When I was in Boston years ago, I met three girls from Emerson College as we all took the Sam Adams brewery tour. You may wonder why anyone would tour a brewery and you would have a point.
Afterwards, they invited me to join them for lunch at an old Boston pub that has been around forever down by the Boston Garden. They’ve got pictures of old sports greats all over the place, including members of the first Boston Bruins Stanley Cup winning team in 1929.
The Bruins were the first American city to join the NHL, granted an expansion team by the league in 1924. They struggled for a few years, and then the beat the New York Rangers to win the Stanley Cup in 1929. The 1928-1929 season was also the first time they played at the venerable Boston Garden.
To welcome the team to the neighborhood, and to honor their 1929 Cup win, this old pub created their version of Chicken a la Stanley. They called it Chicken a la Stanley Cup. The funny thing is their version is cooked exactly the same, but before you eat it, you raise your beer in a toast and say, “Da Broons, Da Gahden and Da Stanley Cup!” Move your beer smoothly toward your mouth as you say “Stanley Cup” and take a swig immediately.
Nowadays, nobody makes this kind of toast at the pub except tourists, so of course I did it. The girls cringed when I bellowed the toast, and my enthusiasm shut me out of getting to know them better. We had some laughs, but I sensed my adventures with them were ending after lunch.
One of the first published appearances of basic Chicken a la Stanley was in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook in the late 1890s or early 1900s. It reads like this:
Melt one-fourth cup butter, add one large onion thinly sliced, and two broilers cut in pieces for serving; cover, and cook slowly ten minutes; then add one cup Chicken Stock, and cook until meat is tender. Remove chickens, rub stock and onions through a sieve, and add one and one-half tablespoons each butter and flour cooked together. Add cream to make sauce of the right consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange chicken on serving dish, pour around sauce, and garnish dish with bananas cut in diagonal slices dipped in flour and sautéd in butter.
Here is a more modern version:
1/4 cup butter
1 sliced onion
1 1/2 cups water or stock
1 1/2 Tbsps flour
1/2 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks. Melt the butter and add the sliced onion and chicken pieces. Cook for 10 minutes.
Take out the chicken pieces. Add the flour and blend it with the butter. Pour in the stock or water. Stir until boils.
Put the chicken back in cook it nice and slow until it is juicy and tender.
Right before serving, add the cream and seasonings.
It’s not official Chicken a la Stanley Cup if you don’t do the toast.
Don’t worry, it’s just for this meal. So if you are a Blackhawks fan, you are forgiven. Well, almost.