Thursday, November 12, 2015

Turkey a la King







     Turkey a la King!
     Chicken a la King was a popular restaurant menu item many years ago.  The only restaurants that seem to serve this antique recipe in today's modern age are greasy spoon diners, school cafeterias and cheap buffets.  Often the way this classic recipe is prepared at lower tier dining establishments does leave something to be desired.
     On the other hand, a well prepared Chicken a la King is something to marvel over, because the flavor is incredibly good.  A great Chicken a la King can still be found at yacht clubs, country clubs and old fashioned fine dining restaurants that have chefs that cherish antique recipes.
     The original Chicken a la King was created in the 1890's by a chef named William King at the famous Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia.  Chicken a la King was a fine dining restaurant entrée that received top billing for many years.  
     Many food historians say that sherry was part of the original recipe.  Early in my career I worked with an elderly yacht club cook and he was close to retirement age.  The senior cook started his career in the 1930's and he knew a lot of early 1900's food facts that modern food historians commonly get wrong.  The old cook said that correct liquor for Chicken a la King is Dry Vermouth.
     The old senior cook also recalled when the Turkey a la King recipe variation first became popular at sometime during the 1930's.  He said that many hotel cooks used leftover turkey from Thanksgiving to make Turkey al la King.  Home cooks also did the same thing.  The Turkey a la King recipe was perfect for getting rid of copious amounts of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner.
     Today's recipe is an example of the 1930's style Turkey a la King.  This item was offered on the lunch menu at the yacht club, where the senior yacht club cook and myself worked.  The senior cook always presented the Turkey a la King in a shallow bowl that was lined with toast points, just like the entrée in the photos above.
     Other than substituting turkey for chicken, the "a la King" recipes are nearly identical.  Sweet Peas are added to the turkey version, while the original Chicken a la King requires no peas at all.  
   
     Turkey a la King: 
     This recipe yields one hearty entrée.
     • This recipe is perfect for using up leftover roast turkey from Thanksgiving.  Roast turkey breast is the best choice, but some dark leg meat can be added.  
     • If this recipe is prepared at sometime other than the holiday season, then it will be necessary to roast a piece of turkey.  
     • During spring and summer, turkey is in low demand, so the price is cheap.  It is easier to find packaged turkey parts during the off season too, because few people want to roast a whole big bird when it is not Thanksgiving.  Purchasing a frozen single turkey breast is a good choice.  
     • Purchasing a large piece of roast turkey from a grocery store delicatessen is also an option.
     Step 1:  Either gather some leftover Thanksgiving roast turkey breast or slow roast a single turkey breast section in a 300ºF oven till it is fully cooked.  (About 8 ounces of roasted turkey breast meat is needed.)   
     Step 2:  Place a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk to make a roux.  (The roux should be shiny and not caky looking.) 
     Stir till the roux is a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Immediately add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Stir for about 10 seconds.
     *The hot roux will cook the onions and garlic instantly!
     Step 4:  Add 2 cups of light turkey broth or chicken stock.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry vermouth.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.  Stir as the sauce as it heats and thickens.  The sauce should be a very thin soupy consistency when it becomes hot.
     Step 5:  Add 8 ounces of large bite size pieces of roast turkey breast.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped roasted peeled pimiento.
     Add 1/2 cup of large bite size pieces of mixed red bell pepper and green bell pepper.
     Add 4 small button cave mushroom that are cut in half.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 6:  Return the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce till the vegetables are tender and the sauce is a medium thin consistency that easily coats a spoon.  (Stir the ingredients occasionally.)
     Step 8:  About 5 minutes before serving, add 1/3 cup of frozen sweet peas.
     Keep the Turkey a la King warm over very low heat.
   
     Turkey a la King Presentation:
     This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.
     Step 1:  Heat a griddle or sauté pan over medium heat.
     Cut as many triangle shaped toast points from a loaf of soft round French Bread (boule) as needed to line the border of the casserole serving dish.
     Brush the toast points with melted unsalted butter.
     Grill the toast points till they are crispy golden brown.
     Step 2:  Ladle the Turkey a la King into a shallow bowl or small casserole dish.
     Place the toast points around the turkey a la king in the casserole dish, so the finished plate resembles a royal crown.
  
     A hearty serving of Turkey a la King is perfect for a chilly day!

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