Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pigtails and Frog Legs: A Family Cookbook from Neiman Marcus

Once upon a time, I was strolling through Neiman Marcus (we used to have one in downtown Minneapolis) with my husband and this caught my eye.

Now, I don't usually pay full price for new cookbooks, but I had to get it.  A cookbook illustrated by Chuck Jones?  How could I resist?

Okay...there may be one or two people out there...somewhere...who have no idea who Chuck Jones was.  Luckily, our local history center has an exhibit right now and I can show you this.  Take a minute.  (Thanks, Dave!)

And now that we're all on the same page, I'll go on.  So, a cookbook illustrated by Chuck Jones.  Apparently Neiman Marcus solicited recipes from its "InCircle Members" (no clue!) to do a fundraising cookbook for several children's charities.  Somebody found out Chuck Jones was one of their members and they asked him to do the illustrations. Unlike many fundraising cookbooks, the recipes in this book passed a panel of professional chefs.  And then they got Michael Jackson to write the forward.  (1993)

I like this cookbook a lot.  It's a great family cookbook, and I really need to dig into it more.  I love the recipe for Green Enchiladas, but best of all is The Á La King.

I don't think I had ever had chicken á la king made from scratch before.  I'd had cafeteria versions, and boil-in-bag versions, frozen dinner versions, and I *think* somewhere way in my past I had encountered a canned version.  My reaction to those was basically "it's okay".  But I tried this, and suddenly I knew why people had spent so much time attempting to make a quick and easy version.  But this is fairly quick and it's certainly easy, although you might have to buy an ingredient or two that you don't normally keep at hand.  Here's the recipe -- stick around for my notes on it afterwards.
The Á La King

1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1 jar (4.5 oz) sliced mushrooms, reserve 1/4 cup liquid
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup milk
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen peas, cooked
2 to 3 cups chicken, cooked and cubed
1 4 oz jar pimentos, chopped
1 pkg (6-count) PEPPERIDGE FARM puff pastry shells

In large skillet, sauté green pepper and mushrooms in butter for 5 minutes. Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring until mixture is bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in half-and-half, milk, broth and reserved mushroom liquid. Heat to boiling. Stirring constantly, boil for 1 minute. Add peas, chicken and pimentos. Cook 4 more minutes. Serve in pastry shells.
Serves 6

To start, I should say that I have never even purchased Pepperidge Farms puff pastry shells. I have no idea if you can even still buy them. But this is a flexible recipe (another one!  I like those) and it can easily be served on rice, refrigerator biscuits, drop biscuits...oh, probably mashed potatoes too if you want. What else?  Canned mushrooms are fine.  Half a cup of cream and 1 1/2 cups milk...red (sweet) pepper instead of pimiento.  Even the original recipe is very flexible on the amount of chicken involved.  And it tastes soooooo good!


  1. Y'know: another good "from scratch" way to do Chicken A'la King is, rather than the puff pastry shells, to make a simple drop biscuit dough. Then, you do one of two things: shape the dough into big enough cups to hold the fixings or prepare the whole thing like a cobbler and put dollops of the dough over the top. Either way, it's a way that Mom used to make it! :)

  2. In the past I've simply broken up my drop biscuits and served the chicken over it. I don't think my go-to recipe would stand up to shaping into bowls, but if I could bake them over a shape...hmmm! But both are very good additional ways to do it!