Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


Roasted Chicken – The Feast That Keeps on Giving – Part II

Divine Chicken Divan

Last week, I roasted one 6-pound, $7 chicken and created 4 separate dishes and 16 meals, beginning with the roasted chicken, the ensuing stock, a Chicken and Dumpling Soup made from the stock  a luscious Chicken Divan casserole, and four substantial chicken sandwiches enhanced with a homemade Nutty Whole Grain Bread. That’s going the distance in the economical and no waste cooking department, which was, and for the long-haul is, my most intense cooking ambition these days. Along with keeping things delicious, of course.

Here’s the original post for the roast for easy reference:

Roasted Chicken – The Feast That Keeps on Giving

It was cold last week and like most of us in the snowy, Northern Hemisphere, I was in the mood for some soothing, creamy, savory comfort food.  Chicken Divan, something a Facebook friend aptly described as ‘legacy fare,’ came to mind. Named after the restaurant where it was created in the Chatham Hotel in New York City, divan is a French word meaning ‘meeting place’ or ‘grand hall.’ In addition to being descriptive, like all French words, it sounds prettier than many English words and its base is a mother sauce, a Bechamel turned cheesy, also known as a Mornay sauce. Classically, it’s prepared with broccoli and mushrooms, but I kept broccoli out of the equation (mostly because I didn’t have any to use) and beefed up the mushroom ratio with dried porcini macerated in warm, dry vermouth which was later added to the Mornay. The end result was stunning and doubles as brunch (I served it to friends as such with a side of roasted asparagus), lunch, dinner or a midnight snack.

A word on bread crumbs and mushroom feet:

Unless you are one of the rare few that seldom has a nub of baguette or left-over bread hanging around, there is no reason to ever buy bread crumbs at the grocery. Store the bread bits and pieces in the freezer and crumble them in the food processor as you’re ready to use them, as in the topping for this casserole. Same goes for most types of cheeses (except soft cheeses), which I freeze and use in forgiving dishes such as a casserole or omelet frequently. In cooking school, we were taught not to use the feet of mushrooms in dishes, except in stock, but I disagree. Except for some very tough mushroom types, such as shitake, they are perfectly palatable. With all mushrooms (except morels which are another story), clean them simply by rubbing them down with a damp paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove excess dirt.

Divine Chicken Divan

Divine Chicken Divan

(Makes 10 generous portions)

1 ounce dried wild porcini

1/2 cup extra dry white vermouth

3/4 cup chicken stock (from roasted chicken – see link above – or best quality commercial chicken stock)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

8 ounces, or 2 1/2 cups crimini mushrooms, halved and thinly sliced, feet-on

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the Mornay:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose

2 cups whole milk

Reserved strained liquid from the porcini mushrooms

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Compiling the casserole:

Shredded meat from the 1 chicken breast and one leg/thigh from the roasted chicken, skin and bones removed – approximately three cups

5 scallions, finely chopped

1 1/4 bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter, halved

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Place the porcini, vermouth, and chicken stock in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, cook 3 minutes and set aside, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, stir to coat, and cook over medium low heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the chopped crimini, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to coat and saute until softened, five minutes. Set aside. Meanwhile, strain the liquid from the porcini through a coffee filter into a small bowl and set aside. Coarsely chop the porcini and add to the mushrooms in the saute pan and set aside.

Prepare the Mornay.  Melt the two tablespoons butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Cook 1 minute, or until blond and barely bubbling. Add the milk, reserved strained porcini liquid, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook, stirring, five minutes or until thickened. Season with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses until melted.

To compile the casserole, use 1 tablespoon of the butter to rub down the sides and edges of a 4-quart casserole dish.  Arrange the shredded chicken meat on the bottom. Scatter with the chopped scallions and reserved mushrooms in the saute pan. Pour the warm Mornay sauce evenly over the top. Separately, melt remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and toast lightly, stirring to coat. Top the casserole evenly with the browned bread crumbs.  Bake 30 to 40 minutes until golden, fragrant and bubbling. (Note: Can prepare/compile ahead, refrigerate overnight, and bake just before serving. Also, reheats well in oven or microwave after baked).

Happy cooking! Look for the Nutty Whole Grain Bread and Chicken and Dumpling Soup recipe next week. In the meantime, please remember to keep this upcoming cookbook writing retreat and Folly Beach spring wellness vacation in mind and by all means, tell  your friends about it. We still have spots open. Beckie and I would love to see you there! It’s going to be delicious, fun, and educational.

Cracking the Cookbook Code. Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat




Happy Father’s Day!

In yesterday’s The Permanent Tourist Charleston blog, I shared memories of my magnificent father, and thoughts on cooking for Dad on his big day. The post includes a delicious recipe, and an opportunity to win a copy of The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbs Smith).

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick



Serving Dad, “McCaulio” Style

My father was (and is)  many things to many  people: a busy corporate executive over-seeing a large staff, a friend to  many, a close brother to his brothers Jim and John, a loyal husband, a veteran, a caring son to his father and mother, and a loving keeper of many animals, including his beloved horse Valiant.

But to me, he is simply Dad. The best kind of Dad. He’s the kind of Dad, despite his extremely demanding travel and career demands when the four of us were growing up, that was there. He was there for all the little league games, he was there (through example) to teach the important life lessons on the value of honesty and hard work, he was there to celebrate each of our joys, sorrows, and lives. Sweetly, he would bring my sister Heather and I little trinkets from his travels, a miniature Swiss clock from Geneva, or Madame Alexander dolls dressed up to represent their respective countries. He would set up camp under a tent in our rooms to tell “scary” stories of “Cookie” the hapless, good-hearted monster. He would scatter the eggs at the Easter hunts and put up the tree (and take it down) for what seems like an endless stream of Christmas’s past. He would eventually walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, a blend of pathos, pride and pure love apparent upon his handsome face and radiating from his beautiful, selfless soul.

My Mom, Dad and dog, Tann Mann on a recent visit.

My Mom, Dad and dog, Tann Mann on a recent visit.

But for all the gifts, love, memories, lessons and life he has shared with me, nothing resonates as strongly with love as his “McCaulio.” This was his name for his  warm breakfast specialty blend of left-overs that usually included rice, peas, some kind of steak or pork, and eggs, scrambled up in a pan and served with a big dose of ketchup. It takes a varied form on his name, Herb McCauley, and took many variations in its actual ingredient list. There were two constants, though. It was always a hot breakfast, and it was always made with love and usually lots of laughs as he prepared to get us off to school. Mom liked to sleep in during those busy years, and Dad selflessly picked up the slack. I’ll never forget him or McCaulio. I sure do love that man!

So, while I’m late getting this out to you to help serve your Dad a special breakfast this morning, there is still time to put it together later today, or any other day of the year, just like Dad and his McCaulio.  This is a simple yet beautiful “special” breakfast that comes together quickly. Mom can help the kids with the bechamel sauce. Meanwhile, the kids can put together a quick eggs scramble and toast. Dad will love it, and he’ll especially love it because it was made with loving hearts.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad and to Dads everywhere!

Adapted from The French Cook: Sauces (March 2013/Gibbs Smith)

Scrambled Eggs with Sage and Sausage Bechamel Sauce. Photo by Steven Rothfeld.

Scrambled Eggs with Sage and Sausage Bechamel Sauce. Photo by Steven Rothfeld.

Soft Scrambled Eggs Cloaked with Sage and Sausage Bechamel Sauce on Baguette Toaste Points

(Makes 4 generous servings)

First, prepare the bechamel.

Basic Bechamel Master Recipe

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons All-Purpose flour

1 shallot or small onion (about 3 tablespoons), finely chopped

2 cups skim milk

1 1/2 cups Half & Half

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste recipe

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When just melted, whisk in the flour all at once, whisking rapidly to combine. Add the chopped shallot (or onion) and whisk to combine. Continue whisking and cooking (without browning) for 5 minutes. Add the skim milk and Half & Half, drizzling rapidly into the roux, whisking continually. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Continue whisking and cooking the béchamel another five minutes, or until it’s come up to a gentle simmer and thickened to the consistency of thick chowder. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Reserve warm. Any left-overs can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 3 days and gently re-heated for another use. (Note: If you want to limit the fat and calories, the recipe can be prepared with skim milk only, unless it will be flavored with alcohol or acid in the recipe where it will ultimately be used. Depending on the quantity, it might risk breaking/curdling the sauce.) Set aside.

Meanwhile, put together the rest of the dish.

12 ounces loose pork sausage

Sea salt or kosher salt

Ground white pepper

2 cups of the reserved, prepared bechamel

1 teaspoon dried, ground sage

2 tablespoons dry vermouth

2 tablespoons pork or veal demi-glace

For the toast points:

8 (1/2-inch-thick) diagonally  cut slices fresh baguette bread

For the eggs:

8 large eggs

1/4 cup half & half

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Sea salt or kosher salt

Ground white pepper

4 sage leaves, optional for garnish

Heat a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain the sausage in a colander, straining off and discarding all of the rendered fat. Set aside.

Finish the prepared, reserved bechamel by whisking in the sage, vermouth and demi-glace in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir in the reserved sausage. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm over very low heat.

Toast the sliced bread in batches in a toaster or under a high broiler until golden brown. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and the half & half until very well incorporated, aerated and lemony in color. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Pour egg mixture into the skillet and season lightly with salt and pepper. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or spoon. As soon as the eggs beging to set, remove from the heat.

To serve,  arrange two of the toast points on each of four large plates. Divide the eggs and warm bechamel over the toast points. Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh sage leaves, if desired.

Bon appetit!






A Conversation with Pierre Wolfe about The French Cook: Sauces

I was delighted to join culinary radio veteran and utter gentleman Pierre Wolfe a few weeks ago to talk about France, cooking, Julia Child and The French Cook: Sauces

He loves France as much as I do! You can listen to it at the following link to the podcast. Our interview starts 30 minutes from the beginning.

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick







Bon Appetit!


Cottage at The Crossroads Reviews The French Cook: Sauces

Special thanks to Jane Windham at for her cookbook review blog of The French Cook: Sauces. She tested and was especially happy with the roasted asparagus with an orange and prosciutto bechamel sauce.

Anchovy and Parsley Mayonnaise with Salmon from The French Cook: Sauces. Photo by Steven Rothfeld

Anchovy and Parsley Mayonnaise with Salmon from The French Cook: Sauces. Photo by Steven Rothfeld

Here’s some of what she had to say:

“Not only were there gorgeous food photographs that made me practically drool, there were French street scenes and action shots of French chefs that made me feel that I was right in Paris.

Ok, I’ll admit it. French cooking has always intimidated me just a bit. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make make my own Hollandaise, Bearnaise, and Puttanesca sauces but felt a little inadequate.  Holly demystifies the techniques in making these as well as creating your own stocks. And there is even a chapter devoted to whipping up your own mayonnaise. Didn’t think mayonnaise was French, did ya?  Well, it is the base for aioli, remoulade, and tartar sauces.

The French Cook: Sauces not only gives you the step-by-step instructions and tips for making all these sauces, but it also includes several recipes that use the sauces.”

To see Jane’s complete review or to spend time on her and husband Leo’s fabulous blog, click on this link.

The book is currently available online (see link to follow) and in bookstores near you on March 1.

Bon appetit and happy cooking, too!

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick




Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

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