Chicken Divan from Scratch
No “cream-of-Something”, no artificial flavors, no preservatives – just creamy, tasty chicken goodness! That’s the secret behind this Chicken Divan Casserole recipe I made the other night for friends.
I checked my freezer and had 4 nice chicken breasts, so a Chicken Divan from Scratch sounded perfect. It bakes in the oven without a lot of fuss, so I can enjoy the guests while the oven does all the work.
I like to use fresh broccoli – it takes about 1 medium head. I trim off the woody parts and break the florets off as I cut up the stalk.
You can use a number of different cheeses for this, or even a mixture. I usually use a medium cheddar or a cheddar/jack mix. Young cheeses full of moisture will melt better and create a creamy sauce. Older cheeses have a lot of punch though, so for extra flavor, you could add a portion of something harder and more dense – but I wouldn’t recommend more than 1/4 cheese be comprised of aged cheese.
I’d bought 4 large bone-in chicken breasts on sale at the market a while ago, and had been rolling around in my head what I wanted to do with them. When I decided on Divan, I knew I’d have to de-bone and skin these breasts to make the recipe work. When I do it, I just dig a finger into the bone at the base of the breast and give a good yank – when you know the right spot, you can pull it right off the bone. Check out the video for more help on deboning a chicken breast.
Chicken Divan Casserole
- 2 heads Broccoli sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 4 whole Chicken Breasts, skinless, deboned sliced into 1" cubes
- 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil for browning
- 4 tbsp Butter
- 3 tbsp Flour
- 1 cup Chicken Broth or Stock
- 1/2 cup Dairy (cream, 1/2 & 1/2, or plain yogurt)
- 1/3 cup White Wine or Sherry
- 1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded stick with a young cheese, or the oil will separate out
- 1 pinch Nutmeg (Less than 1/8 tsp)
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- If you have a covered casserole (I love my Le Creuset for this!) that's ideal. Or spray a 9X13″ baking pan with oil.
- Preheat the oven to 325F.
- Steam the broccoli for about 4 minutes until it turns bright green. Set aside.
- Saute the cubed breasts in hot oil until lightly browned. Do not overcook. Drain.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter. With a wire whisk, stir in the flour, one tablespoon at a time. Let this roux (“roo”) cook for 4 minutes or so, until it begins to brown and floury taste is gone.
- Slowly (it will be super-hot) add the broth to the roux, then the wine and dairy, whisking over low heat until the sauce thickens, about a minute.
- Add a dash of nutmeg (and by “dash” it means “less than you can measure in your tiniest measuring spoon.”)
- Stir in all but 1/4 cup of the cheese until it’s melted and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste (I used about 3/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, but depending on the cheese and broth you use, you may need more or less.)
- Place the cubed breasts in the baking dish. Top with broccoli. Pour the sauce over the top and add the remaining cheese. Cover with lid or foil and bake for 35 to 45 minutes – removing the lid/foil for the last 10.
I made some rice, using my remaining chicken stock for liquid, and sauteed some Zucchini and Summer Squash with lemon pepper for a side. An easy dinner for four, and I was able to do it while having wine and conversation!
I love using my ceramic-on-steel casserole for making this dish. There’s no fussing with foil (whereupon I always burn myself trying to put it on/take it off). The heavy lid works perfectly to keep the chicken moist, and when you want to brown the top a bit, you just take it off! Couldn’t be simpler. Here’s some good ones I’ve found: