Thursday, March 28, 2013

creamy broccoli & cauliflower bake

If you have read my (somewhat numerous) attempts to master the casserole (although honestly, they're mostly variations of the same) you may stumble across a secret of mine. Broccoli is my favourite food. It's easy to work with, it fits easily into almost anything; you can eat it steamed on its own, raw and dipped in dressing (although ewww), stir fried, tossed in pasta, baked in casseroles and probably about a million other ways. When I was in university a friend made mini stuffed felt plushies of favourite foods for Christmas gifts and was utterly frustrated at trying to make broccoli for me. Apparently making a stuffed roast is much easier.

This green, cruciferous piece of goodness has made its way into pretty much every casserole I've made here. What you don't know is that this is really the dish that started it all. There's simplicity here, nothing but vegetables and sauce, no rice or pasta or anything to round it out. It's almost, almost like macaroni and cheese, but broccoli.

It's also one of my biggest hits. Never have I served this dish and not had rave reviews and requests to repeat it. If I'm doing a roast and having friends over for dinner, this is the side dish (heck, I can make most of it in advance), if I'm having vegetarian friends over for dinner it's not so hard to make this take centre stage. Bunny doesn't even like cauliflower and he goes crazy over this.

As always, make changes to suit your needs. Cheese-wise, I use cheddar as it's what we keep on hand but this would be lovely with a swiss or a gouda. You could use a smaller amount of a stronger cheese or (gasp) even leave the cheese out altogether. I also like to caramelize my onions because, well, flavour. You don't have to though because in this dish they are not the stars.

The other breeze of this dish is the cooking directions. Twenty minutes at 350 yields the best version, but it's flexible. Because the vegetables are parboiled you can pop it in at whatever temperature the other things in your oven are cooking at and adjust the cooking time. I've made this at above 400 for about 10-15 minutes and it's been fine, although if you go any lower than about 300 you'll want to broil it for a few minutes at the end for a nice browned crust.

Broccoli & Cauliflower Bake

  • 1 head broccoli, in florets
  • 1 head cauliflower, in florets
  • sweet onion
    • 1 large or 2 medium onions if sauteing
    • 2 large or 4 medium onions if caramelizing
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (approximately)
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cups cheddar cheese (optional and open to subsitutions)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 3/4 cups breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 350*F.
  2. Bring a large, lightly salted pot of water to boil. Put the broccoli and cauliflower in, reduce to a simmer and cook 2 minutes. Drain the vegetables, and set in your casserole dish.
  3. Put a small to medium saute pan over medium low heat, add the olive oil. When hot add the onions to the pan. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.
    1. Optional: Continue to saute until browned or even caramelized. Yum.
  4. Put the onions on the broccoli and cauliflower in the saute dish.
  5. In a saucepan over medium heat melt your butter. Add the flour, wisk to combine and cook about 3 minutes until bubbling and just begining to change colours. You want the floury flavour to cook off here.
  6. When bubbling, add the milk and continue to wisk. Cook, stirring occasionally until thickened enough to cover the back of a spoon. Add your salt, pepper, garlic and oregano.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in your cheese. 
  8. Pour your sauce over the casserole dish. Make sure things are evenly mixed.
  9. Sprinkle breadcrumbs overtop.
  10. Pop in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the breadcrumbs turn a golden brown.
  11. Enjoy!

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