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.
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.