hether it’s just Tom and myself or our entire family, dinner is a special time for me. It’s more about coming together to share conversation than it is about consuming a meal. The best way to get everyone to the table on time is to let the aroma of a delicious meal serve as its own calling card. That’s how it was when I was a child: Dinnertime meant family time—kids around the table, my dad at the head, but my mother in charge.
We might be playing outside and as it started to get dark, we would catch a savory hint in the air of something delicious happening in our kitchen. It was a subtle tap on the shoulder, a gentle whisper in our ear. Dinnertime. And we would run home, knowing Mom would be just about ready for everyone to sit down. In Delaware, where we lived until I was 9, we ate around a large dining room table. After moving to California, we gathered in our larger kitchen, reserving the dining room for special occasions.
For meals with both family and company, my mom relied on a greatest hits lineup of roasted chicken, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, and risotto, though she also branched out enough to fill a box with 3×5 recipe cards. In terms of quality and consistency, she set a high bar, as did so many women of her generation who saw their job as staying home to cook, clean the house, and raise the family. When I set out on my own, I worked full time and had a lot of catching up to do in the kitchen. And I’m still learning. It takes time to acquire the experience of my mom and the women of her generation. That sort of intuitive knowledge and expertise does not happen overnight. However, that’s the beauty of my family recipes. They enable us to take advantage of the past and put our own stamp on the present.
Now, what’s for Sunday dinner?
Chicken à la King Crêpes is one of my mom’s recipes that she made for my brothers and me on regular weeknight dinners. Not until recently did I consider how advanced her skills were to make these for our entire family. She was part gourmet chef and part short order cook, and versatile enough to experiment with little French pancakes. I’ve updated it slightly, with a little more intense seasoning, without monkeying with the traditional thrill of tasting chicken in a cream sauce laced with sherry. Time-consuming but worth every minute it takes to melt the butter, whisk the cream, and fold your crêpes, this dish indulges any comfort food mood. Make this when you want to seriously impress family or friends with a rich, creamy, and delicious meal. I only make this on a special occasion when everyone is hanging out in the kitchen, laughing, listening to music, and perhaps sharing in the process of making a romaine salad for the side.
Chicken à la King Crêpes
Hands-on 1 hour, 26 min. | Total 2 hours, 26 min. | Serves 5
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 tbs unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 6 tbs unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
- 1 (8-ounce) package sliced button mushrooms
- 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (from 1 large rotisserie chicken)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tbs chopped fresh chives
Make Ahead: The batter can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated—or use store-bought crepes.
1. Process the milk, eggs, 1 cup of the flour, 3 tbs of the melted butter, and 3/4 tsp of the salt in a blender until smooth. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbs of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the onion and mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 8 minutes. Add the bell pepper, black pepper, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the sherry, and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean with paper towels.
3. Heat the remaining 4 tbs of butter in the skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the broth; cook, whisking often, until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream, and cook, whisking often, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low; stir in the vegetable mixture, chicken, cayenne pepper, and 2 tbs of the parsley. Cover and keep.
4. Stir the chives and remaining 2 tbs parsley into the chilled batter. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low. Brush the skillet lightly with about 1/2 tbs of the melted butter; pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet. Quickly tilt the skillet in all directions so the batter covers the bottom of the pan. Cook until the crêpe is almost set and can be shaken loose, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the crêpe; cook about 30 seconds. Remove from the skillet; place about 1/4 cup of the vegetable mixture on the crêpe, and fold the crêpe into quarters. Repeat the procedure with the remaining melted butter, crêpe batter, and vegetable mixture.
Excerpted from Valerie’s Home Cooking by Valerie Bertinelli. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. All rights reserved.