I have been having way too much fun in other people’s kitchens lately. It’s so nice to see cooking from someone else’s perspective every now and again. Being invited into someone’s home and having them cook you a family recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation really warms the soul. This past week I enjoyed a great mid-Western favorite cooked by an old college friend.
While Kristin’s style of cooking comes from deeply rooted Mid-Western traditions, she has a flare for simple yet flavorful ingredients; and thanks to her Vietnamese hubby her vast array of spices only continues to expand. She took me in on Sunday and we chatted about her influences, family traditions, and her take on the beloved Chicken + Broccoli Divan …
How would you classify your style of cooking?
I’m not the greatest chef and am drawn to easy-to-follow recipes with as few ingredients and as little prep work as possible. I’m such a multi-tasker in life but in the kitchen it’s completely another story. While I tend to stay true to my roots I am influenced by Tien’s cooking. He cooks a lot more than I do and his take on his traditions are not only delicious but inspiring. We feed off each other’s traditions, I may make simple and hearty dishes but I’m always pulling spices from his world and vice versa.
What’s the back story behind this recipe?
It was my grandmother’s recipe. My mother used to cook it for us when we were kids. Our family always came together around food. Whether it was for birthdays, Holidays, or guests were in town somehow food was always tied in. Our family is a Midwestern, gravy, fat and potatoes kind of family and to this day these hearty home-made meals bring me back to my childhood.
How has this recipe changed over the years?
It’s really quite still the same dish but without the preservatives. I like to use fresh broccoli and cheese rather than frozen or bagged products. While I am health-conscious I still enjoy a hearty meal and know that moderation is key. Splurging every once in awhile is not a bad thing!
What is your stand on healthy eating?
I’m not opposed to it what-so-ever, in fact I agree with it. I completely understand that there are people out there with allergies and sensitive bodies but as of lately I feel it has become so commercialized – like it’s almost a trend. There is a fine line between being conscious of what you put in your body and being a follower. I feel that people are not properly educated on what substitutions to make and the whole commercialized health craze such as Protein Shakes, Juicing and Herbalife is so pushed on you. Most of these products are so processed yet they pride themselves on being healthy and I think there is such a huge misconception. This is why I like to cook with the basics, using real milk, cooking with fresh produce and eating organic when possible. It’s not that hard to live a healthy lifestyle and still make delicious hearty meals. Again, it’s all in moderation and plus I just don’t have the discipline to live such a bland and tasteless life.
Chicken + Broccoli Divan
Makes 6 Servings
6 Chicken Tenders
3 Organic Broccoli Heads
2 Cups of Chicken Cream Base (see ingredients below)
¼ Cup of Fresh Bread Crumbs
½ Cup of Mayonnaise
1 ½ Cups of Freshly Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
//Chicken Cream Base//
¾ Cup of Organic Chicken Stock
½ teaspoon of Onions, chopped
1 teaspoon of Garlic, minced
¼ Cup of Milk and ½ Cup of Milk
1 Pinch of Salt
1 Pinch of Black Pepper
1 Pinch of Parsley, freshly chopped
1 Pinch of Lemon Pepper
1 Pinch of Allspice
1 Pinch of Paprika
1/3 Cup of Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
Using a medium saucepan over a medium flame brown the onions and garlic in a couple tablespoons of the chicken stock until the onions are soft and translucent. Add in the remaining chicken stock and ¼ cup of milk and stir. Once it begins to bubble whisk in the salt, black pepper, fresh parsley, lemon pepper, allspice and paprika. Once that has begun to boil, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl combine the remaining ½ cup of milk and slowly add in the flour while constantly whisking to create a smooth consistency. Add the milk and flour mixture to the hot stock continuing to whisk to avoid clumping. Boil the cream base for about 3 minutes, while whisking to avoid the bottom from burning. Remove from heat and allow it to cool and thicken, this should yield about 2 cups.
While the cream base is thickening, boil the chicken tenders in a small stock pot for about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the water and place them in a small bowl and allow it to cool. Using a fork, or your hands, shred the chicken into smaller pieces and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Cut the broccoli heads into small florets and set aside. In a medium-sized bowl combine the mayonnaise, bread crumbs, cheddar cheese and chicken cream base – mix thoroughly.
Using 5 -7 ounce ramekins, prepare the dish in layers. First line the bottom of the ramekin with the shredded chicken. Next, layer in the broccoli florets followed by evenly spreading the cream base/cheese mixture on top of it. Lastly, top them off with a little extra shredded cheese.
Bake the ramekins for about 20 minutes or until the top of them is a nice golden color. Allow them to cool and garnish with extra breadcrumbs and rosemary, if desired.