I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one into cooking comfort foods in these strange times. Not only are they comforting, hence the name, but they tend to be a good way to use up ingredients that are starting to turn or to use some of the canned goods in stock. I’ve used this excuse to make banana bread, blueberry muffins, and last night, I made a childhood favorite to use up some fresh broccoli that was yellowing – Chicken Divan.
For years, I’ve doctored and tweaked the basic recipe found in The Heart of Hospitality Cookbook we got when our family was stationed in Germany…
It’s a collection of favorite recipes by people who were a part of the Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Centers in the 70’s and 80’s. There is Onion Pie from Vicky Rogers, Impossible Quiche by Chris Spader, Konigsberger Klopse by Delcy Davenport, and Fudgy Oatmeal Squares by Nancy Baker. There are over 850 recipes including appetizers, breads, dressings, soups, pastries, desserts, and more. Some of my favorite childhood recipes are found in this book like the pizza crust and sauce my mom made for sleepovers with friends and birthday parties. And there are so many more old-school, vintage-style recipes I want to try…
On a personal note, OCSC was a lifeline to our family. You never know what kind of church family you’ll have on the military base where you’re stationed and, in Stuttgart, we found our church family at the OCSC Hospitality House in Ludwigsburg. We went there once a week for families to worship together in music, the adults to have bible study, and the kids to play together. And they always served amazing food! The nights were filled with laughter, music, and great fellowship. I don’t know if they still operate for those serving in the military overseas, but I hope they do.
Anyway, I generally follow the Chicken Divan recipe by JoAnn Larrabee, but I typically add some more fresh ingredients.
Adding freshness to a heavy casserole with fresh vegetables, fresh lemon juice, chopped parsley, etc. can brighten the flavor.
Like any good casserole, though, it’s topped with shredded cheese and buttered breadcrumbs!
One handy thing about this recipe is it’s something you can make ahead and bake when you’re ready. It also freezes well.
It’s so yummy, creamy, and hearty! We usually serve it over rice or noodles, but it can also be served by itself.
Some of the tweaks I’ve made are…
- Adding a splash of white wine. I just love the flavor white wine gives to chicken dishes, soups, and casseroles.
- I add in some more vegetables in the form of aromatics – onions, carrots, and celery. The carrots add more color and they all add more fresh flavor.
- I reduced the mayonnaise. 1 cup just felt like overkill!
- I prefer cream of celery and chicken soup over mushroom, but you can use whatever you have on hand!
- Just about anything in this recipe can be substituted, adjusted, or even omitted depending on what you have. If you don’t have curry powder, don’t worry about it. I’ve made it many times without it and it’s still delicious.
Here is the printable recipe for those interested in making it…
- baking dish
- 2 cups chopped fresh broccoli crowns (or frozen)
- 4 chicken breasts (or 8 tenders or 1 rotisserie chicken)
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 2 celery ribs
- 1 small onion
- 1 can cream of celery soup (or mushroom)
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 T white wine
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs or crushed crackers)
- 2 T melted butter
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- salt & pepper to taste
- If cooking right away, preheat over to 350.
- If not using a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken (or leftover chicken), cook chicken in a skillet until no longer pink.
- While chicken cooks, steam fresh broccoli for 5 minutes until slightly softened
- finely chop onion, celery, and carrots (if not already shredded)
- Once chicken is cooked, remove from pan and set aside to cool. Add onion, celery, and carrot to the pan with a little olive oil and cook until soft.
- Shred chicken with a fork.
- Add the following ingredients directly to a large baking dish - chicken, soup, mayo, all veggies, lemon juice, white wine, and curry powder. Mix with a spoon and evenly distribute through the pan, smooth with back of the spoon.
- melt butter and stir in bread crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over casserole. Sprinkle 1 cup cheese on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.
- Serve over rice or noodles.