Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

homemade bread

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




Get Your Happy Food Buzz on at Butcher & Bee

The locally sourced, organic trend that’s at long last  gripping large parts of the country and the Lowcountry is not new. It’s been trending hotter than an August Charleston afternoon for the better part of the past three years.

What is new (just four weeks old) is Butcher & Bee and the utter purity with which it approaches its localvore love. Tucked inauspiciously away in a parking lot near Columbus and Upper King Street, everything here, from the artisinal community table to house made everything (including pickles, bread, ketchup, mayonnaise, an organic garden out back, and locally sourced animals purchased whole and broken down in-house) is done the real, old-fashioned, and waste-free way.  The Butcher & Bee experience is an exceptional journey back to a time that far too many Americans have forgotten with the haze of fast food and mass-produced processed “food” that has clogged our supermarkets, hearts and palates for far too long.

The brainchild of Owner/Partner Michael Shem-Pov of local Mellow Mushroom fame and Chef/Partner Stuart Tracy, the purely executed concept (even in its very early, opening days) takes a nod from butcher shops and nature. The menu, broadly conceived at the beginning of each week and modified according to what farmers deliver on a daily basis and what sells out sometimes on an hourly basis, is coaxed to understated perfection in the hands of Tracy, who trained at Johnson & Wales and cut his teeth at Palmetto Cafe before finally stretching his chef and entrepreneur legs at his Butcher & Bee baby. While his competence at Palmetto Cafe was always evident, it literally shines here.

The vegetarian and sandwich intensive B & B menu changes daily.

Pure is the best word I can find to describe his magnificent fare. Getting there, as Tracy puts it, is all about “control and balance.” So very well put, indeed. It sounds like a simple concept, but it’s the kind of fuss-free, technique-rich execution too many chefs miss with over-manipulated, over made-up, overly-complicated concoctions. The clarity of each flavor and each texture at Butcher & Bee allows the freshness of the food to shine through. That is an art, and one Tracy proudly and passionately brings to the table here.

Sandwiches and vegetarian dishes are staples, but weekends afford a beefy burger (more on that later) and fresh interpretations on egg-centric brunch favorites like “Toad in a Hole” and French toast. Considering that bread makes up about 50% of the essence of a sandwich, Tracy considers it a priority. “You can’t be a sandwich shop and not make the bread,” he says. Indeed, brioche, pita, and assorted breads are made here daily and are sometimes served still warm from the oven – just like Mom (or well, maybe Grandmother) used to make.

Garden fresh Brussel sprouts, bacon, Granny Smith apples and peanut side.


This gorgeous, warm side salad (pictured above) was offered on a recent Sunday brunch menu, and is an idyllic edible testimony not just to Tracy’s talent, but his restrained, controlled balance. Roasted, nutty and lightly caramelized Brussel sprouts (likely picked from one of the elevated, organic garden beds out back) are tossed with salty, smoky bacon, layered with crisp, tart/sweet slivers of apple, and anointed with the salty crunch of peanuts. Swirling flavors of vinegary onion confit and a swatch of nutty, browned butter seal the deal ever so sweetly.

Pimento Cheeseburger the B & B way!


But, if the Brussel sprouts spelled “like”, the burger spelled “love”, as in “I wanna’ be Wimpy, now!” kind of love. Perfection, it literally was impossible to resist. The golden hue of the brioche,  and the density of the bread, possessed just the right amount of airy girth to support the hefty, but not overwhelming burger.  Fresh, peppery/smooth pimento cheese oozed temptingly over the moist, savory, locally sourced beef. A flutter of fresh onion crunch and a thick layer, about one inch high, of the ultra crunchy, cool house made cucumbers were heady, indeed. The toasted, buttered bun, got a flavor kiss from the aromatic house made ketchup and mayonnaise, to boot.

What is not to love? Despite increased competition from some truly worthy burger havens (HOM, Husk, and other stalwarts included), this is a dream maker.  It’s just the kind of burger stuff that keeps you up at night, especially when you realize you have to wait for the weekend to experience it again!

With all of the personalized attention in the kitchen and the pristine (and, thus more pricey) sourcing of the food, the Butcher & Bee team manages to keep the price points extremely gentle, with entrees ranging from $8 – $11 and sides somewhere from $2 – $6. Considering that a “meal” at McDonald’s will cost you about $6 – and that’s just the beginning. That’s a huge deal, especially since the Butcher & Bee experience is profoundly nurturing at every level – spiritually, sensually, and sating our growing hunger for purity and deliciousness.

Seating is limited to about 20 now at the community table and some limited outside seating in the sunny parking lot, but plans are in place for a second table, and the late night crowd takes to standing and eating at the long, comfortable bar. Heck, I’d stand on my head if I had to  for another bite of that burger and just about everything that comes out of Butcher & Bee’s amazing kitchen. Bravo!

Butcher & Bee

654 King Street


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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