For the novice cook producing a classic chicken à la king is one of the marks of future greatness.
The creamy béchamel sauce, embedded with quartered button mushrooms glistening over crisp sweet peppers and chunks of chicken, carefully arranged on a bed of freshly steamed white rice, result in a familiar old favourite loved by young and old. To take this classic off the launching pad and into the stratosphere, this recipe adds one powerful ingredient: fresh prawns, out of the shell, augmented
with garlic and extra-virgin olive oil.
To make prawn and chicken à la king for four diners, you will need:
• 6 chicken breasts • 100g frozen prawns • 2 sweet peppers, one red, one yellow • 2 cloves of garlic • 250g button mushrooms • 2 onions • 50g butter • 400ml milk • 25g white flour • extra-virgin olive oil • black pepper and salt to taste
A royal meal with a twist
We begin by thawing the prawns, which should then be cleaned and shelled. Select a heavy-bottomed frying pan, pour in a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and bring this up to medium heat.
At this moment, focus on the time. When it comes to prawns, too much cooking happens very suddenly, reducing a luxury food to hot polystyrene. Lower the prawns into the hot oil and let them cook for 60 seconds a side. As soon as 120 seconds are up on the kitchen stopwatch, remove the prawns from the oil and reserve them in a covered bowl.
Ditch the oil, clean the pan, recharge with fresh oil and once more bring it up to medium heat.
Crush, peel and mince the garlic; peel and thinly slice the onions; and rinse and quarter the button mushrooms.
Depip and slice the sweet peppers. all these ingredients to the hot oil. Allow them to sweat for a few minutes until the onions have reduced to a soft, golden hash.
While this is going on, skin and debone the chicken breasts. Section the breasts into bite-sized chunks, then add them to the contents of the frying pan. Let them cook until the chicken is done to your liking. Remember that overcooked breasts turn into rubber, while undercooked breasts may be crawling with salmonella. It’s a jungle out there, believe me.
Now for the magic. Add the butter, the milk and the sifted flour. Using a ball whisk or a fork, keep the stuff moving until it – the sauce – begins to brown and thicken. Season this with coarse, freshly ground black pepper, salt to taste, and if the mood is right, maybe even a little nutmeg. Add the cooked prawns, let them absorb some heat, give the whole thing a good stir and serve on freshly steamed or boiled white rice.
A green salad works like a charm, and so do a few bottles of Bukettraube or Gerwurtztraminer, profoundly chilled. – David Basckin |fw