Friday, August 24, 2012

Church Camp, Inspirational Foods for a "Divan" Environment

Summer always means going to the beach for me. I grew up the first 12 years of my life on or around the water. Being in the navy my father moved us to some great locations. California, Florida, Hawaii, and or course back and forth to South Carolina.

Now one stop on the Navy train that did not put us near the water was our furlough in the Washington D.C. area. Not that it was not with out standout opportunities, but it was not near the ocean. But there were several things about it which made it special. It's location to all things historical concerning the beginning of our country and through to the Civil War and beyond. The capital, the entire D.C. monumental cityscape,the museums and the arts opportunities all provided a natural jumping off point for parents who wanted their boys to have a clear understanding of all things American.

But getting back to the beach. When we first moved to the D.C. area we were acquainted with a church called the Reston United Christian Parish. It was an ecumenical trial at 5 Protestant denominations getting together into one church and sharing ministers and creating a community of faith not based on practice alone. Well it worked pretty well and we had a great experience as a family attending that church. My brother and I shared our enjoyment of the youth fellowship activities and both of us came of age within the fellowship of that supportive and loving body of people.

One of the big opportunities for us with the Church was to attend the annual Beach Church Camp at Bethany Beach in Delaware. About 4 hours with traffic from Reston, Va. it was our chance to go to the beach as well as have fun and fellowship hanging out in a relaxed and comfortable environment. There were both Adult/Family camps and a Youth Camp. While Family camp was fun it was youth camp that really was the best.

Being that it was church camp there was always coffee to be had and the other drink which I will forever associate with church camp, Russian Tea. Now this concoction was nothing short of brilliant and really a great way to get something hot when there was a chill in the air without resorting to the coffee cup!  Instant iced tea mix was mixed with orange drink mix ( aka. Tang) in equal parts and BAM! you had a hot cup of loving something that was delish and easy.

The other thing that I will forever associate with church camp is Chicken and Broccoli Divan. I mean church camp food was never really bad. Chili, Sloppy Joes, Meatloaf, Potato and Sausage Soup, Jello and Big Bowls of iceberg lettuce with Italian Dressing were always around.  As were various casseroles which were made from all kinds of things. Now there are dishes in the archive of American casseroles that I think of and wonder "who ever came up with this stuff", and then there are dishes like Chicken Divan, which is probably my favorite traditional casserole of all time. It's become a household staple and growing up anywhere in the U.S. where a "hotdish" was a common food, this dish was probably there.

Today people look down their noses at a dish like this but it had it's origin's in the gourmet restaurant's of New York city. That's right you foodie freak nazi's, it was gourmet in it's day!  But of course it has become pedestrian with time as have many of the old school things. But at church camp it reigned supreme!

Chicken Divan is a naturally a chicken casserole dish. It was first created at the Divan Parisien restaurant in New York City. It is classically a casserole of sliced chicken breast, spears of broccoli, which was covered with sauce Mornay and baked until the top was golden brown.

The Divan Parisien served Chicken Divan as their signature dish in the 1950's. The chef or chefs who originally created it are unknown. In France the word divan refers to a meeting place or great hall. This name was chosen to attract the attention of the Divan Parisien owners by implying a kind of continental elegance.

Now a  Mornay sauce is a classic French sauce. It is a Bechamel sauce with shredded or grated cheese added. Usually, it is half Gruyere and half Parmesan, though variations use different combinations of Gruyere, Emmental cheese, or white cheddar.

SO here's my take on this classic dish. It is easy as a Sunday morning and simple good eats. It's got a few additions to the original but just for some extra flavor I find. Not a lot of fuss, you could make this in individual dishes and serve it up at a party a little more fancy like at the Parisien, or you could just serve it up. Either was it's delicious! 

Forrest's Divine Chicken Divan ( Put this in your church camp and smoke it!)

4 large chicken breasts cooked through and cut into strips or chunks
4 cups of fresh broccoli florets (3 8oz packs of frozen broccoli florets)
3 tablespoons. butter
3 tablespoons. flour
1 1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons sherry
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup sour cream
1 can cream of celery soup

3/4 cup sharp White Cheddar Cheese or Gruyere Cheese ( cheddar is less expensive)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup sliced almonds crushed with your hands and 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Chicken Divan Preparation:

 Boil chicken for 45-60 minutes or until it is cooked. At the same time boil broccoli for 10 minutes or so until al dente. (if you like broccoli soft cook it until you like it) Make cream sauce from butter, flour and milk. Add celery soup and mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce and nutmeg. Mix well. Stir in sour cream and cheese. Add sherry and pepper. Mix well again. Place broccoli in the baking dish, top with chicken. Cover with sauce. Sprinkle top with almonds and bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. You can divide this amongst individual baking dishes if desired. Serve hot. Enjoy!!!

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