and cream puffs–all made from scratch. (Well, almost all. I cheated on the cream puff filling by using Bird’s English Dessert mix with whipped cream folded into it.)” said Adrienne about that 50s luncheon.

Personally, I love Bird’s English Dessert powder! Learned to use it back in the 50s when we lived in England for six months and I got introduced to English Trifle made with Bird’s. A well-made trifle is wonderful–ought to be revived.

I loved it that Adrienne and her friends chose Chicken a la King for its bridge luncheon menu. For one thing I knew it would please Lucette Lagnado, the WSJ writer who wrote the article–she was immediately intrigued by that Chicken a la King name out of the past, when she came across it in one of my cookbooks and made a point of including it in the article. 

The facsimile edition of Fannie Farmer’s The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book does not include Chicken a la King–the 1927 edition, however, does. It calls for thickening a combination of one-half cup of chicken stock, one-half cup of milk and one-quarter cup of cream with 1 1/2 tablespoons each of chicken fat or butter and flour .  Add to that 2 tablespoons butter (bit by bit), one-half teaspoon salt, 1 cup “cold boiled fowl” cut in strips, along with one-half cup of sauteed sliced mushroom caps and one-quarter cup of canned pimiento cut in strips. Carefully (I say) add one slightly beaten egg yolk.

Doesn’t say so, but I KNOW you have to temper the egg yolk with a bit of the hot sauce before adding it. In fact, having to add that egg yolk would cause me to look for another recipe. Tricky to “hold” recipes that end that way.

Later editions of Fannie’s books? No Chicken a la King. But my 60s Joy of Cooking (Irma Rombauer) does have it, A very similar recipe to Fannie’s in 1927 edition. Just reading the two I prefer Fannie’s recipe–less flour, more butter and cream, but I would never boil the chicken–gently poach in Swanson’s (preferably or home made) chicken stock is the way to do that for maximum flavor. And don’t overcook it. Joy of Cooking does add a tablespon of dry sherry, an addition I approve of. I remember back in the 50s if you were anti-alcohol, they would often suggest Worcesterhsire sauce as a substitute for sherry–never could understand that!

Last time I tried to buy dry sherry could only find very expensive brand–all moderate priced sherry was medium. Too sweet! Rombauer does tell  how to handle a sauce with egg yolk in it when you want to make it ahead. “To reheat place in a saucepan over boiling water.” That’s what chafing dishes were for!


One Response to 26-3. Ladies Bridge Lunch: Chicken a la King

  1. This website or blog or whatever it’s called is soooooo very interesting.
    It’s brand new to me. I never knew all this history of Bridge. I am a Bridge player…..love it and all the sociability that accompanies it. I’m in a couple of late-morn Bridge groups and an evening group that includes dinner. Are all of the recipes found in the book?? I love looking for new lunch or dinner ideas for our parties, when I am entertaining. But I also love reading how it was done in the fifties and prior. Keep me posted, please.

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