For months I’ve been trying to spend $35.00 I had on a gift card to Williams and Sonoma, which is less than two miles from my house. After numerous visits to the store, I finally found the perfect purchase — a beautiful, red Le Creuset covered casserole dish. It was on sale for $49.00 and I snapped up the last one in the store! With tax, I spent $18.00 plus some change – not bad for Le Creuset, especially at Williams and Sonoma where this dish normally retailed for $100.00!
Now I had to decide on the first dish to cook in my new shiny casserole. It had to be something special (we are talking Le Creuset here) and suddenly it hit me – I’d make my Uncle Bob’s wonderful Chicken Divan, which is like heaven on a plate. Excellent choice, especially considering that the chicken breasts, broccoli and cheese I needed were all on sale. It was like Uncle Bob was giving me a nod of approval from up above.
My dear Aunt Jean and Uncle Bob lived in Atlanta and I visited them many times while they were still alive. Sometimes I stayed with them, but when I didn’t I would try and stop by for drinks and dinner, which was always a treat. It was probably about 15 years or so ago when Uncle Bob made his wonderful Chicken Divan and to this day it has remained one of my favorite dishes of his (as well as one of my all-time favorite casseroles.) I still have his handwritten recipe, which I treasure. I’ve made a few changes to reduce some of the calories by using light mayonnaise and sour cream, and cheddar made from 2% milk, without sacrificing any of the taste.
Ingredients (8 servings)
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups of fresh broccoli, cut into small pieces (you can substitute two 10-ounce packages of frozen if you want)
- 2 cans cream of chicken soup
- 1 cup light mayonnaise
- ½ cup light sour cream
- 4 oz. good white wine
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon sweet curry powder
- Sea salt to taste
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1¼ cups sharp cheddar cheese (I use cheese made from 2% milk), grated
- 2 cups of fresh bread crumbs (or you can use ¾ cup crushed Ritz crackers, which is what Uncle Bob used)
- 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cut the chicken into strips, season with salt and pepper, and sauté in the oil for several minutes on each side, until cooked through. You may need to do this in a couple of batches.
Drain the chicken on paper towels, and then cut into bite-sized pieces once it’s cooled a bit.
Steam the broccoli for 3 minutes, remove from heat and place in an ice bath. You do not want to overcook the broccoli as it may become mushy in the casserole.
In a large bowl, mix the soup, mayo, sour cream, wine, lemon juice and curry powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spray a casserole dish (my Le Creuset casserole is 9”x9”x3”, but a 9”x13” dish works well, too) with nonstick spray. Add the chicken and broccoli and mix well.
Cover the chicken and broccoli with 1 cup of the grated cheddar cheese.
Pour on the sauce, sprinkle on the remaining cheddar cheese, and then spread the bread crumbs over the cheese and dot them with the butter.
Cook uncovered for 40-45 minutes (about 30 minutes if you use the 9”x13” dish), until the casserole is bubbly and the bread crumbs start turning brown.
Serve Uncle Bob’s Divine Chicken Divan with a baked potato or rice and a nice glass of wine.
This is comfort food at its best and it reheats really well. Here’s to you, Uncle Bob (and of course Aunt Jean) – I’ll always remember all of the good times we had whenever I make this!
Eat, drink and be merry!
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