Aunt Monica's Chicken Divan

>> Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Aunt Monica is the first person I remember showing real joy when she was cooking. There are plenty of fine everyday cooks in my family, but my flamboyant Aunt Monica was the one humming while she cooked, and giggling and making us taste little pieces of everything before she put it into the recipe.

Chicken Divan is one of those quintessential 70s casseroles that might not be trendy right now but is still really awesome. It's forever tied to Aunt Monica in my mind because she used to make it in Grandma's kitchen if there was a crowd at the holidays.

My parents, the dog, and my sister would drive from the farm in Michigan to the big city of Waukegan in Illinois. When our station wagon ran up  I-94 highway past the big Magikist lips sign, we knew we were almost to Grandma's place.

old neon sign in Chicago, Magikist

Come to think of it, I have no idea what Magikist was trying to sell us when all the red lights flickered on.

It also just occurred to me that I can't imagine my grandma sharing her kitchen with anyone. Aunt Monica was a powerful force of nature, just like my grandma, and surely there were lightning strikes at some point.

Yet every holiday all the cousins would be shooed down to the rumpus room (yes, that's what it was, and I can describe the rumpus), and all the adults would settle in at the kitchen table with cigarettes and big 70s pipes and cocktails and catch up. Back then, my mom smoked only when she was around her mother, who made her nervous. It must have been a smoky kitchen!

Aunt Monica would announce when the casserole was ready and she would bring it out with a flourish and some sort of comment that has always made me imagine this was an exotic and fancy dish for special occasions. As it surely can be.

I'm pretty sure boneless skinless chicken breasts and cream of whatever soup were not in my Aunt's original recipe, but I've posted an easy version and a bit of an upscale version, depending on how you feel about cooking on a particular day.

I think it's also worth noting that this is one of a handful of recipes I've ever tried in which I actually don't mind broccoli, because I really don't like it.

Quick Chicken Divan

2 cups canned chicken, drained, or cubed chicken breast cooked until no longer pink
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets 
1 can cream of chicken soup and 1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (try Minute Rice if you're in a hurry)
1 tsp dry mustard
1 slice of bread


Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x12 casserole dish.  Stir together all ingredients except bread, and pour into the casserole dish. Chop the bread into fine crumbs and sprinkle on top, then spray the crumbs with oil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through and bubbly.

Serves 4.

Gourmet Chicken Divan

For the Sauce

3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup sherry
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Casserole

4 chicken thighs, skin removed
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x12 baking dish.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then stir in the flour. Cook and stir until the flour is browned, then pour in the milk. Whisk the sauce until smooth, then bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the sherry, nutmeg, mustard, curry, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes longer. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Stir together broccoli, rice, and cheese, then spread into the casserole dish. Arrange the chicken over the top. Pour the milk sauce over the chicken. 

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the casserole. Drizzle with the melted butter, then pop in the oven. Cook 25 minutes, or the chicken juices run clear when you pierce the pieces with a fork. 

Serves 4-6.

Extra note: if you're only feeding a few people and nobody likes leftovers, split the casserole in two and freeze one half in a small baking pan for another dinner when you're too busy to cook.


Post a Comment

Talk to us - we love hearing from our readers!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by 2009

Back to TOP