Old school Chicken Divan is comfort food of the most mundane order in the most uplifting of ways. Canned soups, mayonnaise, and cheesy breadcrumbs cover a base of chicken and broccoli and it all smothers a pile of buttered egg noodles for a perfect winter meal. It’s the not-fancy food you need you right now.
For someone who cooks as much as I do, I have a surprisingly low number of go-to recipes in my arsenal. Spaghetti and tacos, sure. I have mastered beef stroganoff, and I’m damn proud of it. Breakfast for dinner, but anyone can do that. 3-5 others that I’m sure exist, but I cant think of right this minute.
And this meal. Chicken Divan. I posted my dinner menu on Instagram a few weeks ago, and Chicken Divan was on it, and a friend of mine posted something along the lines of “your recipe is probably super fancy, but we made ours with canned soup and it was delicious.” To be fair, there are a million “fancy” versions of Chicken Divan out there - ones that don’t involve copious amounts of mayonnaise. Recipes that claim to have “lightened up an old favorite” and ones that proudly claim to make this classic dish without a can of cream of mushroom soup in sight. However delicious those recipes might be – and I’m sure they are - I don’t want them. Give me ALL the canned soup. Give me all the mayo. Give me the comfort food from my childhood. This is the version that my mom used to make, and if anything, I’ve made it even LESS fancy.
This is a perfect, no fuss meal. You could cut and steam broccoli, sure. But the microwaveable steam in a bag broccoli is perfect for this. You could roast or poach a chicken, I guess. But why do all that work when you could pick up a rotisserie chicken from Costco or the grocery store, and it’s just as good? Taking these shortcuts means that your prep time is minimal. You can make it ahead and if you do, you’re looking at dinner ready in under an hour. Honestly, even if you don’t, with my shortcuts you’re still looking at dinner ready in under an hour. It makes a ton, so you have leftovers for days, and you don’t even need to think of a side dish, because the veggies are IN THE CASSEROLE.
Given how decadent it is, this isn’t actually an incredibly unhealthy dish. You’ve got plenty of lean protein from the chicken, a TON of broccoli (at least how I do it) and if you use low fay mayo and soups, that cuts down on the calories considerably. But with all that, it’s still comfort food at its most basic – chicken, cheese, broccoli, and noodles (rice is acceptable I guess, but it’s gotta be egg noods). So, while I’m sure that the deluxe fancy edition of this dinner is excellent, I just can’t get behind it. There are some meals that just shouldn’t be messed with and for me, this is at that top of that list. I think that if someone told me that I had two weeks left to live, I would eat this for at least half of those remaining meals. The other meals would be tacos and spaghetti. Basically just all the carbs I can stuff into my face.
Long story short – you can make this “fancy” and replace the canned soup, but unless you’re eating this once a week, I don’t see why you should. What is life if we can’t indulge in terribly unhealthy but incredibly delicious childhood favorites every once in a while?
Fun Fact: I’ve always wondered where the name came from for this dish but had never bothered to actually look it up before writing this blog post. I always thought it was a play on the word “divine” somehow. Turns out, it’s just named after the restaurant that originally came up with the dish, the Divan Parisienne Restaurant in NYC. They came up with it in the 50’s, and the name actually IS meant to imply elegance. So, I guess I was right in a way and if there’s one thing I like as much as this recipe, it’s being right.
1 H & 20 M
- 2 10 ounce boxes of frozen chopped broccoli
- 1 rotisserie chicken,
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- Juice of half a small lemon
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons of butter, melted
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 12 oz egg noodles*
- Preheat the oven to 350
- Start by cooking the broccoli according to the directions on the package. For me, this usually means microwaving the bags individually, letting them cool a bit, and then chopping up the broccoli.
- Using your hands or two forks, break down the chicken and shred the meat. You can use whichever you prefer, but I tend to like a mix of dark and white meat. Altogether you want about 1 ½ to 2 cups of chicken.**
- In a large bowl, mix together the mayo, soups, lemon juice and curry powder.***
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a bowl in the microwave, or in a small saucepan on the stovetop, and then stir in the breadcrumbs.
- In a 4 quart casserole dish, layer the broccoli and then the chicken, and then top with the soup mixture.**** Add the cheese in a thin layer, and then top with the buttered breadcrumbs.
- Place the casserole dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
- While the casserole is baking, boil a pot of water, and cook the noodles to package directions.
- Once the casserole is baked, serve over top of noodles.
*You could serve over rice too, or you could just serve with a nice salad.
**If you don't have ready access to rotisserie chickens, you could poach chicken breast with some onion and italian seasoning and shred that.
***If you're feeling extra decadent here you could toss some extra cheese into the soup mixture.
****If you want to make this dish ahead stop at this point, cover with foil and refrigerate up to two days. When you're ready to make it, uncover, finish up with the cheese and breadcrumb topping, and then bake for 45 minutes.