Simple Chicken à la King Recipe

Chicken à la KingOh, the joys of being away from home! It means that I am removed from my RSS feed, so I don’t have constant access to what is going on. Also, and more important, it means I have to cook a lot. This seems to be the main reason that people have me over: so I can cook for them. It isn’t that I’m a great cook. It is just that I am a cook. And in our modern world, that’s a big thing. People are so dependent upon prepared or mostly prepared food that having something cooked from scratch is a treat — even if it isn’t done by Julia Child or Graham Kerr.

Last night was special because I was going to teach my sister a very easy way to make Chicken à la King. By the end, I realized that I was just going to have to write it down for her because there were too many distractions. But given that I don’t actually have a recipe for it, I figured now would be a good time to get it down on paper (or computer screens anyway). Just the same, be prepared for a little hedging because I’m not totally certain what I do.

Ingredients

½ lb of chicken breast
¼ cup butter
½ lb mushrooms, sliced
½ cup celery, diced
¼ cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth

Optional: carrots, peas; see below.

Instructions

  1. Cook the chicken. I boil it, myself. In fact, if you cut up the chicken, you may end up with an acceptable cup of chicken broth for the rest of the recipe. Regardless, boil for about 15 minutes. If you are dealing with a really large breast, you definitely need to cut it into fourths (at least).
  2. Sauté the vegetables. Cook the mushrooms and celery in the butter for about 15 minutes. I usually add a diced carrot as well. That’s non-standard, but I like it. Frozen peas work too, but don’t add them until the last five minutes, or they will end up as mush.
  3. Make the roux. This is what makes the recipe so easy, because this is definitely a lazy person’s way of making a roux — or a “guy’s” way. You sprinkle the flour and salt over the vegetables and mix. Then, you add the milk and chicken broth. I normally combine them together so that I’m adding them at the same time. You will end up with a soupy concoction. Increase the heat until it starts to bubble, and then turn it down. Make sure you keep stirring it.
  4. Add the chicken. While the creamy vegetables are reducing, cool your chicken to the point where you can work with it. Then cut it into small chunks. I do about ¼ inch chunks, but it’s up to you. Most people seem to like larger chunks like ½ inch or even more. I like Chicken à la King smooth — even to the point of turning it into strings with a fork.
  5. Add the pimientos. I use a 4 oz jar — reasonably drained. Mix it all together and you are done!

Traditionally, Chicken à la King is served over rice. For this, I recommend, as always, Basmati rice. It is so delicious and the texture is wonderful — not mushy. But you can use whatever you want. In fact, last night we didn’t even do rice. I’m very fond of doing Chicken à la King with biscuits. This time, we used the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit Mix. They were good. But I the Pillsbury Refrigerated Biscuit Dough is easier to work with.

This is a really easy recipe that produces an excellent result. Sometimes, I think I should start a cooking blog. It isn’t that I’m particularly good at cooking. But as with my approach to grammar, I’m good at reducing this stuff to the simplest way to get decent results. But I hope that at least this recipe will appeal to people who want good food without have to work very hard at it.

Afterword

I found this great little video that goes through the difference between coarsely chopped, chopped, diced, and minced. I tend to think the categories should be a little smaller than she presents, but it is about right.

Postmodern Tax Analysis: GOP Plans Awesome!

Marco RubioAt last week’s Republican presidential debate, I was struck by the repeated mention of the Tax Foundation and how it had found that all their highly regressive tax plans were totally great: they would balance the budget, give jobs to everyone, and gift ponies to all good boys and girls. And it is no surprise. Although it has a similar sounding name to the Tax Policy Center, the Tax Foundation is a Koch Industries backed grouped. Back in 2008, Paul Krugman wrote, The Tax Foundation Is Not a Reliable Source. (Of course, sleazy Greg Mankiw is for it, so that’s about all you need to know.) But here’s the kicker: even the Tax Foundation wasn’t that sanguine on the Republican plans — at least in terms of how regressive they were.

This is indicative of a major problem in American politics and the way that the media cover it. It would never fly for a politician to say, I ran the tax plan by my brother-in-law George (he took an accounting course in high school), and he thinks this plan will be dynamite. But you give George a million bucks and the title of President of the Tax Institute for Very Serious Accountability, and suddenly George’s opinions are golden. There’s no way that a journalist could ever distinguish between George’s Tax Institute for Very Serious Accountability and the Tax Policy Center. And the politicians will just say, “They have their experts and we have ours.”

The the history of the last 40 years has been one where progressive taxes like the federal income tax has gone down, and regressive taxes like sales and usage, and payroll taxes have gone up.

Now you would think that after all these years, the voters would wake up. Last year I wrote an article I’m rather proud of, Reagan’s Legacy: Tax Cuts for Rich, Tax Hikes for the Rest. People think of Reagan and all the Republicans as lowering their taxes. This is no doubt due to the fact that this is the narrative that the media pushes. But the history of the last 40 years has been one where progressive taxes like the federal income tax has gone down, and regressive taxes like sales and usage, and payroll taxes have gone up. Net result: the lower and middle classes pay more in taxes and the rich pay less.

What continues to amaze me is the laser focus on the federal income tax. I understand the argument. Conservatives claim that everyone should pay the same percentage in taxes. Of course, they aren’t concerned about that when it comes to capital gains taxes. Marco Rubio wants to get rid of that all together. He would argue that there is a social purpose for that: it will help create jobs. But there is an even better argument for cutting the taxes of the poor: it will create jobs. But usually the conversation doesn’t get even that far. The media just allow Republicans to make these claims without putting it in context. The situation is even worse with the payroll taxes, of course.

You need to think about it in terms of opportunity costs. Imagine that the government wanted to spend $100 billion. It could do so by cutting taxes on the rich or giving benefits to the poor. In an economy that is not at full employment (which is pretty much all the time — and certainly now), much if not most of the $100 billion in tax cuts would sit unused. All of the money given to the poor would be used, thus stimulate the economy. This means that the conversation can’t be about whether tax cuts help the economy but rather if they help the economy more than alternative uses. It’s like the difference between using money to fight a war or to build infrastructure.

But we can’t talk about any of this because our media is postmodern. According to them, there is no truth — just opinions. So if Marco Rubio says that his tax plan is totally awesome, who’s to say it isn’t? And when even a right wing outfit like the Tax Foundation is skeptical, you know it has to be bad. But don’t worry! George’s Tax Institute for Very Serious Accountability will back him up.

Morning Music: Go Tell Aunt Rhody

Jesse FergusonToday, we listen to “Go Tell Aunt Rhody.” It’s a really old song — dating back to the 18th century. And as such, there are a lot of different versions of the lyrics. But the main lyrics are highly anthropomorphic. The gander is weeping. The goslings are mourning. And then there is this whole business of the goose dying in the mill pond standing on her head. I assume this means something, but I don’t know what it is.

The nice part of the song is how it is ultimately about a good economic relationship. Aunt Rhody is caring for the old gray goose and basically charging her in the form of her feathers. At least I think that’s how it works. I’m no farmer. But it’s more pleasant than the idea of fattening a pig to kill it. This, of course, is why smart pigs become sheep herders or befriend clever spiders.

I present the song performed by Jesse Ferguson. He’s one of these guys you’ve probably never heard of who is nonetheless an incredible talent. I will have to check out this music in more depth. He might be worth a week. Anyway, he has a gorgeous voice. Check him out:

Anniversary Post: Godzilla

GodzillaOn this day in 1954, Godzilla was first released. It’s a great film. If you base the film on later versions of it or on the monster movie genre over all, you will get the wrong idea about it. The film is at base a warning against the misuse of science. It starts with the true story of the fishing boat that was destroyed during the first hydrogen bomb test.

The film circles around the stories of two scientists. The first is Kyohei Yamane (played by the great Takashi Shimura), who comes to see Godzilla as a creature that shouldn’t be killed. The other is Daisuke Serizawa, who has developed a weapon that can kill Godzilla but is afraid to unleash yet another unthinkably powerful weapon on the world. Not surprisingly, these larger ethical considerations were removed from the English language release of the film.

I highly recommend checking out the film. The Criterion Collection Godzilla is particularly good with both the original and the America versions of the films. They both contain commentary tracks from David Kalat, who provides you with all the historical and cinematic context you could need for the films. If you have a problem with monster movies, this will help you to see it in a whole new way.