Meet the parents
The day came to my husband and I to be serious enough in our relationship to be counted in each other’s family agenda. Those first days are a combination of excited and mortified. What are you going to wear? Even if I’ve never been a serious fashionista, I have always been serious about the seriousness of manifesting your state of mind through clothing. What are you going to say? Of course, you know you have to be yourself, but you and I know there is the probability of saying something in the most intricate manner just to make everyone look sharply at you while going in an awkward 15 seconds of silence. And how about the food? You know, that time when you were offered with some not so nice looking food but you’ll have to eat it anyway because everybody is watching, and most importantly, waiting for reaction. You just cross your fingers and hope for the best, in each and every of the scenarios.
Grateful I had been since none of those strange scenarios had become a reality, especially in the food spectrum. My mother-in-law happens to be a great cook, always making old family recipes and new creations as well. Everything she makes is absolutely delicious.
One particular recipe is one of my (now) husband’s favorite dish, chicken-a-la-king over a lettuce leaf on a toasted slice of bread. When I first tasted it I had never heard of it, and for me sliced bread was just for grilled cheeses or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The concept was a little odd for me, but my adventurous taste buds decided to give it a try. It was truly good, a shredded chicken breast with some sautéed red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and sherry wine and a simple béchamel sauce to pour over it. The contrast between the creamy sauce and the crunchy bread makes you ask for seconds.
Many years after those days I have never given the chicken-a-la-king much thought until recently when my husband started playing victim because I had never made him one of his favorite dishes. So in lieu of pleasing him and keeping peace in our family I decided to give it a try, using waffles instead of bread, because I’ve been thinking on the idea of a chicken and waffles thing for a while. I decided to make a savory waffles recipe with rosemary and olive oil, which I think is one of the best combinations for chicken. I am happy to report that, this time too, my husband asked for seconds…
1. I create my own version with mushrooms and onions. The original calls also for red bell peppers and boiled potatoes, but I didn’t care that much about the peppers and preferred to simplify things up by leaving the potatoes out.
2. Instead of shredding the chicken, which could be very time and energy consuming, I used chicken scaloppini and cut it in very thin stripes. That way all the chicken will be coated with the béchamel sauce.
3. I know guys, a truly béchamel doesn’t call for cheese, if so is a Mornay, but since I’m not using loads or different kinds of it I decided to call it a béchamel anyways with a bit of Parmesan to enhance the sauce with its nutty and salty flavor.
4. You could make the chicken ahead, even with the sauce, and heat it slowly when you have your waffles ready to serve.
5. The whites for the waffles could be beaten by hand, but this is one of those moments when you realize how smart of you was to buy that immersion blender with the whisker attachment. You will beat your whites quick and firm with no effort and no big mixers to clean after.
Chicken (à-la-king) & waffles
Chicken à la king
Chicken scaloppini (see recipe notes) – 4 to 5 fillets, approximately 2 pounds
Olive oil – 2+ TBSP
Cremini mushrooms, cleaned and cut in fourths – 1 cup
Chopped yellow onion – ½ cup
White wine – ⅓ cup
Fine sea salt – 1 ½ Tsp to cook the chicken + 1 Tsp for the béchamel sauce
Freshly ground black pepper – 1 Tsp for the chicken + 1 Tsp for the sauce
Milk – 4 cups
Medium yellow onion – ½
Whole cloves – 3 to 4
Unbleached flour – 4 TBSP
Unsalted butter - 5 TBSP
Ground nutmeg – ¼ Tsp
Parmesan cheese – ¼ cup
Frozen peas – 1 cup
Make the Béchamel sauce: Pour the milk in a medium pot or large saucepan. Pinch the onion with the cloves and immerse it in the milk. Warm it in low heat, do not let it boil, 5 to 7 minutes.
In a small saucepan melt the butter slowly in medium heat, preventing that it turns brown. Add the flour and using a whisker mix everything together to create a roux. Cook for 5 minutes, whisking constantly. If the roux is turning brown, just retire the saucepan for a couple of seconds, still whisking, then return to the heat. Start adding the warm milk, cup by cup, whisking vigorously in each addition to mix everything well before adding the next cup. Bring down to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sauce becomes thick. Retire from the heat and then add the teaspoon of salt, the teaspoon of pepper, the nutmeg and the Parmesan cheese and stir once more to mix everything. Set aside.
Make the chicken: Sprinkle all the chicken with most of the 1 ½ Tsp of salt and most of the teaspoon of pepper.
In a large skillet heat the olive oil in medium for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and onions and sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper, around ¼ teaspoon of each, and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes, until slightly soft and golden brown. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes more to let the alcohol evaporate a bit. Retire from the skillet, add a little bit more of oil if needed and put in the chicken scaloppini fillets. Turn the heat down to low medium and cook through for 2 minutes each side, 3 if they are thick. Retire from skillet and turn the heat off.
With a very sharp chef or pairing knife cut the chicken in very thin strips. Return to the skillet and turn the heat on again in medium high temperature. Incorporate the onions and mushrooms and then pour over the béchamel sauce. Combine everything together. Add the frozen peas and combine once more. Retire from heat and keep warm.
Rosemary and Olive Oil Waffles
Unbleached flour – ¾ cup
Cornstarch – ¼ cup
Baking powder – ½ Tsp
Baking soda – ¼ Tsp
Fine sea salt – ½ Tsp
Natural or raw sugar – 1 Tsp
Coconut milk – 1 cup
Olive oil – ⅓ cup
Egg – 1
Finely chopped rosemary – 1 Tsp (about two springs)
In a medium bowl combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda.
In another bowl combine the sugar, milk, oil and chopped rosemary.
Separate the egg, pour the white in a third bowl and drop the yolk on the sugar, milk and oil mix. Beat the yolk to incorporate it with the rest of the ingredients. Whisk the whites until soft peaks form, using and immersion whisker or by hand.
Using a wooden spoon mix gently the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, then gently fold the egg white into the batter.
Spray some cooking oil to the waffle maker surface. Let it heat for 1 minute, then pour about ½ cup of batter and close the lid. Cook until golden brown. Retire from heat and place it in a small rack.
To serve: Take some chicken and serve it over the waffle with some greens or lettuce leaves.