Everyone has a memorable dish tucked away in a cozy corner of their heart. My dish of honor is the humble Chicken Broccoli Casserole. We have had a love-love relationship for over 25 years. This blog, at one time in my life, could very well have been titled "Kikukat's Favorite Meal".
When I was in high school, my mom made something for dinner that was very well received by me. A coworker had told her about a recipe in a Honpa Hongwanji cookbook called Chicken Divan. It was basically a casserole consisting of a layer of broccoli, covered by chicken shreds, some creamy sauce, shredded cheese, and topped with breadcrumbs. I loved it from first bite.
When I went away to college, a friend (also from Hawaii) came over to my apartment to visit my roommate and immediately asked what I was preparing for dinner. I told him I was making a casserole with chicken and broccoli. "Oh, Chicken Divine. I know that", was his response.
Fast-forward to the middle-1990s. I'm married now, in my own kitchen, and making what my then-hubby referred to as Chicken Broccoli Casserole. And that is pretty much where this story begins. Mr. Dependable (ex-hubby) loved Chicken Broccoli Casserole. . . of course, there were the usual complaints from him: not enough broccoli, not enough sauce, too much chicken, curry taste is strong, etc. Eventually I got tired of listening to him bitch, as he was never satisfied with what I'd make. If I didn't make something, he'd say, "why don't you make___.". If I made something he requested, he'd say, "You should ask __ for the recipe. Hers is waaaaay better than yours." I finally realized that my recipes weren't wrong. He was. Oops, I think I got carried away.
Anyway, after Mr. Dependable moved out, I was free to cook what I wanted, as I wanted, and everything else that goes along with that privilege. So I started to make Chicken Broccoli Casserole once again. . .on MY terms. I use the amount of mayonnaise called for in the recipe, white meat chicken (Mr. Dependable would insist we buy ONLY dark), and 2 cans of cream of chicken soup. In the process of making this fantastic dish more often, D1 has grown to love it. She requests it whenever she is asked for a "chicken" suggestion. She has even requested it as a meal to serve to her friends who spend the night.
Normally, I buy a tray of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poach them, then shred the meat. But this past time I had some leftover Costco roast chicken. I shredded it up and used it. It was delicious.
Out of fairness to those of you who choose to "do your own thing" rather than follow instructions, I feel it necessary to share a bad experience I've had with this dish. While I was still living with my parents, my aunt, who was living with us at the time, volunteered to make this for me. The 2 pictures below show what this looks like before and after baking. Even in my younger years, I knew very well what this was supposed to look like before digging in. Unfortunately, my aunt didn't pay much attention to the recipe. Instead of sprinkling the cheese and then sprinkling bread crumbs over, she did the opposite. The finished product looked like orange lakes spreading over golden brown sand. It looked awful and not even remotely like the pictures below.
It was also very difficult to eat, given the fact that one had to cut through the quick-hardening goo to get to the broccoli and chicken. Please do not cook like my aunt!
So with Thanksgiving coming up, many people will have loads of leftover turkey. Although my recipe is for chicken, I'm sure turkey could be substituted without any problem. And because of the mayonnaise content, using fat-free soup is not a problem.
This year for Thanksgiving, I decided against roasting a whole turkey. I'm roasting 2 boneless turkey breasts. I'll let you know how it turns out.
click on recipe title for printable recipe
1 pkg. frozen broccoli, thawed completely and drained
shredded, cooked chicken
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 c mayonnaise
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 tsp lemon juice
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 c bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9 x 13" pan, layer broccoli. Sprinkle chicken evenly over broccoli. Combine soup, mayonnaise, curry powder, and lemon juice. Spread evenly over chicken layer. Sprinkle cheese. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over all. Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.