Friday, September 9, 2011

Freezable Chicken Divan


I am a big believer in freezer meals. It feels so good knowing I've got a few nights worth of food that just requires a quick grill session, an express heating on the stove or a brief stay in the oven. Some foods freeze really well, and this recipe for Chicken Divan is one of them. Chalk full of brown rice, broccoli, shredded chicken, homemade cream of chicken soup and a little bit of cheesy goodness that is extra sharp cheddar. I've made this recipe countless times, and it's always gotten rave reviews. It's good ole' comfort food at it's best. I got this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, this woman is fantastic! You should check out her website. I've made this recipe with canned cream of mushroom or chicken soup, as well as making my own, both options are delicious and work just the same. I didn't have cream of anything soup in my pantry, so I made my own this time. Another fantastic thing about this specific recipe, is that there are a lot of short cuts if you don't have the time (or patience) to make your own elements! You can use canned cream of whatever soup, already cooked rice, and you can get a rotisserie chicken (or use leftover chicken).

One suggestion I have for freezer cooking is to double the amount you're making. That way, you can eat one that night, and freeze the second one for another time. It's really not much work to assemble one more casserole, soup, marinade, etc. On that note, let's get started!

If you don't have any cooked rice on hand, you'll want to start with that. It takes the longest to cook, and it's the first layer of the casserole. I'm using a frozen rice blend I got at Costco, so I'm starting with chicken. Whenever I need chicken for a recipe like this, 90% of the time I'll poach it. It's quick and easy. If I have bone-in chicken, I'll roast it in the oven. This time, I poached. You're gonna fill a pot half way with water, add a few cloves of smashed garlic, a good pinch of salt and bring it to a boil. Add your chicken, and return the water to a simmer. Cook with the lid on for 10 minutes, then take the pot off of the heat and let it sit with the lid on for another 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. This is a fail-proof method for poaching chicken. It won't dry out, it stays nice and juicy! Pull your chicken out of the poaching liquid (SAVE THE LIQUID if you're making your own cream of chicken soup) and let it cool enough to chop or shred. I like shredded chicken, but sometimes I'm too lazy, so I'll chop it.


If you're not using canned cream of whatever soup, while your chicken is poaching, make your cream of chicken soup. Melt the butter and olive oil together in a pot. Add the flour, chicken base and salt and mix together. Then add in your milk and water (use leftover poaching water if you poached the chicken). Whisk together, and cook until thickened. Super easy! Let it cool for a few minutes, then add the mayo, curry powder and lemon juice. Set aside.


On to broccoli. Wash your broccoli, and cut into florets. I like to use the broccoli stems too, I grew up eating them, and I think they taste yummy. You'll want to peel the stems a bit if you decide to use them, as the outside is a little woody. You'll need to either steam or blanch your broccoli. I prefer steaming, especially because I have this super handy gadget. I added a little water with the broccoli stems, steamed in the microwave for two minutes, then added the florets and steamed for another two minutes. Voila, perfectly steamed broccoli!


Now we build our casserole! Rice goes on the bottom, followed by broccoli, then chicken, then our soup mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and breadcrumbs, and that's it! Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. For freezer cooking, leave unbaked and cover to freeze. When ready to eat, defrost in the fridge overnight, then cook as previously stated. If frozen, you may have to cook 1 hr or longer.





So that's it! With the kiddos getting back to school, you should add a few freezer meals to your repertoire. It'll save you time, and sanity on the busy days. Enjoy!

Chicken Divan (from Passionate Homemaking)

2 or more cups cooked brown rice
2 bunches fresh broccoli, lightly stemmed & chopped
2-3 cups cooked chicken, cubed
2 cans cream of mushroom soup (see recipe below)
½ cup mayonnaise
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp curry
½ cup grated cheese
½-3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp melted butter, optional
Since canned soups often contain MSG, I have learned how to make it from scratch, see below. It is also a lot healthier this way, because you can use whole wheat flour and raw milk, if you like. Use one recipe of the soup to replace these cans.
Combine soup (whether canned or homemade) with mayo, lemon and curry. Keep the mixture relatively thin by adding further milk or water. Additional salt may be necessary. Gently steam broccoli until tender.
Grease a 13×9 pan. Layer rice, followed by broccoli and then the chicken. Pour creamed soup mixture over the broccoli. Sprinkle cheese on top. Combine crumbs and butter, sprinkle over all. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. For freezer cooking, leave unbaked and cover to freeze. If frozen, you may have to cook 1 hr or longer.

Condensed Creamed Soup Substitute

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt or more to taste
12 fresh mushrooms, chopped
2 cups of milk (less for a thicker soup)
Heat butter and oil then add flour and salt, stirring to make a roux. Add mushrooms and cook about a minute, just to soften. Add milk and stir until thickened. This is a substitute (and a great one at that!) for two 10 oz. cans cream of mushroom soup. To make cream of chicken, simply omit mushrooms, add 1 tsp. chicken base (a paste, like bouillon but without the MSG) and substitute half the milk with chicken broth or stock. To make cream of celery, substitute celery for the mushrooms and proceed as listed above.






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