Chicken Divan is a rich, creamy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole, and one of my go-to favorites to serve a crowd. In French, the word “divan” means a meeting place or great hall, and Chicken Divan is the perfect dish to serve when friends and family gather.
Although it has a fancy French name, Chicken Divan was created in America in the early twentieth century and was the signature dish of the Divan Parisien Restaurant located in the Chatham Hotel in New York City. The chef credited with its creation was Anthony Lagasi; and, like so many chefs I’ve known, he refused to share his recipe. It has never been duplicated. Interesting to note, the Divan Parisien Restaurant is also credited with introducing Americans to broccoli—the veggie in Lagasi’s famous dish. Even though Chicken Divan was all the rage in 1950s, it remains one of the most popular casseroles American cooks prepare and serve when family and friends gather. Since this dish became popular when cooks relied on canned goods, many recipes use mayonnaise and canned soups. I like cooking with fresh ingredients, so I don’t use either of these. Originally made with a Mornay sauce, which uses Swiss cheese, I like using Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses in my recipe. Following is my attempt at re-creating Lagasi’s simple dish with a fancy name:
Divine Chicken Divas Serves 6
For the chicken:
3 whole chicken breasts (6 halves), skin and bones on Dried rosemary to taste Salt to taste Freshly ground black pepper to taste Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle chicken with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Place chicken in a baking dish and bake uncovered for 1 hour. Cool. Skin, bone, and slice chicken into ½-inch strips and set aside.
For the broccoli:
1 pound fresh broccoli, cut into florets and stems chopped 1 slice white onion Dash salt In a large saucepan, place broccoli with just enough water to cover. Add onion and salt and cook over a medium-high heat until broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
For the rice:
2 cups water ¾ cup raw white rice, or rice of your choice ½ teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons butter In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil over a high heat. Stir in rice, salt, and butter. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from the heat. Let stand covered 5 minutes, or until rice has absorbed water. For the cheese sauce:
¼ cup butter ¼ cup flour 1 ¾ cups milk ½ teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon large grind black pepper 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese In a large saucepan, melt butter over a medium heat, add flour, and whisk until smooth. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Add salt, pepper, and cheeses. Stir until cheeses melt and sauce is smooth. To assemble casserole:
In a 9 X 12-inch ovenproof baking dish, layer chicken, then broccoli, then rice. Pour the cheese sauce over the entire dish. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until bubbly. Tips on shopping for broccoli: When buying broccoli, look for buds that are tightly closed and stalks with crisp leaves. The buds should be an even, deep green color, and the stems should be a lighter green than the buds. Avoid broccoli with large, thick, whitish stalks. Tips on storing broccoli: Broccoli will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Insider Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
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