Chicken Divan Casserole
Cheesy, creamy Chicken Divan Casserole is a classic dish every family will love. So easy to make, it’s perfect for busy weeknights. One pot dinner bliss.
A few weeks ago (I KNOW….I’m so behind on telling you all where I’ve been), I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Greenville, NC….not to be confused with Greenville, SOUTH Carolina. Which is where I thought I was going for a number of weeks, but luckily…I checked my travel itinerary and got the whole geography thing figured out. Have I mentioned how terrible I am at geography? Well, now you know. Anyway…I went to the beautiful countryside of Greenville to visit a hatchery and see just how those grocery store chickens make it to our dinner table. I’ll be honest with you…it was a bit emotional because baby chicks are so stinking cute but it was so informative and enlightening. I wish I could have taken you all with me!
But since I couldn’t, I’m reporting back to you with some things I learned about how chickens are farmed….from egg to…well, you know. I arrived at the hatchery at the crack of dawn…yep, we were up with the chickens which I’m used to, really, because my neighbors had chickens in their backyard. So, it was just like home. Once we ventured inside the hatchery, I was struck by the cleanliness…and how efficient the entire operation was. I’ll give you the quick and dirty. The eggs are kept in giant egg crates and placed on a rack in a gigantic incubator that turns until they begin to hatch. Then they’re moved to another location where they receive their antibiotics and other vaccinations which will prevent them from contracting diseases that could spread, protecting these little cutie pies until they’re grown. Now, I know a lot of people cringe when they hear of antibiotics and vaccinations but let me assure you, they’re perfectly safe and benefit everyone. They shared a few stories about avian influenza and I’m convinced that they are a necessary part of the process. This is coming from someone who only purchased organic, free-range chickens before this trip. I’m totally sold. And I know what you’re thinking….what about hormones? While I don’t think anyone adds hormones to food, there are hormones used in some types of animal production like beef cattle (check out bestfoodfacts.org for info, if you’re so inclined, because even in beef, there is such a teeeeeeny amount of hormones present – especially compared to other foods and what we have naturally in our bodies.) That said, in chicken, egg, all poultry actually, even pork, it is illegal and there are no hormones available. So, while packaging that says “no hormones added/used” on chicken is true, it’s actually true for every piece of chicken out there. Save your money, the price of food is astronomical right now….use the extra cash to buy organic produce. That’s my two cents.
That evening we had an incredibly amazing dinner at a local restaurant called Chef and the Farmer. I’m not kidding when I say…this is a destination restaurant. If you’re ever in the vicinity you should seek it out. The owners have a show on PBS that I started watching and it’s truly inspiring. All of their food is insanely mind-blowing…I’m still dreaming about the Fried Okra with Ranch Ice Cream. Yeah, I said it…RANCH ICE CREAM. Mind Blown. I had this ridiculous pork chop the size of my head…and I ate the whole thing. They had to roll me out of the place.
The next day we spent at a family farm, yes…these little, furry, buttons of joy get to spend their days on a farm. A true family farm…owned and operated by a family. It’s called My Three Sons Farm, how much more family can you get. And these little baby chicks get to run around in a toasty warm barn that’s well…toasty warm. I wanted to curl up in the hay and take a nap. And so, so clean. The farmer and his wife are the sweetest people in the world….I’m convinced of that. They are truly committed to what they do and are as happy about their job as I am. (You all know I skip around like a crazy lunatic because I get paid to cook, eat and take pictures of my food.) Well, they, pretty much, skip around too which makes everyone, chickens included, very happy. Happy chickens…happy dinners ahead. (Was that too much for you?)
Anyway, I fell in love with just about everyone there. From the sponsors at Phibro Animal Health (they create the vaccinations and antibiotics used…as well as, have veterinarians oversee the health and well-being of the chickens) to the hosts at Sanderson Farms (they own the hatchery and entire poultry operation) to the farmer and his family (they run the farm and take care of the Sanderson chickens until they’re ready to move on with their intended purpose), the PR people and of course, the bloggers that I met. I want to invite everyone over for a big family dinner and I want to serve them something comforting and warm, like this Easy Chicken Divan Casserole. It’s one of those dishes that the Welcome Wagon brings to a new neighbor or you give to a friend who just had a baby. Bursting with a creamy cheese sauce, tender chicken, rice and broccoli, this one dish casserole just screams family dinner. I’d pair it with a crisp, buttery Chardonnay (because, apparently…everyone on this trip LOVES wine! 🙂 ) and then follow up dinner with these mini cheesecakes. I think my new chicken lovin’ family would absolutely love it. Maybe I will even whip up some of that Ranch Ice Cream….you think I’m kidding but I’m sooooo not. You just wait and see.
Disclaimer: My travel and expenses were paid for by Phibro Animal Health, however, all my opinions and statements about the trip are my own.
Chicken Divan Casserole
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 3 cups frozen broccoli florets thawed
- 3 cups cooked diced chicken breast
- 1 cup cooked white rice
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and stir in the flour. Cook the flour mixture until it becomes a deep golden brown. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth cooking until the mixture begins to thicken. Whisk in the half and half, sherry, lemon zest and juice. Remove from the heat. Stir in the salt and pepper until smooth.
- Place broccoli in an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Cover with the rice and then half of the sauce. Top with chicken. Stir the shredded cheese into remaining sauce until smooth. Pour the sauce mixture over the chicken.
- Melt the remaining butter and toss with the bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
- Serve immediately