Saturday, June 21, 2008

Creamed Chicken and Other Delights (with apologies to Soul Asylum)

Creamed chicken, heck, creamed anything, gets a bad rap, and that's unfortunate.
Dishes like this are not only tasty, but they're a really good way to make use of leftovers, and you can create a lot of dishes from the very simple base of "creamed something".

What you start with, besides the chicken, is a sauce, specifically, a bechamel sauce. Bechamel is the base of a bazillion sauces (it's called a "mother sauce"), and is simply milk + a roux (flour and butter). If you substitute chicken broth, you get a veloute sauce*. If you mix in cheese, you get a mornay. (You get the idea). Saute some aromatics (like diced onion, celery, and carrots), add the bechamel and chicken, and serve it over rice, and you've got creamed chicken.

If you boil some egg noodles, and then toss them with parmesan in a casserole dish, you can take that same creamed chicken, add an egg yolk or two, and then pour the mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle it with more cheese, and then bake that in an 350-375deg oven for about 25 minutes, and you've got a pretty good chicken casserole. Heck, get rid of the chicken, and substitute a can or two of tuna, and you've got tuna casserole, and all you need is maybe some bread crumbs over the top to toast. Get really crazy, and get rid of the meat altogether, and you've moved into macaroni and cheese territory.

Or, you can take that creamed chicken, add some sherry, some frozen peas (I like frozen peas), and an egg yolk, and serve it over pastry shells for chicken ala king (which you see below):

My point is that things like creamed chicken were popular once for a reason, and it's not because every person 20 or 30 years had really bad taste. It's because dishes like this are simple, they're flexible, and they fulfill our need for something homey and satisfying.

Chicken ala King: (from Fanny Farmer, filtered thru my memory)
2tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 - 1 1/2 cup hot chicken broth
1/2 cup cream
1 cup diced chicken
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp sherry
1 egg yolk

Melt the butter over med heat in a medium sauce pan, and stir in flour. Cook, stirring often, until toasty smelling and brown. Whisk in chicken broth, and simmer for 3-4min. Stir in cream. Beat the yolk in a small bowl, and add a small amount (1/4 c) of sauce to the yolk, stirring constantly to temper it. Add the yolk mixture back to the saucepan, stirring to incorporate. Add the chicken, the peas, and the sherry, stir to combine, and let simmer until heated thru. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve over pastry shells (or rice).

1 comment:

Liz said...

Mmmmm. Chicken a la king...Yummy! and the kids love it too!