Sunday, February 18, 2007

a winter meal

Winter calls, of course, for comfort food. For a dish baked in the oven, the warmth and smell of it permating the house. For blankets of creamy cheese sauce. For turkey and broccoli, which is the family name for this heavenly dish, sometimes known elsewhere as Something or another Divan. Why divan? isn't this anothe name for sofa/couch? Why does divan equal cheese sauce? I don't know. I could Google it right now, but it's winter, and I'm conserving body heat and energy, so I'm going to rest in my ignorance.
We only had this when there was leftover turkey, which meant after Thanksgiving or after Christmas, which were the only times we had turkey. My mother would never have dreamed of making turkey just so there would be leftovers (as we have sometimes done), so it was a rare treat, remembered fondly and yearned for.
There were dozens of recipes for this or dishes like it floating around in the '50s, I think, but my mother got hers from a restaurant, now forgotten. She liked what she'd ordered so much (and probably it was called Turkey Divan), that she asked the waiter if the chef might give her the recipe. He told her that the chef was stingy with his recipes, but that it was really easy, and he described what went into it, my mother scribbling it down on the back of an envelope: sliced turkey, broccoli spears, a white sauce enriched with cheese.
My version is only a little different from hers--I don't use frozen broccoli, and I don't used Kraft's Olde English Cheese. But otherwise, it's the same, and it produces a dish where the whole is immeasurably more than the parts.

Jo's Turkey and Broccoli
2 tbs butter or olive oil
2 tbs flour
1.5 cups milk
1.5 cups grated cheese of your choice
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2-3 broccoli crowns
a cup or cup and a half of leftover turkey

Melt butter in a saucepan, and add the flour to it (or to the oil), stirring over the heat until it's absorbed. Stir in the milk and continue stirring until it thickens into its white-sauceness. (This time, I was doing 2 other things at the same time, and I let it start to boil, which you are never supposed to do to white sauce, but you know--it turned out fine.) When it's thickened, add salt and nutmeg and grated cheese, stirring until it melts in. (I mostly use cheddar, but I add other cheese to it, depending on what's in the fridge.)
Cook broccoli until just starting to become tender, and slice or separate the florets--you don't want anything to be so big that it will stick up and mar the cheese-sauce blanket. Slice or chop the turkey. Put the broccoli in one layer in an 8-inch baking pan, and the turkey over it. Pour cheese sauce--it will probably be thick, so spread it to the edges and corners. Sprinkle lightly with paprika.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the top browns slightly. Eat with moans of pleasure.
I always think of my mother when we have this, of her wonderful cooking, her curiosity. I can see her talking to the waiter, her eager friendliness, maybe almost flirting a little (she was a very attractive woman), my father looking on benevolently--because for him, everything she did was right.


K-Oh said...


Jennifer Maiser said...

My mom made something very similar to this, and she and I have been exchanging emails about it lately. I have yet to try it, but can't wait. Hers has chicken instead of turkey, and also has sherry. And I think she uses parmesan cheese.

Thanks for the reminder that I need to try this out!