December 27, 2011

Simple Broccoli Casserole

I used to love homemade mac-n-cheese, but my family prefers the stuff in the blue box, and I have this embarrassing habit of--after eating no less than two helpings at dinner--eating more mac-n-cheese out of the serving spoon while I'm supposed to be washing dishes.  Like multiple serving-spoonfuls.  Creamy, cheesy, carbohydrate-laden with a nice golden crust; it's just one of those foods that I can't stop eating once I start.  This winter, I haven't made homemade mac-n-cheese at all, and I don't miss it, because what I make instead is this Simple Broccoli Casserole.  Think mac-n-cheese, but with broccoli instead of the macaroni.

It's different enough from mac-n-cheese that my kids don't recognize it as similar.  No, "Aw, Mom, why didn't you just make the boxed kind?!"

It's not a carb-overload.  I find that I can stop eating before my third helping.  And, it's a vegetable.  I know I sure haven't eaten my fair share of vegetables with all these Christmas treats in the house.

Simple Broccoli Casserole

Cut about 2 pounds of broccoli into bite size pieces.  If you include the stalk, which I do, be sure to cut off the tough outer layer.  Cook broccoli according to your preferred method.  (I steam it in a small covered dutch oven with about 1/2 cup of water and a big sprinkle of salt for about six minutes.)  Drain thoroughly.

While broccoli cooks, make a cheese sauce:  Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.  Let brown a minute, then whisk in 2 cups milk, a pinch of salt, about 5 grinds of pepper and a garlic clove, peeled and halved. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce bubbles.  Boil and stir one minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir in approximately 2 cups (8 oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  Stir to melt cheese.

Arrange broccoli in a 1 1/2 qt casserole dish or a 8" square pan.  Pour cheese sauce evenly over broccoli.  Bake at 400 until bubbly and golden brown toward the edges, about 20 minutes.  Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

The longer you let this rest, the more it will set.  I generally serve it after about 15 minutes and it's still a bit soupy.  Serve it with toasted buttered bread to sop up the sauce, and a sliced orange to round out the meal.

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