“Chicken Divan” was one of my mother’s signature casseroles when I was growing up. It is truly delicious, but I took it for granted and for some reason never added it to my repertoire. Retrospectively, I wonder if that was because Mom so often made it for our family when we’d come to visit. I never much thought about it until the last time my first-born came to visit with his family. Now, perhaps it should be explained that as part of our home school, I taught all the kids to cook, and most of them (six of whom were sons) took to it like ducks to the water. To this day, they can all turn out gourmet dishes if they’re so inclined, although my four oldest sons are married to awesome cooks, so they don’t cook as often as they used to.
At any rate, rather than asking me to make Chicken Divan for him, Aaron asked if he could borrow Grandma’s recipe and make some Chicken Divan for all of us! Mom’s recipe was written out on one of those very worn 3X5 cards in her little recipe file, so I have no clue where she got it, but after studying a bit, I’ve learned that Chicken Divan (according to Wiki) was developed by Anthony Lagasi for the Divan Parisienne Restaurant in New York City in the early twentieth century (when my mother was young) and “remains one of the most classic American casserole dishes today.” Who would have known? So, it wasn’t just my mother’s specialty dish, it’s a common casserole beloved by many! If you haven’t tried it or don’t have a favorite version of your own, here it is:
Classic Chicken Divan
(Makes about 12 servings, although some may want seconds!)
1. Cook until tender: 2 ten-oz. packages of broccoli or 3 cups fresh broccoli (chopped)
2. Fry (separately) 6 chicken breasts, browned with a little butter, some chopped celery leaves, salt, pepper, and thyme, and then steam them until they are cooked through. 3. Place the broccoli in the bottom of a 9X13 casserole pan and arrange the chicken on top. (At this point, I intervened a bit, because Grandma’s recipe really wasn’t very precise. You need to cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces after it’s cooked. Aaron, ever gracious and willing to accept suggestions, redid what you see above so that the chicken was spread evenly over the broccoli.)
4. Pour a sauce made from the following evenly over the top:
½ cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp. lemon juice
one can condensed cream of chicken soup
½ tsp. curry powder (or a little less)
5. Sprinkle one cup of bread crumbs over the top. Bake for 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 350°. Dot with American cheese and return to oven until the cheese has melted and is starting to brown.
Grandma would have recently celebrated her 104th birthday were she still alive! Isn’t it strange how we never forget and always miss those we love who’ve passed on? I am thankful she believed in Jesus as her savior, so even though Aaron and I won’t ever get to go over to her home for some more Chicken Divan, we will one day get to be with her in heaven!
“For he remembered that they were but flesh;
a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again” (Psalm 78:39).