Chicken divan was the signature specialty of a now defunct restaurant in New York City called Divan Parisien. In Lawton Mackall's Knife and Fork in New York (Doubleday & Company, 1949), chicken divan is described as a "runaway success dish year in, year out…sliced chicken breast on broccoli in a sherry-laced sauce of cheese and cream, browned and brought to table bubbling hot." This version is based on one in Crazy for Casseroles (The Harvard Common Press, 2003) by James Villas and was featured in Irene Sax's "The Age of Casseroles," from our December 2006 issue.
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb.)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 large head broccoli (about 2 lbs.), stemmed and broken into 1–2-inch florets
- 5 tbsp. butter
- 1⁄4 cup flour
- 1 cup <a href="https://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Chicken-Stock">Chicken/ Stock</a>
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tbsp. sherry
- 1⁄8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1⁄2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1⁄2 cup heavy cream
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, 13-15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate; let cool slightly. Cut chicken lengthwise on the bias into 1⁄4"-thick slices and set aside.
Meanwhile, put broccoli into a large pot, cover with salted water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until barely tender, 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375°. Rub the inside of a 2-quart casserole dish with 1 tbsp. of the butter; set aside. Melt remaining 4 tbsp. butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Gradually pour in stock and milk while whisking constantly. Cook until very thick, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, sherry, nutmeg, and 1⁄4 cup of the cheese; stir until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Remove cheese sauce from heat and let cool slightly.
Arrange broccoli in the prepared dish in a single layer; sprinkle with remaining 1⁄4 cup cheese. Arrange chicken evenly over top; sprinkle with almonds. In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream to soft peaks; fold into sauce. Pour sauce over chicken. Bake, with a baking sheet underneath to catch any drips, until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 minutes.