I’ve been working like a dog recently on a wonderful movie. For all of you who lead hectic lives… you must, like me, long for a simpler time when there were “ladies who lunch” after a particularly grueling day.
I daydream about lounging like the lovely lady above, elegantly attired and insouciant… waiting for course after course of small plates to tease my taste buds and fuel girly chatter. As it is, my reality is a grabbed nibble of chips, an apple on the fly or stainless steel trays of goop over burners –– not inspiring at all. No wonder this lifestyle seems like a dream (especially since I look more like a bag lady on the job than a perfectly coiffed, fur-muff-wielding damsel).
I found this recipe whilst looking for something else in the NYT archives. It is treasure of Edwardian delights suggested by the Maitre d’Hotel of the Plaza Hotel in NY, a M. Lattard in January of 1913. One could pass the article’s dining suggestions along to ones cook for ones enjoyment. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
As you can see, the recipe is quite simple. The unusual part came from the rice cakes that were served with it. I had always had chicken a la king on toast or biscuits so this was an unusual presentation that took a little detective work to find recipes for but then Chicken a la King takes a little detective work in itself –– its history is very unclear with multiple stories.
Wikipedia said that Delmonico's chef Charles Ranhofer served “Chicken à la Keene in the 1880s, named after Foxhall Parker Keene. Another version claims it was created in 1881 at Claridge's Hotel in London and named for James R. Keene, father of Foxhall”.
“Another account claims chef George Greenwald of the Brighton Beach Hotel in Brighton Beach created it in 1890s, naming it after patron E. Clarke King and his wife.”
“The most likely account is that Chicken à la King was created in the 1890s by hotel cook William "Bill" King of the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia. Several obituaries in early March 1915 credited King after he died on March 4, 1915. A New York Tribune editorial at the time of King's death stated: “The name of William King is not listed among the great ones of the earth. No monuments will ever be erected to his memory, for he was only a cook. Yet what a cook! In him blazed the fire of genius which, at the white heat of inspiration, drove him one day, in the old Bellevue, in Philadelphia, to combine bits of chicken, mushrooms, truffles, red and green peppers and cream in that delight-some mixture which ever after has been known as "Chicken a la King.””
My recipe for Chicken a la King is based on the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book recipe that I found in the book I inherited from my grandmother… simple and classic.
The 1846 recipe for these little rice cakes from Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt-Book by Catharine Beecher is pretty simple too. I used brown rice for fun and a pinch of sugar as many of the recipes had a good deal of sugar in them. These little pancakes were very popular in the 19th century. Saleratus, if you don’t know (I didn’t) is baking soda! I also looked at a recipe on Vintage Recipes for some assistance with the griddle cakes
Chicken a la King inspired by the Boston Cooking School for 2
4 T melted butter
½ to ¾ cup sliced mushrooms
2 T flour
½ c hot chicken broth
½ cup hot milk
½ c hot cream (** if you want to lower the calories use only milk)
1 cup cooked white meat chicken, cubed
1 t fresh marjoram
pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of mace
1 -2 T sherry or madeira to taste
1 egg yolk
2 T pimento
1 T parsley
Sauté the mushrooms in 1 T butter over a m/low heat till cooked through.
Remove the mushrooms and add the rest of the butter and the flour and cook for a few moments to remove the raw taste of the flour.
Slowly add the stock, milk and cream and add the salt and pepper and mace to taste and stir until thickened. Add the mushrooms to warm and the sherry or madeira. Gently add the egg yolk over very low heat.
Sprinkle with parsley and pimento. Serve with the rice griddle cakes.
Rice Griddle Cakes
1 ½ c salted boiled rice (brown or white)
1 c milk
2 c milk
2 c flour
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 t baking soda dissolved in 1 t. hot water
1 T breadcrumbs
Soak the cooked rice overnight in 1 c milk.
Combine the rice with the rest of the ingredients and cook on a buttered skillet or griddle until done. Keep warm and covered in a low oven. This makes more than you need. You can freeze they or use them for canapes later!