Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chicken Divan

 Chicken Divan is hands-down one of my all-time favorite foods from my childhood.  I can remember how excited I was whenever I learned that we were having the Chicken Divan for dinner that night (apparently I was just as food obsessed back then as I am now). It was one of the most requested meal for special occasions, and I can remember begging my Mom to make it for every other day of the week as well.  
It's a simple casserole - a layer of broccoli, a layer of chicken, covered in a cream of chicken soup mixture and topped with cheese and bread crumbs. Yet there's something very special about Chicken Divan.  The way those ingredients all meld together while being baked in the oven creates a combination that tastes amazing. The best part is the golden brown crust on top, which to this day I still can not get right so that it tastes as good as my Mom's does. I'm telling ya, there's something magical in the Chicken Divan that my Mom makes.
As most casseroles usually go, this is not the healthiest of dinners, which is why it was relegated to being served only once in a while.  My Mom has always been very conscious of health and nutrition, and as we were growing up she would cook well-balanced, nutritious meals for our family. Meals involving lots of vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins - all of the foods that my brother and I were vehemently opposed to, and made very clear that we did not want to eat. I'm afraid that we may have scarred her from wanting to cook for a very long time because of how much of a fuss we put up.  

We would whine and complain so much that sometimes she just had to cave and make us the stuff we really liked, the kind of stuff that probably wasn't too healthy for us but that tasted sinfully delicious, like Chicken Divan. It wasn't until years later that she revealed she had been doubling the amount of broccoli in the dish without us knowing, trying to get a little extra veggies in us when she could. That's just one of the ways that I know she is a great mother.

Because above all else, my Mom is the most caring and giving person that I have ever met, and she has always been and continues to be an amazing mother to my brother and I. Luckily it just seems to come naturally to her.  I don't think that I will ever know anyone else who is full of so much love and support for others. She's a great person to have in your corner. I grew up with the strong sense that she would always be there for me, which in my opinion, is the best way you could ever feel. I feel truly blessed by how loved I have felt, and I know that I hit the jackpot when she became my mother. I love you Mom!
Ok, back to the Chicken Divan. I very rarely cook out of cans nowadays, and try to always cook fresh over frozen if possible. This recipe is the exact opposite of everything I just said. It uses canned chicken, canned soup, frozen broccoli and bread crumbs out of a tube. I considered trying to create a fancier, updated version of the dish, but decided that there are some things you just don’t mess with. It probably would have not tasted half as good as this does. 
This dish may not be the freshest or healthiest, but it's got convenience going for it. I'm always amazed at how easily and quickly it all comes together. It's so simple that I feel a little silly posting any preparation photos, but that's still what I'm going to do. 
The frozen broccoli needs to be cooked before it goes in the casserole, and I found that it's really easy to do this in the microwave. Place it in a microwave safe bowl with a few tablespoons of water and microwave on high until cooked.
It gets layered with some canned chicken. I know, I know, you may be grossed out by the whole canned chicken idea, but you really have to trust me here. I'm not sure it would taste as good without it. Nor would it taste as good without that magical stuff called Cream of Chicken Soup. I can see why this stuff became so popular in so many recipes over the years.

The soup gets mixed with some mayo, lemon juice, and curry powder. Don't skip out on the curry powder, even if you don't like the flavor.  It somehow mixes with the rest of the flavors that you don't even really taste curry when it's all said and done. You just taste goodness. I told you it's magic. You know what else is magic? A cheesy breadcrumby topping. That's what. Shredded cheddar cheese gets covered with a layer of breadcrumbs, and then a few thin pats of butter are added for a little extra decadence.

Even though this dish may not scream healthy, upscale dining, it does scream homey, satisfying comfort. It makes me think of home and family, and of course, my Mom. We all have those dishes that equal comfort, and this is mine. Hope all you Mother's out there are having some comfort and joy of your own today - Happy Mother's Day!

Chicken Divan

1 (16 oz) package frozen chopped broccoli (cooked)
2 (12.5 oz) cans de-boned chicken, drained
2 (10.5 oz) cans cream of chicken soup
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp curry powder
1 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place broccoli in a single layer in the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch pan. Cover with chicken.

Mix soup, lemon juice, curry powder and mayonnaise in a bowl. Pour mixture over top of chicken covering evenly. Top casserole with cheddar cheese, then cover evenly with bread crumbs. Place a few thin pats of butter over the top of the casserole.

Bake uncovered, for 35-40 minutes. Until casserole is heated through and bubbling, and top is golden brown.


  1. It was the beautiful thing that I've ever read. I'm welling up with pride in the lustrous person that you've become!

  2. Chicken Devan!!!! I totally became obsessed with it too. I think your family brought some over when Hannah was born :)

    Happy mother's day to Caroline!! My favorite Caroline recipe was the Caeser salad, which she passed on to me, and it was the only successful dish I ever made for my family. Can't wait for a post on that so I can make it again. . .

  3. Chicken divan is the food that encapsulates my high school experience. Sittin' in Allison's living room, watching Deep Blue Sea, planning our next birthday cake, eating chicken divan. This post made me happy and nostalgic :-). Lots of love to your mom on Mother's Day.

  4. aw that brings back some memories!

  5. Hehe, I'm glad to see that Chicken Divan has touched so many people over the years. :)

    @ KK: The Caeser salad is coming! I will get around to posting it eventually, even though I feel hesitant about giving away our secret family recipe...

  6. you are so right - sometimes, the canned/frozen stuff just has to happen. but, i wonder if it is better fresh?? you should try it and compare!

  7. Interesting...the chicken divan we had growing up consisted of a bechamel with mayo, cheddar cheese, and sherry added. Pour that over some cubed or shredded cooked chicken and some rice or noodles and it's heavenly!

  8. haha, I was totally going to mention that since I thought it might be secret-special, I would license it from you. Personal use only, lips are sealed. Better yet, I'll just search my moms cupboard for the little index card with the recipe next time I'm in Napa

    p.s. I actually do think you should keep it a secret. . .at least until you release a cook book and can make $$$ from it

  9. What a nice story and delish recipe to accompany. Can't wait to try it.


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