In my kitchen, broccoli is the chicken of the vegetable world. It’s available year-round, relatively inexpensive, versatile and easy to prepare. So we eat a lot of it around here. Okay, that’s not a honest statement. I eat a lot of it. My husband and kids, well, they favor the simple preparation of steamed or gently boiled broccoli drizzled with olive oil and dusted with kosher salt. That’s all good, but it gets boring after a while. So I occasionally push them beyond their broccoli comfort zones with preparations like this one.
Broccoli au Gratin is about as fancy as a vegetable can get. Here the broccoli is dressed up with a creamy béchamel sauce, cheddar cheese and crispy fried onions. When I was growing up, this was the only way I’d eat the stuff. I really needed that crunchy, cheesy gooeyness to camouflage the chewy, waterlogged frozen broccoli spears that reigned supreme in my house. It’s also makes for a great holiday side. By the way, this recipe works great with fresh cauliflower too.
Broccoli au Gratin Recipe
3 large heads fresh broccoli
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups warm milk (skim works fine)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups French’s Original French Fried Onions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish; set aside. Cut broccoli into florets and boil in lightly salted water until fork tender. Drain and immediately plunge the broccoli into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and set aside. In a small saucepan, make a white roux by melting the butter over medium-high heat. Gradually add flour, whisking constantly, until fully blended and bubbly. Do not brown. Now, turn that white roux into a Béchamel Sauce by gradually adding the warm milk. Cook, whisking frequently, until sauce thickens, abouts constantly so the mixture does not scorch. Add nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place cooked broccoli in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with the Béchamel Sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and fried onions. Bake until dish is lightly brown on top and bubbly, about 8-10 minutes. Makes 6-8 servings.