In my opinion, people who think casseroles are uninteresting, too fattening, and a thing of the past, simply don’t have enough empirical study on the subject. And I mean to help with that problem by offering up one of my favorite casserole recipes to assist with said research.
Now I know broccoli, chicken, and curry casserole (Chicken Divan) has been around for decades. But my version is healthier, less caloric, and if I may be so bold, tastier than most. (If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be posting this recipe in the first place! Duh!)
So what makes my spin on this classic different?
- no cream of mushroom or chicken soup
- no sharp cheddar cheese
- no bread crumbs
- no butter
- no sherry or white wine
- the addition of a small amount of cooked brown rice
- broccoli and chicken cut into really small pieces so that each bite contains a small bit of each ingredient
- the addition of a small amount of onion
- the addition of Dijon mustard to give the sauce a bit of a kick
So as you can see, this recipe has just a few ingredients either lacking or added to make this casserole just a tad bit unique. It’s still really Chicken Divan. But I think my execution of this dish better reflects the current taste for more sophisticated yet wholesome preparations. But as they say – vive la différence! If you have a favorite recipe for Chicken Divan, I say, stick with what you know and like. But if you are a novice to casserole preparation, and feel up to the task of researching casseroles to enhance your culinary expertise, I would recommend this recipe. You have to start somewhere after all, so you might as well start with a casserole that is easy and relatively inexpensive to prepare, and just plain delicious. In Mr. Cs words, “this is really wonderful”. (I love it when those words pop unsolicited from his mouth. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Of course the pre-dinner martini helps with that feeling too. But it’s healthier mentally to believe that Mr. Cs comments are the real reason for my elation!)
- ½ c. uncooked brown rice*
- 1 c. water
- ½ tsp. seasoned salt
- 3 c. very small pieces of broccoli flowerets and peeled stems
- 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite sized pieces
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ c. finely minced onion
- 2 tsp. flour
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- 1 c. chicken stock
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 c. low-fat sour cream
- 1/3 c. light mayonnaise
- 1 T. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 c. coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 T. minced fresh parsley, opt. garnish*or 1 cup leftover cooked rice
Combine rice, water, and seasoned salt. Cook while you are assembling other ingredients. (I use my rice cooker.) While the rice cooks, steam or blanch the broccoli until crisp tender. (You don’t want the broccoli tender at this point. It will continue to cook while it cools and during its tenure in the oven.) Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large fry pan. Add the diced chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry the chicken cubes just until done. (They should have some brown on them.) Remove from pan and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Do not let the onion get brown. When the onion is done, whisk in the flour and curry powder. (The flour will be quite dry.) Cook for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, mustard, sour cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Adjust seasoning. Bring to just under a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and gently stir in the cooked rice, broccoli, and chicken.
Scoop into a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the casserole is hot. Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.