The Things They Curried

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided to make my favorite comfort food, chicken divan, for dinner. However, we made the fatal error of forgetting to take stock of the cupboards before going to the grocery store. Edward insisted that he had the essential flavoring agent – curry powder – at home. This was a fair assumption, as his apartment has accrued dozens and dozens of spice bottles over time. When we got back and realized that the one spice missing from the collection was, in fact, curry powder, we set about making our own blend. We went online and researched the different spices in a typical curry powder, but we left the proportions to our own taste buds. Our end result was a spicy, chili flake-focused, ingredient that gave the otherwise simple casserole a heated kick.

Like Tim O’Brien’s writing style in The Things They Carried, making a list was what truly showed me the complexity of the flavors in curry powder. Instead of chucking in a tablespoon or so of one thing, I was able to break that thing down into turmeric, cumin, and many other elements. It wasn’t until I broke down the main ingredient of chicken divan that I could appreciate all that goes into making the dish truly comforting. (Though now the comfort comes with a fiery dose of chili flakes from time to time.)



4 chicken breasts

4 cups chicken stock (enough to cover the breasts)

3 cups broccoli

1 can of cream of chicken soup

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 tbsp curry powder (DIY: turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, chili flakes, salt, pepper)


2 cups breadcrumbs

1 cup cheddar cheese

1 cup parmesan cheese

3 tbsp melted butter


1. Poach chicken breasts in stock (12-15 minutes). When cooked, use two forks to shred meat into bite-sized bits. Steam broccoli.

2. Combine cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, and curry powder. Add chicken and broccoli. Season to taste with salt.

3. Make topping by combining breadcrumbs, shredded cheese, and melted butter. Grease a baking dish with butter and spread filling evenly. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Drizzle top with olive oil. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Enjoy chicken divan with Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and check in at for future recipes and book reviews!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s