I am a child of the 70’s…Hard to believe right? Growing up, I remember dishes that were part of my Mother’s weekly rotation of go to meals. Chicken Divan was one of those dishes that my Mom made frequently, as well as Chicken Ala’ King. Sadly, she never wrote these down in her recipe book. She had committed them to memory and never thought to keep them for future generations. Since my mother passed away when I was only 21, long before I became a wife and mother, I never had the chance to talk to her about these and other dishes, I so enjoyed as a young girl.
So when I began cooking for my own family, I had the strong desire to recreate some of the dishes from my childhood for my children, as a way to keep Mom’s memory alive and her spirit with me in all I do.
Through the years I have perfected these two dishes. With my family favoring the Chicken Divan over the Chicken A’la King. So my challenge was to go back to the drawing board and make a version of Chicken A’la King, I knew they would love as teens! These beauties are the result of my leftover Sinfully Spicy Butterfly Chicken from last night. Now because I am always trying to cut the fat and calories in dishes where I can, I use fat-free milk, and a splash of fat free half and half in the béchamel that will be the backdrop for both of these dishes with some noticeable differences. You can also substitute the panko breadcrumbs for whole wheat or omit them completely, or even just use the cheddar cheese, but I really do think the panko mixed with the Parmesan cheese and butter makes the dish sing. But to each his own..no judgement here! Where I wouldn’t compromise, however, is in the biscuits for the Chicken A’la King. Who doesn’t love a biscuit? Besides for the fact that Baking Powder Biscuits are the easiest thing to make when it comes to a cut biscuit. The dough is so forgiving, and so easy to roll out. Traditionally, Chicken Ala’ King is served on toast, but I figured if I made it on a biscuit, it’s essentially a deconstructed pot pie…and I know my boys are all about that!
Please don’t let the fat and calories deter you from making this, I am dieting right now..let’s not even go there today, but I will have a taste of both and then move on to a salad with some chicken, kale, Kalamata olives, tomatoes and some Feta, no dressing. So everything in moderation. I hope you will give these a try, and take a trip down memory lane, to a time when families dined together, sans the distractions of cell phones, iPads, and flat screen TV’s…
Momma's Chicken Divan
Retro comfort food that is sure to satisfy!
- 1 lb. of broccoli florets fresh or frozen
- 2 cups of diced chicken
- 8 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese ( I like using a blend of cheddar and montery jack)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup of seasoned Panko breadcrumbs (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
- splash of sherry or white wine (you can substitute fresh lemon juice)
- tsp. of Worcestershire sauce
- dash of hot sauce
- 1/2 tsp. of fresh or ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup of fat-free or full fat milk
- 1/4 cup of fat-free half and half or heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 4 tablespoons of all-purpose unbleached flour
- tsp. of dried parsley, and tsp. of dried thyme (if using fresh herbs increase to a tablespoon each)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is preheating, pour milk in microwave proof measuring cup and heat 1 1/2 min. in microwave, set aside, place broccoli in microwave steam bag or microwave safe dish covered with a little bit of water, seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook for 4 min or until tender. Do not overcook.
- Meanwhile in a heavy saucepan on medium low heat, melt four tablespoons of butter. When fully melted add flour and cook off flour for two minutes whisking so as not to burn or brown. You want a blonde roux. Add warm milk, ground nutmeg, salt and pepper. Traditional bechamel sauces call for white pepper in place of black, but I prefer the black coarsely ground pepper as I don’t mind the flecks in my otherwise pristine sauce. Those uptight French. If I was being graded in class I would opt to use the white pepper, but I use black coarsely ground pepper at home. You’re rolling your eyes right about now I can feel it! Whisk until slightly thickened, adding the heavy cream or half and half at this point and whisking until fully thickened. If your sauce is tight at this point, you can use a splash of milk to loosen it a bit. A good way to gauge if your sauce is the right consistency is to place a wooden spoon in the bechamel, then remove and run your finger along the back side of the spoon. When done it will leave a visible trail, and this my friends, is what you are looking to achieve! Remove from the stove.
- Whisk in mayonnaise, sherry or wine, splash of hot sauce, and the Worcestershire sauce. Taste for seasoning at this point.
- In a 9×13 baking dish, layer the broccoli, then top with the diced chicken, pour the bechamel mayonnaise mixture evenly over the top. Melt two tablespoons of butter in the microwave. In a separate small bowl, mix the panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, thyme and parsley. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the bechamel. Covering the whole top evenly. Lastly, sprinkle the panko mixture over the top. Place in the oven for 25-30 min. until bubbly and lightly browned. Let cool for several minutes, then devour!
Chicken Ala' King
Comfort food at it's finest, a warm hug on a plate!
- 1 cup of sliced mushrooms * (My firefighter despises mushrooms, so if he wasn’t at the firehouse I would omit these, but since he’s not home this evening, mushrooms it is). I used Shiitakes because I love them. But any will do.
- 1/4 cup of diced celery
- 1/4 cup of diced carrots
- 1/4 cup diced chicken
- 1/3 cup of unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 3/4 cups of diced chicken cooked dark and white if available
- 2 tablespoons of pimento or roasted red peppers in water
- Salt and pepper to taste, 1 tsp. dried rosemary
For the Baking Powder Biscuits
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup of milk
- 1/2 cup of shortening
- 4 tsp. of baking powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper to taste.
- Splash of apple cider vinegar
For the Chicken Ala’ King
- In a large skillet, saute the onions, celery, and carrots until tender crisp, add mushrooms, and continue sauteing until mushrooms are soft.
- Stir in flour, salt, pepper and thyme, until well blended.
- Gradually stir in broth and milk. Bring to boil, cook and stir for 2 min. or until thickened.
- Add chicken and pimento or red pepper, heat through.
For the biscuits
- Preheat oven to 45o degrees F
- Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper, in a bowl. Using a pastry blender cut in shortening until it resembles a coarse meal. Whisk egg and milk in separate bowl. Add to flour mixture, stirring to incorporate. Do not overmix. Now you have two options at this point with these biscuits. You can opt to roll the out to about a 1/2 inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter as I like to do, or you can drop them onto the cookie sheet by spoonfuls.
- Bake on ungreased baking sheet for 10 to 12 min.
- This is an added step that is optional but I love doing it, I like to brush the biscuits when they come out of the oven with a little bit of melted butter. In my early days working at KFC we did this and I loved the taste. But this is entirely your choice.
- One more thing I forgot, I always add a bit of apple cider vinegar to my milk to give it a buttermilk like taste. It is not necessary to spend the extra money for buttermilk unless you are using large quantities in a day and even as much cooking as I do, it doesn’t warrant the need, and the vinegar is a perfectly fine substitute. Enjoy!!
**One note..the biscuit on the right is rolled, then cut with a biscuit cutter. The one on the left is a drop biscuit which is dropped by a tablesppon directly onto a baking sheet.