From Chicken Divan to Chicken DIVINE Mini Bread Bowls
You've got to love the French.
They smoke, they eat bread, they have a relationship with snails that I still quite don't understand.
Yet, they make everything look elegant and sophisticated. From their clothes, to their je ne sais quoi style... to their sauces.
The perfect blending of attitude and simplicity.
The perfect blending of attitude and simplicity.
So, what could the French possibly have in common with Chicken Divan? A retro casserole, which seems about as unsophisticated as you can get... typically boasting mayonnaise, cream of chicken soup and cheddar cheese?
A tie to its history.
In the 1950s, Chicken Divan was the signature dish of the New York Restaurant, Divan Parisienne. And was named so, in hopes of implying continental elegance. Sounds pretty "French" to me... not to mention that the original base of the dish was a Béchamel Sauce, which originated in... you guessed it, France.
I immediately thought about my Hot Browns from over the holidays, which I still can't seem to get off my mind. My modified Béchamel Sauce uses fresh herbs like tarragon and parsley, plus the addition of freshly grated nutmeg, which would blend perfectly with the chicken and broccoli.
And yes, before there was Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup, people actually made sauce.... and you can too. It's easier than you think.
I decided to change out the traditional bread crumbs on top and made the dish in French bread bowls. This offered a fun twist... and a beautiful presentation on the dinner table.
And for the chicken, I decided to cook it in small chunks instead of shredding it, like in traditional versions of the dish. This added a nice balance of texture to the broccoli and the rich sauce, plus more of a flavorful, hearty bite.
And the result? This Chicken Divan "je ne sais quoi'd" itself right up to Chicken Divine.
A little sophistication. A little attitude. And a little taste of France in your very own kitchen... all in under 1 hour from start to finish (with just 30 minutes of prep time). Oui!
Want to save more time?
- Use a rotisserie chicken
- Use all dried herbs (like my Parisien blend)
- Ditch the bread bowls and just place them in a greased baking dish
Want to save more money?
- Buy Split chicken breasts (bone-in, skin-on). These are tremendous savings, and I'm starting to prefer them, as I find the less handling at the plant, the more I feel confident in eating it. The skin almost gives it a protective layering, and it only takes a few extra minutes to cut it off.
- Save the insides of the French rolls and freeze. Use later and toast for breadcrumbs
- Buy chicken broth in the box. The leftovers can be saved much more easily than in a can. Plus, it's always good to have some on hand in the fridge.
Want to eat a lower-carb meal?
- Again, ditch the bread bowl. Other options are stuffing the chicken and broccoli mixture in zucchini or yellow squash (cut lengthwise), inside of tomatoes, or over a bed of sautéed greens, or zucchini noodles.
- Leave out the flour for thickening, and instead add a few tablespoons extra Parmesan cheese and stir for a bit longer to thicken.
Chicken Divan Mini Bread Bowls
3-4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 package (8 oz.) frozen broccoli florets, cooked according to package directions
6 French dinner rolls, tops cut off, and hollowed out to create a bowl (I found these at Trader Joes)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
Half pint whipping cream
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated (plus more to sprinkle on top)
1/4 c. chicken broth, more as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1-1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
Additional seasonings of choice (I sprinkled on some Parisien Bonnes Herbes- which couldn't be more PERFECT for this dish, and blends chives, dill weed, French basil, French tarragon, chervil and white pepper)
For the chicken: Place cut up chicken in a small skillet with olive oil. Salt and pepper and add seasoning of choice (I used my favorite Parisien). Stir-fry until browned and cooked through. Set aside.
For the sauce: Sauté the onion in a drizzle of olive oil and melted butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once translucent, add in flour and mix with a whisk for a few minutes to form a paste. Add in cream and reduce heat to medium. Stir constantly with a whisk to thicken. Add in cheese, herbs and seasonings and stir to blend. Slowly add in chicken broth to get to proper consistency (thick sauce) while gently stirring.
Stir in the chicken chunks and the cooked broccoli florets (you might need to cut up the florets a bit to make bite-size pieces) into the sauce. Then place the French rolls on a greased cookie sheet. Fill with the filling and top with additional grated Parmesan cheese and pepper. Bake (without tops) at 350 for about 20 minutes. Add in the tops, cut side down, around the rolls on the pan to crisp up for about 3-5 minutes more.