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:
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
(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.
I just bought Dansko shoes for the first time in my life. Sexy they are not, but they are highly practical in the kitchen and go reasonably well with the pair of jeans I usually wear when I’m cooking, especially the sassy, oiled red shoe variety pictured below.
I’ve been cooking for years. So, why now, why today? A giant of a French chef told me years ago in Fauchon’s kitchen that if I didn’t wear the right shoes and stand up straight while I prepped, I’d be crooked by the time I was forty. Maybe that was the impetus, but I think it has more to do with transition.
Some people can leap from one project to another with reckless abandon. I’m not one of them. I need time, if only a few days, to clear the decks, clear the desk, clear my brain, empty the nest, and get pumped up before starting all over again.
So, on this, the literal eve of the official beginning of my next cookbook (cookbook #6!), I’m transisting and taking the brave leap from the nuances of delicate, layered French sauces and into the puffy, stalwart realm of choux pastry. And, I’m kicking it all off with a brand new pair of red shoes.
Unlike tart pastry I manipulated in Tart Love or sauces I created for The French Book: Sauces (Gibbs Smith, March 2013), choux pastry is one tough little nut. It likes to get beat up pretty good to activate the gluten and choux pastry’s unique rising effect – aided only by this, butter and egg yolks. Nutty and savory in flavor, once cooked it can be filled with anything from whipped cream to bacon and eggs. It’s a huge sweet and savory universe all of its own and can also be formed into little balls (cream puffs) or longer tubes (eclairs).
Not only delicious, these little treats are amazingly versatile. In the sauces cookbook, my primary task was to reveal the technique and versatility of sauces while adhering to the classic “recettes” for the five French mother sauces. Here, my task load is a little more free-form – to find an excellent, practical technique for making choux pastry itself, and coming up with all kinds of beautiful and delicious flavor pairings.
My head has been adrift for days and weeks with such thoughts: lemon and mascarpone and pumpkin and cream cheese on the sweet side; BLT cream puff sandwiches and French onion choux on the savory. The list goes on and on and I’m ready to have some fun and get some flour dust on my pretty new shoes. Please jump on the band wagon with me and let me know if you have any ideas you would like for me to try out. I’d love to give it a go! And, for restaurant news/review fans, I want you to know that I’m back on track with those too (after a mandatory medical delay) as we wrap up 2012 and prepare for 2013. Charleston has so much exciting and delicious restaurant news happening right now, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
In the meantime, I’m going to leave you with a recipe for fail-proof roasted chicken. It’s the perfect feast for this time year. The techniques work just as well for chicken as they do for turkey. It’s from The French Book: Sauces, with which it’s paired with a lovely mushroom sauce. Here, simply strain any pan juices, skim off any fat, and whisk together with a little Dijon mustard for a quick, delicious pan sauce.
Perfect Roasted Chicken
Roasting chicken is simple and so rewarding when done with love for the people seated at your table. Basting is really the key. Keep giving back to the chicken what it gives to you in juices. Use a sturdy roasting pan and a roasting rack to keep the chicken off the bottom of the pan. In addition to creating a safe spot for the chicken to nestle while it’s cooking, the rack enables better browning.
1 (3 to 4-pound chicken)
Sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 shallot halved
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
1 small celery rib, trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced
3/4 cup good-quality white wine (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay)
3/4 cup chicken stock
Preheat oven to 375F. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Trim off and discard wing tips and any excess fat from near the cavity. Season the cavity generously with salt and pepper. Fill the cavity with the thyme, shallot, carrot, and celery. Loosen the skin on the chicken breast from the flesh by slipping your index finger under the skin and gently prying it loose. Place the sliced butter under the skin of the breasts, spacing evenly.
To truss the chicken, arrange it on your work surface, back side down. Run kitchen string underneath the bottom of the spine and around the bottom of the legs. Cross the string over itself and now guide it up on both sides of the breasts, along the crease where the thighs and the breasts meet. Flip the chicken over, wrap the string around the wings, and pull tightly to form a knot. Trim off the excess string. Season the chicken generously all over with salt and pepper. Bake until the skin is a pale golden color and a skin/salt crust begins to form, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F. Combine the wine and stock and baste the chicken, starting now, every 20 to 25 minutes, or until it’s done, about 1 1/2 hours (count on about 20 minutes for every pound). Test for doneness by piercing the chicken between the leg and the breast; it is cooked when the juices run clear. Remove the chicken from the pan, cover with aluminum foil, and rest for 20 minutes.
To carve the chicken, cut the legs away from the body, and cut each into two pieces at the joint. Carve the breasts away from the carcass and cut each horizontally into two pieces.
Serve immediately. Delicious with rice, mashed potatoes, and a simple side of sauteed mushrooms or spinach. Bon appetit!