Were you guys fans of dorm food in college? I cannot deny that I really enjoyed the food served at the University of Michigan residence halls when I was an undergraduate. In fact, as I’ve probably mentioned before, I actually worked part-time in the dining hall for all four years of my undergraduate career. During that time I did things like serve food, (wo)man the burrito bar, stock the salad bar, sort dishes, and measure food temperatures at the harvest bar. It was not a bad job. At times, it was fun.
Not only did I work in the dining hall, but I also ate most of my meals there, at least as a freshman. I absolutely loved the salad bar and ate two huge salads every.single.day, which always had exactly the same toppings (romaine, spinach, peas, broccoli, carrots, kidney beans, cheddar, ranch). I also loved spaghetti night (alfredo sauce!), chicken nuggets, beef stroganoff, spicy chicken pasta, chicken salad wraps. And TRITATORS at brunch!!! Hashtag Freshman Fifteen?
But I think the dish that had the biggest cult following when I was a student was most definitely:
Chicken Broccoli Bake!
People seriously GO CRAZY for this dish. I can tell you this as both a former student diner and as a former food server. And believe it or not, while surfing around online the other night, I stumbled upon the recipe!
University Housing at U-M has actually posted the recipe online, along with a few other favorite recipes, here. So, OBVI, I had to make it!
There’s actually a fair bit of technique involved in the recipe and a few places things could go wrong if you’re not careful. Try it out! I did admittedly make just a few tweaks, but my version was very close to the original.
The first step is to sauté onion in butter. My first tweak was to increase the amount of onion from a measly 2 T. to about 3/4 cup. Maybe the dining hall chefs think students might be picky and won’t like much onion? I don’t know. But for a six serving dish, I thought I would like more onion, and I did!
Once the onions are soft, sprinkle them with 2 T. flour, then cook and stir constantly for two minutes, to get rid of the raw flour flavor, and add thickening power. After a couple minutes, add water (mixed with chicken bouillon) to the dish, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the liquid is thick.
Next, tempering is required. In a separate bowl, you will have combined sour cream and heavy whipping cream. Yup, the real deal, full-fat whipping cream. You should definitely go for it here. Slowly whisk a ladle or two of the warm brothy liquid into the cream mixture, to slowly increase the temperature, and prevent curdling.
Then pour the tempered cream mixture into your pan with the onions and broth. Gently simmer over very low heat for a couple minutes, stirring frequently.
Next, add in diced cooked chicken, and steamed chopped broccoli. I actually chopped the broccoli and cooked and diced the chicken the night before.
Mix it up! Season generously with salt and pepper, to taste.
Pour it into a baking dish, coated in nonstick spray.
Top with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. I used panko because they are the best.
The recipe instructed me to:
“Bake in a 325-degree oven until the top is lightly browned and mixture is bubbly. Do not overbake, or mixture will separate.”
Which elicited this expression on my face:
How long do I bake it!?
So I stuck it in the oven and hoped for the best. After ten minutes of baking at 325 F, I started checking it every 5 minutes. After about twenty, it seemed to be slightly bubbly and lightly browned on top, so I pulled that sucker out of the oven to avoid the dreaded “separation” threatened by University Housing.
And it was a huge success! Traditionally, Chicken Broccoli Bake is served atop rice, and I highly recommend you do so as well. Rice soaks up all of that heavenly, rich, creamy goodness.
Though the ingredient list is relatively simply, if prepared well, these simple ingredients turn into something pretty special: lush, creamy, tangy sauce, tender chicken bites, crisp-tender broccoli spears, and a salty crunch on top. Gooooood stuff.
The huz, who also enjoyed the dish during his undergrad years at U-M, was also a big fan. We gobbled this up insanely quickly. Nostalgia!
Total crowd pleaser.
Chicken Broccoli Bake – UMich Dining Hall Style
Recipe from University Housing at the University of Michigan
- Broccoli, chopped fresh or frozen: 1 lb.
- Chicken Breasts, diced: 12 oz.
- Margarine, butter or oil: 2 Tbs.
- Onions, diced: 2 Tbs.
- Flour: 2 Tbs.
- Water: 3/4 Cup
- Chicken Bouillon Granules: 1 tsp.
- Sour Cream: 1/2 Cup
- Whipping Cream: 3/4 Cup
- Pepper to taste
- Salt to taste
- Parmesan Cheese, grated: 1 1/2 Tbs.
- Bread Crumbs: 1 Tbs.
- Steam broccoli for a few minutes — do not overcook.
- In a saucepan or skillet sauté the diced chicken until done. Set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt margarine and sauté onions until translucent. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes.
- Combine water and bouillon. If using a bouillon cube, heat water slightly so that cube will dissolve. Add water and bouillon to saucepan. Heat,
stirring constantly, until it is thick.
- In a separate bowl combine the sour cream and whipping cream. Add some of the hot liquid to it to temper the cream mix.
- Add cream mixture to remaining hot liquid and blend thoroughly.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Gently simmer mixture for 5 minutes.
- Gently fold in the cooked chicken meat and the cooked broccoli.
- Place mixture in a casserole dish. Top with combined bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake in a 325-degree oven until the top is lightly browned and mixture is bubbly. Do not overbake, or mixture will separate. [Meg suggests 20-25 minutes]
- Serve over rice.
(Developed for Residential Dining Service by Chef Steve Meyers [source]).
Changes I Made:
- Increased onion from 2 T to 3/4 cup
- Seasoned chicken with seasoned salt, baked it in advance, then diced it and added at step 8
- Added more bread crumbs
My Rating: 8.5/10