Yes, You Can Make Turkey Divan Without Canned Soup

After decades of sliding into disfavor (thanks to the likes of condensed soup and processed cheese), it’s time to give Turkey Divan back its good name! Made with a great cheese and a true Mornay sauce, my Turkey Divan Recipe reclaims the dish’s status as one of the best recipes ever for leftover turkey. 

This is a turkey divan recipe without canned soup — and yes, it’s the one you’re looking for. Below, I give a little history of the recipe, but if you just want the recipe itself, skip to the bottom of the page.

Authentic and Easy Recipe for Turkey Divan

Authentic and Easy Recipe for Turkey Divan

The Late, Great Younker's Department Store. Click here for my ode to working in the famous tea room.

The Late, Great Younker’s Department Store. Read my ode to working in the famous tea room.

I first came across Turkey Divan when I was working in one of the long-gone restaurants of Younker’s Department Store  in Amerique profonde. Made by layering steamed broccoli with sliced cooked turkey breast, with a rich cheese sauce amidst the layers, it was one of those wonderful American classics that were the mainstays of department store tearooms and old-school hotel dining rooms. 

American, you ask? Divan sounds kind of French.

Indeed, according to what research I could find, the recipe was the specialty of the Divan Parisien, a French restaurant in a New York Hotel (the long-gone Hotel Chatham, near Grand Central Station).

Wait–is it Divine or Divan? Is it turkey or is it chicken?

It’s Divan. And the original recipe was for chicken, but someone along the line discovered that it worked beautifully with turkey, too.

What does Divan mean, anyway?

According to my Oxford French-English Dictionary, divan means divan. Yes, as in a davenport. But it’s a Parisian davenport, mind you. I can only guess that the restaurant’s name, “Divan Parisien,” was supposed to bring to mind an elegant place to sit yourself down. And, looking at a vintage postcard, it looks like the place was all about divan-style seating.

Divan Parisien

And yet, Turkey Divan is not elegant in a complicated, rococo way. In fact, the term “polished simplicity” comes to mind whenever I taste a great version. (I always say no one does polished simplicity quite like the French–and this dish is definitely French-inspired).

Turkey Divan begins with one of the most simple-elegant things in the culinary world: a white sauce (a béchamel). When was the last time you stopped and really tasted a white sauce? I did, the other day when I was testing this recipe, and I was thrilled once again by the magic that happens when a warm paste made of melted butter and flour turns milk something so rich and wonderful.

For this recipe, you add a great cheese (and nearly any great cheese that melts well will do); the white sauce becomes a cheese sauce. Or, in French cooking terms, a béchamel becomes a Mornay.

Seriously? It’s as good as all that? Whenever I’ve tasted Turkey Divan, it’s been kind of…..ordinary.

Well, here’s what happened: Over the years, our mothers and grandmothers started substituting cream of mushroom or chicken soup instead of making a white sauce. Condensed soup is to béchamel what Velveeta is to a Vermont Cheddar.

Process cheese (aka Velveeta)? Condensed soup? Let's not judge....but we can do better!

From my mother’s BH&G Casserole Cookbook. Process cheese (aka Velveeta)? Condensed soup? Let’s not judge….but we can do better! (PS: Let the record show that the book also offered a classic, scratch-made version.)

Still, I’m not judging here: If I’d grown up cutting heads off chickens, sweeping Dust Bowl dirt from my floorboards three times a day, and scratching every bit of food I could from the grit of a substinance farm in the anything-but-Martha-Stewart 30s and 40s, by the 1950s, I would have looked at condensed soup as a beacon of salvation from the drudgery of all that work. I would have been first in line for an electric can opener.

And if buying cheap process cheese meant that you’d be able to save enough money to finally afford that beautiful readymade dress in the Younkers window after years of sewing your own clothes, well, pass me the Velveeta.

But now that we have the time and (if we’re blessed) the resources to get back to scratch cooking, it’s time to get back to making the Mornay sauce. And making Turkey Divan in the legendary way.

Here are some step-by-steps to this great dish; just skip below if you want the recipe.

1. Gather up your ingredients (see recipe listing below). You can use broccoli, which is classic, but I love broccolini (pictured in the center).

Ingredients for Turkey Divan.

Ingredients for Turkey Divan.

2. Make a White Sauce (a Béchamel), and then turn it into a cheese sauce (a Mornay) with your favorite flavorful melting cheese.

What cheese to use in Turkey Divan or Chicken Divan: Both Comté and Cheddar work beautifully here. You can also use Gruyère, Asiago, Fontina, Gouda (though not hard-aged Gouda), Muenster, Havarti, and Monterey Jack. I would not use blue cheese for this. You could use Brie or Camembert if you cut off the rind.

A white sauce becomes a cheese sauce (that is, a Béchamel becomes a Mornay). And it's a wonderful thing. You've simply forgotten.

A white sauce becomes a cheese sauce (that is, a Béchamel becomes a Mornay). And it’s a wonderful thing. You’ve simply forgotten.

3. Layer Your Ingredients: The broccoli or broccolini should be cooked until just tender; the turkey should be warm (heat it gently in the microwave). The sauce should still be warm. This is key, because you only run it under the broiler for just a few minutes. PS: I like using Individual Gratin Dishes for these, but a larger gratin dish will work too. Just be sure whatever dish you use is broiler safe.

1. A layer of broccoli 2. A little white sauce 3. A layer of turkey 4. More white sauce

1. A layer of broccoli
2. A little white sauce
3. A layer of turkey…

 

4. More White Sauce 5. A layer of cheese and a little paprika.

4. More White Sauce
5. A layer of cheese and a little paprika.

 4. Broil until nicely bubbly and a little bit brown.

Voilà.

Voilà.

Here’s the recipe, friends!

The Best Turkey Divan Recipe: A Classic Made the Way It Should Be
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
If you don't have individual gratin dishes, you can use an 8x8 or 9x9 casserole, or even a round baking dish. Just make sure it can stand the heat of your broiler. You may need to broil the larger casserole longer, but do watch constantly.
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1½ cups 2% or whole milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup grated Gruyère, Comté, Vermont Cheddar, or another great semi-firm cheese you love that melts well
  • 1 1-pound head broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets, cooked and drained* or 1 8-ounce bunch broccolini, cooked and drained.*
  • ¾ pound sliced leftover sliced turkey
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or other great grating cheese of your choice. Or, you can simply add more of the cheese you used in the sauce.
Instructions
  1. Melt butter. Add flour and cook, stirring, until mixture bubbles. Remove from heat; gradually blend in milk and cream. Add cayenne and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and begins to boil. Add Gruyère and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted.
  2. Warm the broccoli or broccolini and the turkey in the microwave. Divide broccoli or broccolini amongst 4 individual broiler safe gratin dishes (or use a broiler-safe 8x8 gratin dish) spreading out into 1 layer. Pour about ¼ cup sauce over each dish. Layer turkey atop the broccoli; cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  3. Broil about 4 inches from heat for about 5 minutes or until cheese is browned, watching constantly. Serves 4.
  4. • To cook broccoli florets: Cook in about 1 inch of boiling salted water for about 6 to 8 minutes or until just crisp-tender. To cook broccolini: Trim ends. Cook in 1 inch boiling salted water for about 4 minutes or until just crisp-tender.

PS: If you’ve found this post helpful, please consider supporting my work on this site. It’s so easy–and costs you nothing: Next time you want to buy something from Amazon, simply go to Amazon.com through one of my links or ads (such as the ones, below). No matter what you buy, I’ll get a small commission from your purchase–even if it’s not the item I’m advertising. Thank you so much for your consideration.

Links you might enjoy:

• Five French ways with leftover turkey: A great casserole, crêpes, vol-au-vents, and more.
• Five French ways with leftover ham: Croque monsieur, soufflé, French pizza, and other ideas.
• Great Gift Ideas for the Cook: Help support this site by checking out some of these epic gifts.
• Three good, inexpensive sparkling wines: These would be my choice for serving with Turkey Divan.
• Swiss Chard Salad: Looking to go light + healthful with your leftovers? Make this great winter salad, which is great with turkey.

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Recipes for the Braising Pan: My Best Recipes for the Braiser

Looking for recipes for a Le Creuset, All-Clad, Lodge, or Staub braiser? I’ve published many recipes for braising pans on this website. To help you find them easily, I’ve compiled these links to some of my all-time favorites. Enjoy!

BEEF BRAISING RECIPES

Braised Flat-Iron Steaks Smothered with Mushrooms and Onions

 

Smothered Flat-Iron Steaks

If you see the word “smothered steaks,” and think “ewwww…midcentury cafeteria food at its worst,” then try this recipe. It’s adapted from Molly Stevens’s book, All About Braising.” By using some amazing flavorings (sherry, smoked paprika, thyme) and absolutely no canned soup, this recipe gives Smothered Steak back its good name!

Wine-Braised Short Ribs.

 

Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Orange Persillade

Here’s how to make short ribs in a braiser. This recipe comes out of a great book I worked on for the Better Homes and Gardens family of publications. It’s a lesson in what wine — and a great braising pan — can do for short ribs.

Braised Beef Carbonnade by ted_major via Flickr

 

The Ultimate Belgian Braise: Beef Carbonnade

Beef carbonnade is a luscious beef stew made with bacon and beer. And it’s a perfect braiser recipe. What more do you need to know? Here’s a Beef Carbonnade braiser recipe…plus a story on how I discovered beef carbonnade and the long-gone bird market in Brussels, a long time ago.

 

Boeuf Bourguignon made with short ribs

 

Beef Bourguignon Recipe for the Braiser (Beef Bourguignon My Way)

How can you talk about French braising recipes and not have a braiser recipe for Beef Bourguignon? Here it is, my friends. This is the most true-to-France beef bourguignon recipe around (short ribs are the key).

Braised Pot Roast Recipes:

Braised Beef Roast with French Onion Gravy

Braised Bottom Roast with French Onion Gravy

I should retake this photo of my braiser recipe for bottom roast . It’s really more luscious than this looks, especially thanks to the French Onion Gravy. Give it a try–you won’t be disappointed. (P.S.: You can also use chuck roast, if you wish.)

Braised Seven-Bone Pot Roast

Seven-Bone Pot Roast with Coriander and Cardamom

Whatever happened to the 7-bone pot roast?! Go to a supermarket with a true meat counter (that is, with someone who can truly talk beef with you!) and ask for a 7-bone roast. They might not be called that in your market, but this luscious cut is easier to find than you might thin. Here’s how to make a 7-bone pot roast in your braiser. And it’s just so good with coriander and cardamom!

 

My French Pot Roast for the Braiser (aka Pot au Feu for the Braiser).

My French Pot Roast

Again, this picture of my recipe for French Pot Roast/French Pot-au-Feu in the braiser doesn’t do this luscious pot roast justice. But again, take my word for it–I make this braiser pot roast recipe all the time, and it’s the best (herbes de Provence are my little secret weapon here).

PORK BRAISING RECIPES

French Meatballs in Dijon Cream Sauce

 

French Meatballs Dijonnaise

This is the recipe of a French chef–one who has been nominated for a James Beard award, no less. One day, he let me into his kitchen and together we cooked this simple-yet-amazing braiser recipe for  pork meatballs in a Dijon cream sauce. Everyone loves this dish. Everyone.

Blanquette of Pork, French Pork Stew

Blanquette de Porc

Based on the classic Blanquette de Veau, this dish calls on pork (instead of veal). Pork is cheaper and easier to find…and it yields absolutely luscious results. Give this braiser recipe for blanquette of pork a try! (P.S.: It’s good for entertaining, too. Here’s a menu for Blanquette of Pork.

 

French Braised Pork Recipe

Pot-Roasted Pork with Orange, Dried Cherries, and Herbes de Provence

Non! I am not proud of this photo, but I am proud of this recipe! It’s a fabulous French way to cook pork shoulder in a braiser.

CHICKEN BRAISING RECIPES

Braised Chicken Recipe: Pot Roasted Chicken with Mustard and Chervil

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Chervil Sauce

An utterly satisfying chicken recipe for the braiser, with a creamy and luscious mushroom sauce. Oh, and no worries if you can’t find chervil…I give viable substitutions. In fact, when I was writing The Bonne Femme Cookbook, one of my promises to my readers was that I would never include an ingredient that I couldn’t easily find where I live in Amerique profonde. I give excellent substitutes for any hard-to-find ingredient. P.S.: Same goes for my Braiser Cookbook.

Braised Chicken with 40 Cloves Garlic

 

Chicken with 20 Cloves of Garlic

Voilà! My braiser recipe for Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. Except that I use 20 cloves of garlic. Non, I’m not stinting. The original James Beard recipe calls for two chickens. I call for one. Hence, half the garlic, but equal the amount of flavor. This is a crazy-good recipe: No, you won’t be “garlicked out”: You won’t believe how rich and mellow the garlic tastes after it’s been braised. This, friends, is one of my all-time favorite recipes, ever.

Coq au Vin Recipe for the Braiser

 

Coq au Vin Recipe for the Braiser

Non. Coq au Vin needs no introduction….this braiser recipe for Coq au Vin is tout classique!

ONE MORE RECIPE FOR YOUR BRAISER

 

Ratatouille Recipe for the Braiser

 

Ratatouille Recipe for the Braiser

Why wouldn’t you use your braiser for ratatouille? With its wide base and sloped, not-too-high sides, it’s perfect. Give this braiser recipe for ratatouille a try — while you can still find the ingredients at your local farmers market.

This recipe has a couple affiliate links from Amazon: Anything you purchase using one of these links will net me a small commission without adding to your costs whatsoever. Thanks for your consideration, and above all, thanks for reading Chez Bonne femme.


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My Report on Plated

Plated just sent me a link that allows all my friends to get a free box, valued up to $72. If you’re interested in giving it a try, this is a good way to do so. (You can cancel at any time).* Here’s where to sign up for the free box.

Here’s my report on Plated:

Although meal kit delivery services took off a few years ago, they never really snagged my interest. But after a friend sent me an offer for a free box from Plated, I realized that these kits—which deliver ingredients and recipes for meals to cook at home—aren’t just for novice cooks or harried families.

Turkey-Spinach Burgers with Quinoa and Pesto Ricotta, via Plated.

Here’s why I’m happy to occasionally spend $55 a week for two dinners for two:

• I’m officially out of my rut: Sure, I’ve authored three cookbooks and have worked as an editor or feature writer on dozens more. And yet sometimes I grow weary of my own style of cooking (French, Italian and classic American). Plated has nudged me to cook Cuban empanadas, Vietnamese caramel chicken, Vietnamese Chicken Thighs, Chimichurri Steak Kabobs, and other dishes that aren’t generally in my wheelhouse.

Vietnamese Chicken Thighs with Jasmine Rice, Sautéed Green Beans, and Pickled Onion, via Plated. Quite possibly my favorite Plated recipe so far. If you do order this, see a few tweaks I made to the recipe, at the bottom of this post.

• I trust these recipes: As someone who writes and edits recipes as part of her métier, I’ve been impressed by how accurate, practical and straightforward the recipes are. Out of 17 recipes, I’ve only found one questionable timing, and that was easily fixed by just a little more time in the oven. Also, I tend to cook my green beans longer than they specify in their recipes, but that’s a personal preference

• I admire the ingredients: With the minor exception of an unripe tomato, all ingredients—from produce to meats and seasonings—have arrived fresh and in great condition.

Ginger-Soy Chicken with Cabbage, Edamame, and Peanuts. And Mizuna, via plated. I can’t find Mizuna anywhere near where I live….so was pretty darned happy to get it delivered.


• There’s no waste: Have you ever bought some obscure condiment or a fresh herb, used a bit of it for a recipe, and had the remainder go forgotten and unused for the rest of its life span? Plated gives you just the amount you need of everything you need, except salt, pepper and cooking oil.

• I avoid dining out by default: When I’m in the mood to dine out, there’s no other place I’d rather be than in a local restaurant. But if I just wander into a place because I haven’t thought ahead, I usually leave annoyed at myself. These kits stay fresh for two days (for seafood) to four days (for most other recipes). That makes it easier to avoid spending $12 for a glass of wine in a restaurant those times when I would have been just as happy with a glass from a $12 bottle at home.

So. I’ve become a fan of Plated. And I’d love to hear if you’re trying any other meal services out there, and if so, which ones? Please share!

P.S.: Plated just sent me a link that allows all my friends to get a free box, valued up to $72. If you’re interested in giving it a try, this is a good way to do so. (You can cancel at any time).

* Full total discloser: Yes, I will get a $10 credit if you end up buying a box after the freebie, but honestly, if you just give it a try and cancel after the first box, you’ll get no hard feelings from me! It’s worth a try, since it’s free. The offer expires October 6th. Here’s where to sign up for the free box.

Want recommendations? Here are the recipes I’ve enjoyed the most so far, with asterisks for my tip-top favorites:

• Seared Steak with Horseradish-Mustard Sauce and Green Beans
• Chimichurri Steak Kebabs with Bell Pepper and Spinach
• Vietnamese Caramel Chicken with Roasted Chinese Broccoli and Basmati Rice
• Vietnamese Chicken Thighs with Jasmine Rice, Sautéed Green Beans, and Picked Onion* (also, see some tweaks I made on this, below).
• Duck Ragu Rigatoni with Peas and Mint
• Vietnamese Beef Meatballs with Chile-Lime Dressing*
• Turkey-Spinach Burgers with Quinoa and Pesto Ricotta*

And seriously, if you’ve tried other meal kit delivery services, please let me know about them–I’d love giving some others a try, but I’m not sure where to start.

About the Vietnamese Chicken Thighs from Plated: I made these for a fourth time last night, and absolutely love this recipe. I have, however, made a few tweaks to the recipe that improve it.
• The instructions say to peel the hunk of ginger and add it, whole, to the marinade/sauce mixture. I mince it fine so that you get more of the ginger flavor through and through.
• The pickled onions are great, but incredibly a bit more sharp than I liked. To the mixture of onions and rice vinegar, I add about one tablespoon of sugar and a little salt and pepper. Much more balanced!
That’s it! And it’s one of the best recipes I’ve discovered in ages!

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