Today's comfortable, old-fashioned dish of chicken with mushrooms and peppers in a creamy sauce is a perfect weapon against this chilly, wet blast of fall weather.

It's called Chicken à la King, and you can hardly find a recipe for it anymore, except in old cookbooks and on "retro food" websites. But like its eminent cousins, tuna casserole and scalloped corned beef, Chicken à la King is delicious, easy to make and oddly addictive.

I read about it long before I actually ate it. My battered, spattered copy of the late Edna Staebler's cookbook, More Food That Really Schmecks, contains a nostalgic memory of the dish, which was presented in little shells of flaky pastry.

"When we were teenagers a party wasn't a party unless we were served Chicken à la King," Staebler wrote. "The girls always had two, the boys three. We were all skinny in those days."

In Staebler's and most other versions of this dish, an egg yolk or two is used to thicken the sauce. I've omitted that step in my version, since it isn't necessary, and the rushed, multi-tasking weeknight cook already has enough to worry about.

Instead of chopped, cooked chicken, I saved time and mess by using pre-cooked chicken breast strips, either fresh or frozen. I'm personally fond of the Jane's brand of frozen chicken strips.

And instead of using white mushrooms, I used cremini, widely available in large supermarkets locally, because I love their deep, musky flavour.

There are many stories about how Chicken à la King was invented. The most believable one is that it was invented about 100 years ago at the Brighton Beach Hotel in Brooklyn, N.Y., in honour of the owner, whose last name was King. The Kings liked it so much that the next day it went onto the regular hotel menu, for $1.25 a plateful.

Try the retro charm of Chicken à la King over rice, noodles or -- easiest of all -- toast. Play some big-band music while you're having dinner and feel the soothing effect!


2 cups (500 ml) cubed cooked chicken, or ready-cooked fresh or frozen (and thawed) chicken breast strips.

About 6 cremini mushrooms, rinsed, dried and sliced thin.

1 cup (250 ml) diced sweetbell peppers, a mixture of red, yellow and green.

2 tablespoons (30 ml) butter

2 tablespoons (30 ml) flour

1 10-oz (284 ml) can concentrated chicken broth

About 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cream

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Heat the chicken in a covered pan with a little water.

2 Melt the butter in a large skillet, then fry the peppers and mushrooms. When they are golden brown, remove vegetables from pan, but leave the butter inside.

3 Add the two tablespoons flour to the butter, and stir to blend. Cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat; the mixture will bubble up. Slowly whisk or stir in all the broth, little by little, and an equal amount of water. Boil the sauce gently until thick.

4 Gently fold in the chicken, fried mushrooms and peppers. Add cream and turn off heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over toast.

Makes two servings.