An original comfort food from half a century ago that has remained a favorite for generations, broccoli casserole, like the green bean casserole, was made (and many of the recipes online still are) with canned soups like cream of chicken and cream of mushroom, mayonnaise, and American cheese or Velveeta cheese. These casseroles were so popular they became a traditional part of a Thanksgiving meal.
Since then, we have learned to shop around the edges of the store if we wanted to be healthier. Luckily it was not difficult to convert these cherished casseroles into healthier versions.
Also like the green bean casserole, there are many different versions of broccoli casserole on the internet. They can be made with milk, half and half or heavy cream or a mixture of these, adjusting the amount of flour to get the right thickness of the sauce. There are also custard versions where the cream is thickened by blended in eggs. You can also use most kinds of cheeses. Cheddar pairs with broccoli very well. I tried a few different kinds of cheese and learned that the cheese you use defines how this casserole is going to taste. It has to be a good tasting cheese that is right for a broccoli casserole. I did my own taste testing with some fo the top recommended cheeses, Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar, Cabot’s Vermont Seriously Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Cabot’s Vermont Sharp Cheddar Cheese and Whole Food’s 365 Sharp Cheddar, which was Epicurious’ taste testing kitchen’s top choice. Cabot’s Vermont Sharp Cheddar Cheese, a white cheddar, was the no contest winner for me.
Many recipes online add a little touch of something different. You could try adding a couple teaspoons of mustard or a spice like nutmeg or an herb. Adapting recipes to your particular taste is a lot of fun so do your own thing and enjoy!
This dish tastes better made the day before.
Broccoli Casserole With Bread Crumb Topping
- 2 medium heads of broccoli (about 6 cups when cooked and chopped)
- 1 medium leek
- 7 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups half and half (or 1 1/2 cups chicken stock and 1/2 cup cream)
- 1 1/3 cups grated cheddar cheese (Cabot’s Sharp Cheddar Cheese is good. Wegmans carries this.)
- 2 slices (1 1/3 cup) sour dough or other white bread
Cut off broccoli florets and peel the stem and cut in half or quarters if they are large. Steam the broccoli for 8-10 minutes or until completely tender but not mushy. Place on a cutting board and chop. Spoon into 2 1/2 quart casserole.
Slice the leek down the middle and then in thin slivers and slice into small pieces. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the leeks and sauté 5 minutes stirring often (don’t let brown). Add the salt, pepper and flour and cook 1 minute. Stir in the half and half and cook until the sauce bubbles and thickens stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheddar cheese. Set aside.
Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in another skillet and add the bread crumbs, stirring until they are coated. Cook stirring often until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
Fold the leek and cream mixture into the chopped broccoli. Spoon the bread crumb mixture over the broccoli. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate overnight.
Cover with a lid or foil and reheat in a 350 oven for 20 minutes or until hot.
*Grate stems for salads.