Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Classics: Chicken Divan

So I ventured into the BH&G Casserole cookbook for the first recipe to try. After flipping through a few times, I settled on Chicken Divan. I've tried a few "easy" Divan recipes before and have generally liked them... I like broccoli, especially if it involves cheese ;)

This recipe also appealed to me as it was one of the few that didn't call for process American cheese and/or a condensed cream soup. In fact, I was actually surprised that this one didn't, being a very creamy casserole. Of course, the Easy Chicken Divan recipe on the next page called for both. Plus curry powder. That worried me. Anyway, I went with the classic version:
The recipe
The casserole itself is fairly easy to assemble, as you cook the components beforehand. You can use fresh or frozen broccoli, just steam it and set aside in a bowl. Likewise with the chicken, just use your preferred cooking method, cut into cubes and set aside. When doing a dish like this that gets heated in the oven and is drowned in sauce, I prefer The Kitchn's recommended method for juicy chicken breast. The meat stays super tender and moist, and the lack of browning doesn't impact the final result. Since discovering it, it is my favorite way to cook chicken. Also, it is possible to make this dish lactose-free. We're lucky enough to have a local fromagerie that makes lactose-free cheeses (yes, it's normal cheese, not that freaky vegan stuff), as well as lactose-free cooking cream (soy-based) and lactose-free margarine. I think our household may keep them in business single-handedly :P Technically speaking, proper Parmesan is lactose-free by virtue of the fact that it is aged more than three months. And most stores offer dairy-free alternatives to butter and cream these days, keep an eye out.

So, first things first... gather your ingredients. While this was simply assembling a casserole and there's no particular need to rush, getting things ready before you start is an excellent habit to get into.

I used Emmenthal instead of Parmesan for this as I couldn't find Parmesan in the lactose-free brand I usually get for B. But either is fine... I think Parmesan will probably give it more of a kick, while the Emmenthal (often used in fondue) worked well with the sherry and melted beautifully, but was a bit lacking in flavor.

Next, butter or spray a baking dish and spread the broccoli on the bottom.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux. I usually let mine cook for a few minutes before adding anything else as it helps get rid of the raw flour taste, but it is not strictly necessary.

When ready, add the chicken broth and whisk the living daylights out of it. Stir often (if not constantly) until it thickens. I dislike runny/watery casseroles so allowed mine to get quite thick.

Then add the sherry and cream and season to taste. Depending on which cheese you use, you may wish to add little (or no) salt at this stage as the cheese will add some of its own.

Pour half of the sauce over the broccoli...

And top with the chicken.

Add the cheese (except for about 1/2 to 3/4 cup) to the saucepan with the remaining sauce and stir until the cheese is completely melted.

Mmmm... melty cheese sauce!

 Pour the sauce on top of the casserole...

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over top and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes.

Or until it looks like this: 

The picture that accompanied the original recipe in the cookbook: 

 And here is how mine came out:

The verdict: All in all, very tasty. As I mentioned, I subbed Emmenthal cheese and the flavor was a bit on the flat side. It was rich and cheesy and the sherry worked very well with it, but a little salt was needed the perk it up. The broccoli and chicken were perfectly cooked... tender but not mushy or slimy. The sauce was thick and fondue-like (which is a good thing :), and not as greasy as I feared it might be with all the cheese and butter. Admittedly, there was a small puddle of fat in the dish after serving, but hey, better in the dish than on the plate! ;) I served it with steamed rice, though you could use noodles, potatoes or crusty french bread. A good classic recipe to keep in your arsenal... would be very well suited for potlucks and large family dinners in cooler weather as it makes a lot, and is both fancy and comforting all at once.  

Next recipe to be tested will be: Classic Beef Stroganoff. Stay tuned!


  1. I was actually trying to find a good crepe restaurant that makes chicken divan crepes. But now I can't wait to try this. Thank you.

  2. I love this recipe. My sister gave this recipe to my mom in about 1970 and I was a teenager and I loved it. About 10 years later when I was on my own I got the recipe from my mom. Made it many times over the years but it got lost in life and I would try and put it together on my own. Usually did pretty well but I was so happy to find this! I love the flavor the sherry gives it. Far better then any of the Chicken Divan recipes that are out there now. Thank You!