Broccoli Cheddar Casserole
Oh la la. This is not your grandma’s broccoli cheese casserole. Ever since Christopher Kimball challenged people to Google broccoli casserole, insisting they would be disappointed with what they found, I’ve been meaning to post a killer broccoli casserole. And dear readers, this is it.
The ingredients? Broccoli of course, then bacon, flour, milk, cream, eggs, cheddar cheese, a little Dijon, salt, and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. The tricks are to pre-cook the broccoli florets a bit so they cook up tender in the casserole, use bacon because bacon makes everything taste better, and spice it up with black pepper. Just simple freshly cracked black pepper. Use as much as you can stand; it will make your broccoli casserole sing.
Many thanks to the new love of my culinary life, Dorie Greenspan, who provided the inspiration and basic structure for this recipe with a fabulous cauliflower gratin in her cookbook Around My French Table (hint, buy this book for yourself and all your friends, it’s stunning.)
Prep your ingredients while you are heating the blanching water to save time.
- 2 pounds broccoli, stems removed (can use vegetable peeler to peel, then slice and eat like celery), large florets cut, yielding about 8 cups of broccoli florets
- Salt for blanching water
- 2 strips of thick-cut bacon (about 2 ounces), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch wide strips
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 to 3 teaspoons of freshly cracked black pepper (1 to 2 teaspoons if using fine ground black pepper)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 Tbsp salt for 2 quarts of water). Add the broccoli florets and boil for 3-5 minutes or until just tender enough so that a fork can easily pierce the floret, but still firm. Strain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
2 While the water in step one is coming to a boil, cook the bacon pieces on medium heat in a frying pan until lightly browned, but not crisp. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess fat. Set aside.
3 Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. In a bowl, whisk the eggs into the flour, then whisk in the cream and milk. Add the black pepper (more or less to taste), salt, and mustard. Mix in about a third of the cheese.
4 Place the parboiled broccoli florets in the casserole dish, sprinkling about a third of the cheese over the broccoli florets as you lay them down. Sprinkle the bacon pieces over the broccoli. Pour the egg, cream, milk, cheese mixture over the broccoli, moving the broccoli pieces a bit so that the mixture gets into all the nooks and crannies. Sprinkle the casserole with the remaining cheese.
5 Bake for 25-40 minutes, or until set. Once the top has browned, you may want to tent with aluminum foil to keep from burning.