Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chicken à la King (A Clean Recipe)

Are there any dishes that you enjoy nowadays that started out as a "what the heck is on my plate" type of thoughts? For me, Chicken à la King was one of those dishes, and I can distinctly remember that It was in the galley (Navy speak for cafeteria) on base in Pensacola, Florida when I first experienced the dish. I had gone through the line, not knowing what Chicken à la King was, but excited to try something new. Clearly, I was new to the Navy since the words "galley" and "excited to try something new" were in the same thought.
What I envisioned was not at all what I got: a gloppy, soggy mess of overcooked vegetables, meat and egg noodles. Uhhh, gross. Of course the problem was that it was mass produced for thousands of people using cooking and serving techniques that were probably pulled from a bad prison movie. You know the one I'm talking about: when all of the inmates walk the cafeteria line and the camera pans in on the "mystery meat" being plopped down on the tray buy a guy with only one tooth who also happens to be named Bubba, Stabby Joe, or Slim.

I didn't mean to compare the Navy to prison... It sure does feel like a prison at times when you're on a big grey boat atop big grey seas with nowhere to go, but most of the time, it's nothing like prison... not that I know what prison is like, I'm just sayin'.
Needless to say, I didn't eat or have any desire to make Chicken à la King for several years after that. I came across a recipe for it while surfing through classic comfort foods, and was surprised that it didn't look half bad! I decided to give it a second chance, but wanted to steer completely clear of the overly processed, fatty gloop that had been burned into my brain.

I think this is my first official "clean" recipe for Butter Than Toast. I've made them in the past, but let's be honest... I really love butter, bacon and all of those really delicious but unhealthy ingredients. I figured though, that to do a complete 180° from the nastiness that I wanted to get away from with this dish, I had to go all out and make it as healthy as possible. All Chicken à la King is anyway, is a bunch of sauteed vegetables with chicken and a cream sauce, right? Right. I will state upfront that my "clean" recipe uses half&half and cornstarch- which seem to both kind of push the limits of what constitutes as clean eating.
So, for a newbie to clean eating, what exactly ARE the rules? This website seems to have a pretty good  description, but the basic principles are all about using as minimally processed ingredients as possible while steering clear of saturated fats and refined grains/sugars. Makes sense, right? It's kind of been what nutritionists have been promoting for years but now it's just being given a label. I'll take healthy and balanced over a fad trend any day of the century!

Traditionally, Chicken à la King is served with egg noodles, but I've seen it served with biscuits or rice as well. My personal preference is brown rice, since it's healthier and has more fiber, but I was trying out a new biscuit recipe on the same day I made this so that's why there's a biscuit in the pictures. The biscuit recipe was just ok- so I probably won't write a post about it. Just stick with the brown rice since it's clean eating approved, works well with the texture of the dish, and is just delicious!

Oh, I suppose you still want to know how my version of the Chicken à la King came out? Slightly still crunchy vegetables. Meaty depth from perfectly cooked and not chewy mushrooms. Moist but lean chicken breast. Light and delicate cream sauce. Perfectly balanced spices with terrific flavor. Served with a whole grain. Yep, it was a winner. But don't take my word for it- try it for yourself!

Chicken a la King

A Butter Than Toast Original
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup mushroom caps, any kind you like, wiped clean and chopped
1/2 cup uncooked chicken breast, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup fat free half&half
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
Minced parsley, for garnish

Prepare biscuits, egg noodles or rice for serving prior to starting chicken mixture. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Sauté the onion, carrot, and celery until just barely soft, about 4 minutes. Add the pepper, mushroom and chicken, stir to combine. Cook another 4 minutes until chicken is browned on all sides and mushroom starts to soften. Stir in the white wine, reduce for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour and spices over the mixture, stir to combine, cook another 2 minutes. Add in the broth and half&half, lower the heat just a touch and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until thickened. Stir in the frozen peas, the residual heat will cook them through. If the sauce is not thick enough to your liking, mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and add to skillet, and simmer another 3 minutes or so until it’s thick. Serve hot over biscuits, egg noodles or rice.


  1. Stabby Joe! you crack me up. Love this healthafied version :) and that napkin (I think it is?) is so cute

  2. So yummy looking! Feeling quite hungry now :)


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