It’s 8:30 in the evening after a banquet that I had to cover for the radio station. The first few times I did these events it was kinda fun playing radio guy and getting free food and such. After a few years and with 60 fast approaching, starting the day at 5am and finishing 15 hours later seems a bit overdone, but such is the life for a media dude.
So I get home and realize that the blog for Wednesday was not done. Not only was it not done, but it wasn’t even started. As I desperately attempted to come to a quick subject to write about, my thoughts went to foods that were quick to prepare.
I remember back in the day before microwaves, a quick meal would be Banquet Boil-In-The-Bag. Eight minutes in a pan of boiling water and you were ready to enjoy your choice of gravy and sliced beef or turkey, or Chicken ala King. If you could overcome the wait and the potential of steam burns, the tasty entrees over toast could quickly settle the pangs of hunger.
While this was not necessarily five-star dining, it gave one the feeling of cooking without actually cooking. At 49 cents, it was the right price for my mom whose interest in cooking embraced cheap AND easy and was more than willing to fulfill my wishes for the boxed snacks.
Over the years the sliced turkey and beef graduated to larger entrees (family size as I recall), but Chicken ala King was discarded at least in my neighborhood. It took a long fall from the once high perch that it once had in an earlier day.
Despite the French name, it’s been difficult to trace its origins back to Europe. While several famous restaurants of the early 1900’s attempted to attach itself to the dish, it’s appearance in a New York Times article from 1893 seems to discourage us from taking that direct approach as well. Like the city itself, it is more likely a dish that was developed over time until becoming refined in the early 20th century. For the first half of the century, it was one of the iconic dishes of New York City until by the 1950’s it had become passé.
By the 1970’s when it crossed my radar, it had been homogenized to the point that it was unrecognizable to anyone older than 30. For me it was good eats, but what I was really eating was something that had been put out to pasture perhaps for good. Thankfully, a new generation of cooks, home and otherwise, are beginning to elevate this recipe back to a status that it deserves.
My own personal cook is practicing on making this recipe not only new again, but also tasty enough that Chicken ala King may enjoy a true renaissance and grace fine dining tables across the country once again. Tune-in for Sunday’s blog where Tracey shares the updated recipe and tempts you to bring the King of ala Chicken to your table.