My grandmother's chicken divan casserole recipe

September 5 | Guest post by Beretta Fleur

There is something comforting about recreating classic casserole dishes from childhood. Here's the one I've been perfecting lately — Chicken Divan. I don't know why this is called "Divan." What is a Divan? Isn't that a sofa? [Editorial note: LMGTFY! According to Wikipedia, Chicken Divan "was invented at and named for the by-gone Divan Parisienne Restaurant in the New York Chatham Hotel."]

This is my mother's recipe, handed down from my grandmother…

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup
  • 2 tbsp regular or unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 2 small scallions, minced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme (use leaves, not stems)
  • 2 cups frozen or fresh broccoli florets. You can also use cauliflower, or kale.
  • 4 cups prepared brown or white minute-rice (takes about 5-1o minutes on stove top, directions on box)
  • 1 tbsp oil, butter, margarine, or 3 bursts cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. On stovetop, grease sauteee pan with oil or spray and cook chicken breasts, thyme leaves, and scallions until 160 internal temp and lightly browned on both sides (takes about 10 minutes). Remove from heat, let rest for 5 minutes, and then cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Mix remaining ingredients together in a shallow casserole dish, then add cut up chicken and scallions. Mix together and bake, covered, about 15 minutes until bubbly. Uncover and bake another 5 minutes or until top is browned. Serve hot.

What's your favorite classic casserole dishes from your childhood?

  1. Okay there's gotta be something better to use than Campbell's cream of chicken soup here. The sodium levels alone in that stuff will kill us all let alone all the other junk in it.

    1 agrees
    • You can get low-sodium versions, or reduce some heavy cream mixed with chicken stock, salt & pepper & maybe some cornstarch… but a lot of classic 1950's casseroles use condensed soups.

      3 agree
    • Yep. It's more work, but the flavor payoff is worth the effort, I think. Whenever I eat anything with condensed soup in it, my tongue just feels pickled and I can't taste anything else. And I was raised on that stuff!

      1 agrees
      • Oh, my gosh, yes. Harder to make "cream of something" soups from scratch, but for me, totally worth it. However, in a pinch, soups in a can work.

        0 agree
    • Junk being… rice? Broccoli? Chicken? I have no dog in this fight not having grown up with casseroles but it sounds to me like a kind of wholesome and comfort-foody dish that isn't pretentious or overboard Paula Deen.

      2 agree
      • Oh I meant all the other junk in the Campbell's soup, not the other casserole ingredients.

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        • Gotcha! Genuinely curious as they seemed ok, but I know different dietary preferences for different folks :)

          Sadly I'm in an anti-casserole household so I may never know my true feelings on the matter.

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          • My husband wants casseroles every day. But I refuse to turn on the oven in the summer. Usually it's "clean out the fridge" casserole so it's different every time.

            I should have made my first comment (the anti-Campbell's one) with less bitch in it.

            1 agrees
  2. I'm not sure when "offbeat" came to mean "no processed foods ever" but the trend of the comments here suggests that it does. I find this kinda interesting. My personal feeling is that I typically make things from scratch with not much added salt, but when I want to cook my Grandma's and Mom's casseroles, I go out and buy the condensed soup. It just wouldn't be the same otherwise.

    25 agree
    • Ok, YES. Thank you. I'm all for healthy eating, but you guys: if you're reading a post about someone's grandma's casserole, it just feels odd to quibble over ingredient quality. This is basically a retro comfort food recipe. No one said it would be locally-sourced, macrobiotic, gluten-free, or in any way healthy.

      20 agree
      • Sorry, I only made the gluten-free comment because as of yet I haven't found an alternative to cream of x soups in my diet and I hate that I have to miss out on yummy recipes like this one. Another commenter actually posted a suggestion to make this recipe GF, so I'm pretty excited to see if I can try it out.

        GF =/= healthier lifestyle, necessarily. I'd love to use Campbell's soups in my cooking, I just can't.

        0 agree
      • MY grandma would NEVER use cream of condensed soup!

        Because she would be making something like. Sauerkraut, wieners and Pepsi sauce. Or soup bean pie.
        These are not random, made-up examples. I don't even remember her making casseroles.
        My mom did the casseroles. Tuna/cream of mushroom noodles, topped with crushed potato chips was a childhood staple.

        1 agrees
        • Pepsi sauce… this intriques me. Actually, both of those things sound interesting.

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          • I have to lay this out for future generations, just the way my dad described it:
            She'd take homemade sauerkraut and put it in a skillet to cook. She'd add kielbasa or smoked sausage and heat it up, just til everything smelled totally wonderful and delicious.
            Then, she'd pour a can of Pepsi into the skillet and cook it down until it was syrupy. That's without draining off any of the liquid from the sauerkraut, so it's all co-mingled with that pickledy taste.

            Soup bean pie is more or less what it sounds like. Cooked soup beans, milk and sugar in a pie shell, baked.

            My granny is awesome. Even if I don't quite "get" some of her cooking choices.

            1 agrees
    • Agreed. Most of the time we have such an awesome supportive thing going on here. But sometimes the comments, particularly on food posts, get a little judgey for my tastes. (No pun intended.)

      1 agrees
    • Hi all, Beretta here. Sorry I was buried at work and could not chime in last week.

      I actually prefer to eat gluten-free and love to prepare food/share recipes for all different types of diets (paleo, omnivore, raw, vegan, vegetarian). However, my lovely grandmother and then later my mother both made this dish on Sundays (or beef stew) and so if there's a yearning for this one, I just go for it whole-hog so to speak.

      For my household it's all about moderation and I agree that there are different strokes for different folks; fortunately there are many alternatives to Campbell's (which offers low sodium or gluten-free soups in some regions/countries).

      Scroll down for more comments on alternatives to the Campbell's and enjoy!

      xo
      Beretta

      0 agree
  3. Sometimes I crave a dish that would usually not appeal to me (hamburger, cabbage, tomato soup, & rice) – but I think of Grama when I have that dish, and it makes it yummy.

    1 agrees
  4. I look forward to making green bean casserole with fried french onions on top every thanksgiving!

    2 agree
    • I keep trying to create an organic or at least healthier version of green bean casserole for my husband but he won't hear of it. I make him buy all the "bad" stuff and he has to make it himself. Oh well.

      0 agree
      • Have you tried just doing it, then serving it up to him without comment? If he protests, just ask him to try it, and insist you'll never bring it up ever again, ever, until next year. Now's a perfect time to sneak-attack, since there's still a couple months 'til this gets served up at every feast you attend.
        If you Google around, a lot of people have come up with recipes for this. Including the onions.

        1 agrees
  5. Campbell's soups aren't GF. If I could replace that, I'd love to try it!

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  6. Additional question. Does it have to be soy milk or will regular milk suffice?

    0 agree
    • I'm pretty confident that it won't matter at all what kind of milk you use. I think it's just a little additional liquid to help the rice get fluffy.

      0 agree
  7. I am a Minnesotan girl, so my comfort food of choice is Tater Tot hotdish!

    2 agree
    • I have a friend who makes a Tater Tot casserole that I've never had the chance to try… is September 5th too early to start the fall comfort foods!?

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      • No, no it's not too early. Break out the tater tots and cheese!

        3 agree
        • I agree with you, Amy! It's never ever too early for those things. (Even though my mom's recipe doesn't have cheese–I love all the variations you can find!)

          1 agrees
  8. My mother-in-law makes an awesome tuna casserole that is now a staple in our own house. I've tried to tweak it in some ways, but being that my husband grew up with the recipe he won't allow much!

    My last Divan recipe was a disaster (85% of it went to the trash), but I'm going to try this one!!!

    0 agree
  9. Oh man my favorite green bean casserole is one my mom used to make and it came from my great aunt. It had green beans, bacon, onions, tomatoes and sour cream- kinda like a green bean stroganoff. It was AWESOME.

    1 agrees
    • Share! I think I would prefer that kind of green bean casserole to the normal kind my family makes, and I'm sure they wouldn't mind a suggestion! :)

      0 agree
  10. Ooh, my vote is for my mum's post-Thanksgiving turkey tetrazzini. I look forward to that more than the Thanksgiving meal, usually… Healthy? NOPE. Delicious? Oh yeah!

    0 agree
    • My mom makes a post turkey day casserole we simply call Turkey Cheddar- think lots of mashed potatoes with cheddar on top and gravy with mushrooms and turkey underneath. It's possibly the most eagerly anticipated dish of the year in my family, lol.

      0 agree
      • This sounds like a heart attack in a dish….so can I please have the recipe? haha

        3 agree
  11. I have two grandma recipes that i CRAVE to this day.

    1. Sausage Sage stuffing. She only made it at Thanksgiving and I usually would eat an entire plate of it before I'd even consider getting anything else.

    2. Hamburger Goulash. Ground beef, tomato soup, spices and macaroni. So good.

    To true grandma recipe style – I've never been able to make either and have them taste as good as when she made it. Something about grandma cooking.

    1 agrees
    • My mom made that hamburger goulash recipe all the time! Instead of tomato soup she used the canned diced tomatoes, and she threw an onion in there when she had one. It was greatness.

      1 agrees
    • Try looking for a secret ingredient she probably used. In our house it's either white pepper or horseradish that makes the flavor. Mom just made some chicken salad the other day while I was having lunch with her, and she asked me to try it. I said it didn't quite taste right, and she remembered she had forgotten her white pepper.

      For my grandmother's recipe- it was Hellman's Mayonnaise. And it definitely makes a different not using it….

      As for Hamburger Goulash- that's the first time I've ever heard anyone else making it like my grandma. Instead of tomato soup, she used ketchup and Worcestershire, I throw in a dash of A-1 instead because I like it a little zippier.

      1 agrees
  12. My mom always did Taco Pie: a layer of biscut mix (prepared per box), layer of taco meat (plus yummy black beans, green onion and green chiles if my step-dad wasn't eating with us), a layer of sour cream and topped with cheese and baked. Still one of my favorites and makes for awesome leftovers

    0 agree
  13. All the canned soup comments remind me why my friend and I started a blog about horrific food centered around a Campbell's cookbook published circa 1980. Cheesecake made with cream of cheddar? No thanks!

    0 agree
  14. Thanks for the awesome inspiration Beretta!

    Re: Campbell's or other canned soups
    I'm all for quick and easy canned soup casseroles (or other things – my mom would use a can of cream of mushroom over pork or chicken and then just serve over rice), but here in Germany, it's kind of hard to come by so I usually replace it with lots of equally bad for you stuff depending on what I have in the fridge, like:

    – sour cream
    – creme fraiche
    – heavy cream
    – mayo
    (- an egg, if you want it to set up more for a casserole)
    WITH
    – chicken bouillon (yeah – powdered, not home made)

    Today I added some horseradish for some zip which was really good, but I also have a recipe that uses curry which is super delicious.
    Pesto would be yummy too, maybe with Ricotta or Mascarpone cheese instead of other creamy things. Plus a can of diced tomatoes… Okay, I could go on and on!

    0 agree
    • Yes to CURRY! Chicken Divan with curry is the best thing ever. Gives it a lovely, complex flavor and also a bright yellow color that is super appealing to me!

      I also like to grate cheddar cheese and/or toasted Ritz crackers over the top. Om nom nom.

      0 agree
  15. I'm going to make this tonight but Paleo style with grated cauliflower for rice!

    0 agree

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