It started as a healthy dinner plan. Fish and broccoli. Super healthy, right? Well, until I brought in the cream. And cheese. To be honest, the cheese isn’t really all that bad (in moderation) if you’re trying to eat healthy. And butter’s back too. Have you heard? But dropping cream into your shopping basket means two things–instant deliciousness and everything but healthy.
It’s not that I have a problem with broccoli as it is. It’s actually one of my favorite vegetables. Roasted with garlic and oil, quick saute, even streamed til still crunchy with a sprinkle of sea salt and spices. But of some reason I had gratin on my mind. Flipping through cookbooks lately, looking to plan my Easter Eve menu–hey, with two families and schedules to juggle, sometimes holidays need to get creative–I kept coming across gratin recipes. While it was mostly potato of cauliflower, I tried to convince myself that swapping in broccoli would add a bit more nutrition. It’s important to lie to yourself sometimes, otherwise we’d probably miss out on half our lives.
I kept the recipe super easy, basically following the steps I’d use to make mac & cheese, but swapping veggies for pasta. In my defense, I did try to cut the cream factor down by using mostly milk with just a dash of cream to round things out. Still a very glutenous dish though. Straying from the traditional sharp cheddar and cutting half the cheese with fontina made the dish a bit more mild but oh so creamy. I find that fontina has entered a number of my recipes when creamy and meltiness are key factors. It really is the perfect melting cheese and while numbs the sharpness a bit, doesn’t really change the dish. To be completely honest, I could have had just this for a meal, but I guess adding a balance of protein (to offset all the cream) is important…right?
Cheesy Broccoli Gratin (Serves 4-6)
- 2 large heads of broccoli, cut into small florets (about 4 cups)
- 2 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing pan
- 2 tbsp flour
- 3/4 c milk
- 1/4 c cream
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/2 c each cheddar and fontina
- 1/2 c panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Preheat over 400°F. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Add milk, cream, salt, pepper and cayenne and continue whisking until mixture comes to a low boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in cheddar and fontina until smooth. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan with 1-inch of water to a boil. Affix steamer top with and steam just until bright green, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Grease a casserole dish. Add broccoli and fold in cheese sauce so all broccoli is well coated. In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs, parmesan and olive oil. Sprinkle over broccoli mixture.
Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 15-20 minutes. Cheese sauce should be bubbling and breadcrumb mixture well toasted. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.