Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A New Take on Coronation Chicken for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

On the 2nd through the 5th of June of this year, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate the 60th anniversary of her reign, also known as her Diamond Jubilee.   Normally Diamond Jubilees are celebrated on the 75th year, but seeing that few monarchs make it that long, the time frame was shortened to 60 years during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Depending on how you look at it, the Queen of England has either a very difficult life or an extremely easy one. On the easy side, she has never had to worry about what she wanted to be when she grew up, doing a pile of dirty laundry, paying her light bill, or losing her job. She gets to travel to exotic places; she goes go to great parties, eats gourmet foods and lives in a grand house right in the middle of one of the most expensive cities in the world. Sounds pretty good to me.

On the hard side, at the age of 25 she had to deal with the death of her beloved father, a very big new job, and motherhood all at the same time, while her pretty younger sister drank champagne and danced till dawn. 

She is under constant public scrutiny about how much money the monarchy costs her country. 
Then there was that unfortunate and embarrassing couple of years when the marriages of her children crumbled in front of the public eye much to the delight of the often vicious British tabloid press.

To top it all off, the strained relationship between her and her glamorous and well-loved ex daughter-in-law came to a tragic end in a tunnel in Paris. As the country held its breath she made the unfortunate decision to wait days before making a public statement on Diana’s death. Not only did this earn her much criticism in the press, it was also the subject of a high profile and award winning movie. I’ve made many mistakes, thank goodness there wasn’t a movie made about any one of them.

Of course privacy is something she has never known much of. When in residence at Buckingham Palace, the royal standard is flown on top of the building to let the whole world know that she is home. During public appearances she wears bright colors to stand out in the crowd so everyone can point her out. She can’t even take Christmas Day off since it is a big day for her with her annual address to her subjects. I wonder if she has ever comtemplated taking a break like Audrey Hepburn’s royal character did in Roman Holiday. I wouldn’t blame her a bit if she did.

After her father King George VI's death, Queen Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony was delayed for over a year to allow the royal family and the country time to mourn.  In honor of the long awaited celebration, the founder of Le Cordon Bleu, Rosemary Hume and her partner, high profile florist of the day, Constance Spry, created a chicken dish in her honor and named it poulet reine Elizabeth or coronation chicken.

When this recipe was created in 1953, the country was still under the constraints of post war rationing,  so the creators deliberately scaled back the opulence of the ingredients and the dish itself to make it more accessible to the public.  No doubt that this recipe was inspired by the recipe for jubilee chicken which was developed for the Silver Jubilee celebration of her grandfather, King George V 18 years earlier.  Similar in taste, both were made from chicken and both recipes called for a creamy curry based sauce.  

A totally new version of jubilee chicken called Golden Jubilee chicken was developed for the Queen's Golden Jubilee that has a mayonnaise, lime and ginger base and was described as coronation chicken for the modern day.  The suggestion for this recipe is that it be served with pasta and not used as a sandwich filling.  I'll be trying this recipe soon.  Report to follow.

In the past 59 years coronation chicken has evolved quite a bit, with the present day version now  being more of a flavorful sister to the original.  The original recipe was much milder in flavor using less curry powder and a lighter coating of sauce than its modern counterpart.  Back in 1953 this dish was exclusively served over rice displaying a bit more royal flair than the way it is most often served today, between two slices of bread and stuffed in a triangle shaped cardboard container.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a coronation chicken sandwich, but for this post in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I’m serving my updated version of this recipe on a mound of rice set atop of a bed of lettuce.  It just seems to fit the occasion a bit better.

In a just a few short days big celebrations will take place all over England in honor of the Queen.  There will be concerts and fireworks and lots and lots of champagne consumed.  On this side of the Atlantic the celebrations won’t be as grand or great in number, but there will still be many of us who will take a break and raise a glass in her honor.    So here's to 60 great years and many more to come!

Coronation Chicken

As usual I had to doctor up this recipe just a bit.  Even though the chutney I used said “hot” there just wasn’t enough of a kick in it for me, so I added just a tiny bit of Serrano pepper to enhance it.  If your taste leans more toward the milder side feel free to leave this ingredient out.   Finally, this recipe is pretty "saucy" so if you are serving it right away you might want to reserve about 1/4 of the dressing and serve it on the side.  If you are serving it the next day, go ahead and add it all as the chicken will absorb some of it and the consistency will be perfect.

1-1/2 pounds boneless chicken meat (I used breast meat for mine, but in 1953 they most certainly used what they had available so please do the same)

Enough chicken broth to cover the meat in a large saucepan (I needed 3 cups)

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 ounces plain Greek yoghurt

2 ounces light or regular mayonnaise

3 tablespoons hot mango chutney (This can be found at Indian markets or in the Indian food section of some well stocked markets.  If you can't find it substitute it with apricot or mango jam or preserves) 

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 – 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot

1 green onion (white and light green parts) finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon finely diced Serrano pepper (optional)

1 lightly packed tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

1 ounce sliced almonds, toasted

Place chicken, chicken broth, bay leaf and garlic in a large saucepan set over medium high heat.  Bring the contents to a boil before lowering the temperature to a simmer; cover and simmer until cooked through. For small chicken breasts the cooking time will be approximately 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the broth and cool completely.  Once the chicken is cool, chop into small bite size pieces; cover and set aside until ready to use.

At this point if I am serving my coronation chicken over rice, I strain the broth and use it to cook my rice.  It adds a wonderful savory flavor that is the perfect complement to the sweetness of the chicken.

In a small bowl combine the yoghurt, mayonnaise, chutney, Worcestershire sauce, curry powder and gingerroot.  Whisk well before pouring dressing over the cool chicken.  Sprinkle with the Serrano, cilantro and 2/3 of the almonds.  Gently stir to coat the chicken.  Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill through.

To serve chicken, spoon over room temperature rice or as a sandwich filling.  Garnish by sprinkling the remaining toasted almonds over the top.

Serves 4 – 6

Since I had a little leftover, I just couldn't resist . . .

. . . and not a triangle shaped cardboard box in sight.


Midwest to Midlands said...

I always wondered why it was called Coronation Chicken, thanks for the well detailed explanation. I admire the Queen for her dedicated service more and more as I learn more about her life. I hope we get to see her on the Royal Barge on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Your love of all things English is so very evident in this post; the food, the monarchy, the Queen. The sandwich sounds fit for a...QUEEN!

I love the idea of the chutney and some additional heat; so my kind of thing...a must try. Unless you saved me some. Huh? HUH?

Jill~a SaucyCook said...

Yum!!! And thanks for the rich history lesson. I love the looks of your Sammy!

Lea Ann said...

Great post Karen. I really have a lot of respect for the Queen and enjoy watching shows about her. She may never have had to do dirty laundry, but I watched her fix a broken elevator during a party. Everybody else was standing around twiddling thumbs and she stomped over and got the job done. This was obviously on television...I wasn't at the event :p This chicken looks really good and I'll try it soon.

Holly @ abakershouse.com said...

Thanks for the bit of history. I will have to share your recipe with my English mother in law. I wonder if she cooks something similar?
I found out today that my son's 1st grade teacher is your neighbor - what a small world! Looking forward to meeting you in a few weeks at the Colorado Food Bloggers get together.