Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sides that Sparkle: Day 3 in a Marathon of Side Dishes
What’s cooking? Broccoli-Cheddar Gratin

You know that gigantic pile of recipes you’ve cut out from newspapers and magazines, sure that you’ll find time for them one of these days? Maybe even today, if you had the time and energy to burrow through them. Surely, somewhere in there is the perfect dish for this Thanksgiving.

Well, you can stop now. The Kitchen Goddess understands your pain. In fact, she used this marathon as an excuse to inventory/cull her own now vast collection of recipes she felt sure at the time that she would make.

In fact, there were a few gems. But one stopped me in my tracks. The paper is yellowed with a couple of grease marks, and the list of ingredients so faded as to be almost unreadable. It doesn’t have a name, but as I read down the page, a memory flashed. Two little boys at my kitchen table, antsy to eat because dinner was once again later than they had hoped. And while they were never thrilled with the vegetables, they learned to eat whatever it was. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even tell them what it was until they ate a bite. However it worked, it did in fact work – today, they’ll eat pretty much anything.

I haven’t made that broccoli dish in years. And frankly, when I read the list of ingredients, I can’t quite believe it worked as well as I remember. So I’ve played a bit with it – you know the Kitchen Goddess can’t really help herself, and back in those days, of course, there was no Kitchen Goddess. But in honor of those two little boys – both of whom will be spending Thanksgiving in New Jersey, while I will be in Texas – here it is, in its revised and refreshed format.

I’ve raised the bar for “broccoli casserole” a bit here – adding caramelized onions and nutmeg, and substituting panko instead of standard bread crumbs. And there’s a little more cream than it had in its youth, so the custard is a little more elegant. Just be sure to use a good quality cheese. It’s a nice accompaniment to a turkey dinner – one that should please the big boys and the little ones.

Broccoli-Cheddar Gratin

Loosely adapted from Gourmet, February 2009

Serves 6-8.

2 crowns broccoli (about 1 pound – that would be without the very thick stems, which I usually save and peel and slice, but they’re not very dressy, and this recipe is for Thanksgiving)
½ teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, cut in ½-inch dice (1 cup)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 cup milk (feel free to use any type – I used skim)
½ cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch for the panko
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus a pinch for the panko
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (about 3½ ounces)
nutmeg (about ½ teaspoon, or more to taste)
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350º. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven.

Cut broccoli into large florets, and steam 20 minutes, until the florets are just fork-tender.

While the broccoli is steaming, caramelize the onions: Smear the olive oil around a medium skillet and set over medium heat. Add the onion and cover. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, removing the cover and stirring about every 2½-3 minutes. After 10 minutes, the onions will have magically browned; if not let them cook another 3-5 minutes. Reduce the heat and add 1 tablespoon water, stirring to release the fond (that brown stuff on the bottom of the skillet). Stir in the teaspoon of butter, and remove the onions from the heat. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, salt, and pepper. Stir in the caramelized onion.

When the broccoli is fork-tender, spread it out in a 2-quart shallow flameproof baking dish, and sprinkle the cheese across the top. Grate nutmeg over the broccoli. Spoon the milk mixture over the broccoli/cheese.

Melt the tablespoon of butter and toss well with the panko and a pinch each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle the panko evenly over the dish.

Bake until the custard is set, about 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until bread crumbs are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


  1. Love Glassy Baby! I should have known you'd have those wonderful candles.
    This year I'm giving myself a new rice cooker. My friend loves hers so I think I'll try a new brand. This is her favorite:
    Zojirushi NS-LAC05XT Micom 3-Cup Rice Cooker and Warmer, Black and Stainless Steel by Zojirushi
    (and also- you've inspired me to put together a blogpost, Gifts for Writers) Thanks, Lee.

    1. I've never used a rice cooker, but have always heard good things about them. I'll have to take a look at this. But what I like best is that you were obviously reading more than just the one post, because this comment refers to two posts after this one! Thanks, Gusty!