Chicken Divan Egg Noodle Casserole
With make-ahead pasta dishes, always undercook the pasta a little and make the sauce that will go with it a little looser than normal. The slightly wetter sauce provides the extra liquid for the pasta when the dish is baked off.
- 1 generous bundle broccolini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces or 1 small head broccoli, trimmed and cut into small, thin stalks and florets
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fat removed
- 2 medium onions, 1 peeled and quartered and 1 finely chopped
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 rounded tablespoons flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 pound extra-wide egg noodles
- 1 cup white or whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- A handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and cook the broccolini until tender. Transfer to a cutting board. Keep the pot of water hot for cooking the noodles later. When cool enough to handle, chop the broccolini into bite-size pieces.
In a deep skillet, combine the chicken in a few inches of water with the quartered onion and bay leaves. Bring the water to a low boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Gently poach the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Strain the poaching liquid. When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken with 2 forks.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the EVOO (1 turn of the pan) over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook to tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the broccolini, season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, season with salt and pepper, a little nutmeg, and the thyme. Cook the sauce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk a little of the hot sauce into the egg yolks to temper them. Then whisk the warmed egg mixture into the sauce. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting (if the sauce gets too thick, add a splash of poaching liquid and turn off the heat).
Preheat the broiler.
Bring the pot of water back up to a boil. Add the egg noodles and cook to al dente. Drain the noodles very well and add them back to the hot pot. Stir in the chicken, broccolini, and sauce. Transfer to a shallow 3-quart baking dish.
Make-ahead: Cool and refrigerate.
Night of: Return the casserole to room temp while you preheat the oven.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Place the casserole on a baking sheet in the upper half of the oven and bake 30 minutes. In a bowl, mix together the panko, cheeses, and parsley. Sprinkle the topping over the casserole and bake until browned and crispy on top, 15 to 20 minutes more.