See why this creamy chicken dinner with the perfect crunch became an American classic

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Although it was originally the signature dish of a French restaurant in New York, the comforting combination of chicken, broccoli and cheese has made chicken divan a classic American casserole. When I was growing up, it made frequent appearances on my mom’s dinner rotation, and every time I eat it, I’m reminded of home. My mom’s generation replaced the Mornay —béchamel plus cheese — with canned cream-of-celery soup and sometimes mayonnaise, creating a sauce more slimy than creamy. I thought it was time to revisit the classic.
This version of chicken divan uses cornstarch and half-and-half to add creaminess without the work of creating a béchamel. Instead of canned soup, I’ve added celery and celery salt to keep the lovely vegetal undertones, and reintroduced the almonds for a bit of crunch. This dish is lovely on its own or served over plain white rice.
Cooktop Cove
Chicken Divan
10 minutes
4 hours
4 hours, 10 minutes
2 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups chicken stock or broth
2 chicken breasts
1 teaspoon celery salt
3 medium heads of broccoli, chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard, like Grey Poupon
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, divided
1 cup slivered almonds
Turn a 5 to 6-quart slow cooker on high, and place butter in the bottom. Allow it to melt, then whisk in the cornstarch. Add the chicken broth and whisk again.
In a bowl or large plastic bag, toss the chicken with celery salt and add to the slow cooker. Add broccoli, celery, garlic and mustard, and stir.
Cover the slow cooker, and cook on high for 3 1/2 hours. Then, remove cover, and stir in the half-and-half, 1/2 cup of cheddar and 1/4 cup of Parmesan.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese and nuts over the top. Cook uncovered for another 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Serve.
Pro tip: To make the topping even crunchier and more flavorful, toast the almonds on a baking sheet in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes before sprinkling over the divan.
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