When our family had chicken for dinner when I was growing up, there was seldom anything left over. Today, however, Jerri and I are often confronted by half a chicken on the platter. We remove the meat from the bones, simmer the carcass, strain the broth and find creative ways to make use of those leftovers.
We make chicken sandwiches, chicken salad and chicken tetrazzini with the meat and variations on chicken soup with the broth. Very little goes to waste in the Rang household.
I vaguely remember occasionally having cubed chicken or turkey in a white sauce for lunch. If it was turkey, it was probably created by Winifred Larson, our cook at Blair School. She ordered the turkeys through the National School Lunch Act, which provided commodities to help public schools provide nutritious meals for students at low prices. The more I think about those lunches on cold winter days in that white-washed basement, the more I wanted to try my hand at creating a dish like I remembered.
As a thrifty housewife, Jerri makes a delicious Turkey a la King, but her recipe is more complicated than my creation. Also, mine is made with leftover chicken instead of turkey. Here is what I did, and Jerri judged it an unqualified success.
1 cup hot water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
4 T butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. tarragon
Dash of nutmeg
1 cup half and half
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
Dissolve the bouillon cubes in the hot water. If necessary, you can heat the water in your microwave until the cubes dissolve. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and microwave a cup of half and half until it is warm.
Melt the butter in a two-quart saucepan over moderate heat. Stir the flour, salt, pepper, tarragon and nutmeg into the butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture continuously for three or four minutes while it bubbles in the pan, then add the half and half. Keep stirring until you have a smooth sauce.
Add the chicken and cook the mixture until the meat is hot. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve over toast, rice or potatoes for a simple lunch or dinner.
NOTES: if you have any available, you can substitute a cup of chicken broth for the water and bouillon cubes. I use the cubes and water to avoid opening a quart box of broth when I need only a cup.
Leftover rotisserie chicken is especially good for this recipe.