Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Chicken a' la King or Keene?

One of my favorite Thanksgiving left-overs is Turkey a la King! Since 1976, I have served it the day after Thanksgiving for brunch! My husband may have loved it more than the actual Thanksgiving Dinner! Truly!

The original Chicken a la King has a history with mixed versions. Who can really know when and where this scrumptious dish made its first appearance! Chicken served in a cream sauce with similar additions to my favorite was around long before anybody named it after the last name “King” or “Keene”. Let’s look at a few versions of this story, but first I want you to know my history with the dish!

My husband and I were married the week before Thanksgiving, and I distinctly remember that first big meal I fixed for the family. The next day, as I looked at all the left-overs, I opened up my blue and white Good Housekeeping cookbook and found a picture of Chicken a la King ... and that started the tradition.

Now, I wasn't new to the dish. When I was in high school, my mom would keep Banquet brand boiling bag portions of Chicken a la King in the freezer. I walked home for lunch ... had plenty of time to fix one of those ... and still get back to school in time for afternoon classes. I loved the stuff!

Good news for me. My husband loved it too, but his first taste came on our little kitchen table during the first week of marriage! I'm not sure what he loved the most ... the Thanksgiving Day turkey ... or brunch the day after!

The origination dates for Chicken a la King range from 1881 to the 1920s. Most of the recipes include diced chicken, mushrooms, green peppers and pimentos in a cream sauce with a little sherry added. It is typically served over toast.

These stories are retold on, one of my favorite sites for checking the history of foods!

Keene on his racehorse, Foxhall

It is possible that in the 1890s, Mr. and Mrs. Foxhall Keene told the chef at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City about the dish that was originally created for Keene’s father in 1881. The chef at the Claridge Hotel in London created it for J. R. Keene Senior in commemoration of J.R.’s horse having just won the Grand Prix in Paris.


Other stories indicate that the dish was created in Miami, on Long Island or at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City … all in the 1920s.

Vintage Postcard of Brighten Beach Hotel

Another story attributes the dish to Chef George Greenwald at the Brighten Beach Hotel in New York. The date is sketchy on that one ranging from 1898 to the early 1900s. He prepared the dish, tested it on the owners Mr. and Mrs. E. Clark King II. The next day it went on the menu for $1.25 and became a huge success.

We’re not sure if this scrumptious brunch dish started out having been named after a “Keene” or a “King”, but we do know it has remained popular for over a hundred years!

I’m sharing my recipe for the version that uses left-over turkey from Thanksgiving Dinner! You can use the remains of a rotisserie chicken or you can simmer a big chicken breast and use it.

Next Day Turkey a la King

1 stick butter
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups chopped turkey
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups milk
1 cup peas
¼ cup sliced green pimento stuffed olives

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and sauté the mushrooms, onions and celery until the vegetables are soft. Blend in the flour and add the chicken stock. Continue to stir and add the turkey, peas and milk. The sauce should begin to thicken. As a last step, add the olives and a little olive juice for flavor. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve this over toast, biscuits, toasted corn bread or puff pastry.

This is a part of my 2021 project, Foods Named after Famous People! I’ll be sharing it with a couple blog parties. Enjoy!

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