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Try Chicken Divan Casserole made from scratch

The South has long reigned supreme as casserole country and is notorious for using every canned "cream of" soup imaginable in recipes.

Take Chicken Divan, for example. Although it originated in New York at the Divan Parisien, Southern community cookbooks sure did take the original recipe and run. Just one cookbook had four variations of the dish, all featuring cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, mayonnaise -- and sour cream. Sounds delightful, right?

If you like to keep processed foods to a minimum but still love cozy casseroles, all you need to do is reach into your French repertoire -- thank you, mother sauces -- and whip up a simple Mornay sauce (a bechamel sauce with the addition of cheese). Spike it with a little cream sherry and season with salt and pepper. Pour the cheesy sauce over chicken and broccoli, sprinkle a little salty Parmesan on top for color, and bake up the perfect winter comfort food.

Chicken Divan Casserole

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximately 2 pounds), or 4 cups cooked chicken
  • Water
  • 34 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
  • 14 teaspoon black pepper, plus additional to taste
  • 2 heads of broccoli (approximately 2 12-3 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus additional for greasing the pan
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups scalded milk
  • 1 cup grated parmesan, divided
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere
  • 3 tablespoons cream sherry

Place the chicken breasts in a large pot. Add water to cover, season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, and the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees. Remove the chicken from the pot, reserving the broth. Cool and cut into 12-inch cubes. (Use 4 cups of rotisserie or leftover chicken, if desired.)

Stem the broccoli and cut it into 1- to 2-inch florets. Bring the chicken broth back to a boil and add the broccoli (adding water if necessary). Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the broccoli is bright and tender, for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the broccoli and set aside.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in a thick saucepan on medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth (and the flour taste is cooked out), for about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Pour in the scalded milk and cook until thickened, for 3 to 5 minutes. Mix in 12 cup of parmesan and 1 cup of Gruyere, and stir until creamy. Add the sherry, 34 teaspoon salt and 14 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Butter the bottom and sides of an oblong casserole dish. Layer half of the broccoli and chicken and cover with half of the cheese sauce. Repeat with the remaining broccoli, chicken and sauce. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan on the casserole and bake until bubbly and golden brown, for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve with white rice.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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