Chicken à la King

This one gets filed away under ‘classic comfort food’. No, it’s not a chicken pot pie and it’s not just ‘chicken and gravy’. It can be quite elegant, actually. The gravy is silky smooth and packed with flavor. The chicken is poached in a bounty of aromatics and the biscuits? They’re flakey yet dense enough to stand up to flavorful chicken and sauce.

Let’s start with the biscuits.

  
They’re similar to a puff pastry, as the dough is laminated. The difference is these are almost scone like. Baking soda and baking powder give them their lift yet they don’t have that awful metallic taste. The butter is partially frozen when added so hands off! This recipe is best made in a food processor. 

The baking time was a little off. Instead of 10-12 minutes, mine went for 15-18 minutes so keep an eye on them because at 450 degrees, these will go from golden brown to a brick, very quickly. 

Moving on to the chicken. You could use leftover meat from a roasted chicken but only if it was heavily seasoned. You could bake the chicken, as well, but I really think poaching is the way to go. There are several benefits. The first is that it’s a fantastic way to clean out your produce drawer. Similar to making stock, anything goes. The second benefit to poaching is that you’re able to add sooooo much flavor to what would otherwise be just bland white meat. Lastly, it’s so damn easy….and better for you!

  
I added onion, celery, chicken broth, (not stock…although that would also work), some white wine, (optional), cloves, peppercorns, and thyme.

Like the biscuits, this can all be done ahead of time.

Now on to the ‘other’ star of the show, (I’m a sucker for those biscuits)….

  
I sliced 6 oz of Bella mushrooms. Any kind of mushrooms will do but I tend to avoid those sad pre-sliced white ones. They get sautéed with butter, thyme, salt and pepper, until they’re soft. 

  
Once the mushrooms are done, they get set aside and in goes a little more butter to sautée the shallots. Because your going to strain the gravy, there’s no need to surgically dice them. Just slice them and throw them in. 

  

Flour is the thickening agen of choice. Be sure to cook it for a few minutes until it gets slightly brown.

The sherry (very important) and chicken broth get added and the sauce is simmered for 25-30 minutes. Be sure to stir every few minutes!

  
The sauce is strained and the mushrooms rejoin the party. Now it’s time to taste, season and taste again. 

  
If you find the sauce too rich, add a bit of cream. Cream solves all the world’s problems. Now the diced chicken returns to the pan to reheat.

  
Under that delicious mountain of chicken, mushrooms and gravy, are a few split biscuits that have been warmed. 

Don’t be intimidated by the following….it looks worthy of a full day of cooking but it’s not because biscuits and chicken can be prepared ahead of time. And obviously store bought puff pastry also tastes great!

You can also serve this over rice or yummy egg noodles.

The following biscuit recipe, courtesy of Food.com, makes 6 small biscuits. Next time, I think I’ll double the dough as I prefer larger biscuits.

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board (if you can get White Lily flour, your biscuits will be even better)

1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder (use one without aluminum)

1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold

1 cup buttermilk (approx)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 450°F.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor.

Cut the butter into chunks and cut into the flour until it resembles course meal.

If using a food processor, just pulse a few times until this consistency is achieved.

Add the buttermilk and mix JUST until combined.

If it appears on the dry side, add a bit more buttermilk. It should be very wet.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board.

Gently, gently PAT (do NOT roll with a rolling pin) the dough out until it’s about 1/2″ thick. Fold the dough about 5 times, gently press the dough down to a 1 inch thick.

Use a round cutter to cut into rounds.

You can gently knead the scraps together and make a few more, but they will not be anywhere near as good as the first ones.

Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet- if you like soft sides, put them touching each other.

If you like”crusty” sides, put them about 1 inch apart- these will not rise as high as the biscuits put close together.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes- the biscuits will be a beautiful light golden brown on top and bottom.

Do not overbake.

Note: The key to real biscuits is not in the ingredients, but in the handling of the dough.

The dough must be handled as little as possible or you will have tough biscuits.

I have found that a food processor produces superior biscuits, because the ingredients stay colder and there’s less chance of overmixing.

You also must pat the dough out with your hands, lightly.

Rolling with a rolling pin is a guaranteed way to overstimulate the gluten, resulting in a tougher biscuit.

Note 2: You can make these biscuits, cut them, put them on cookie sheets and freeze them for up to a month.

When you want fresh biscuits, simply place them frozen on the cookie sheet and bake at 450°F for about 20 minutes.

_______________________________________

Poached Chicken Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts

Aromatics (told you this was a flexible recipe)

Chicken broth

1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

In a 4-6 quart sauce pan, lay the chicken on the bottom of the pan, with overlapping. Season with salt and pepper. Add enough broth to cover the chicken by an inch, add the wine and all the aromatics.

Bring to a boil then immediately reduce to low. Cover and let it simmer for 8-10 minutes. The temp should be 170. Check it often, if it still needs more time. 

You can save the poaching liquid for soups, stews, etc. It will last a day or two in the fridge so I’d recommend freezing it.

_______________________________________

Mushroom Sauce:

Ingredients

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 large shallots, minced

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup dry sherry

3 3/4 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned

6 sprigs plus 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more, to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more, to taste

Pinch cayenne pepper

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices

1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream

4 cups 1-inch cubed poached chicken

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

Directions

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup of the butter, and saute the shallots until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Whisk in the sherry and broth and bring to a boil while stirring. Add the parsley and thyme sprigs, lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook the sauce for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the mushrooms until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Strain the sauce into mushrooms and season with the salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg. Whisk in the creme fraiche.

Add the minced parsley, chicken, and chives to the sauce, and bring to a simmer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Adapted from the following: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/chicken-a-la-king-recipe.html?oc=linkback

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