Broccaroni and Cheese

So, we had the whole week of meals planned last week, and it all went to hell when broccoli went on sale at Metropolitan Market.  Well, not really, but I had to find a way to work it in once I’d committed to three heads of it.  And, well, if you’re going to have broccoli as a main dish, its gotta have cheese sauce right?  Once I ended up making a similar cheese sauce I use for macaroni and cheese, I couldn’t help but think of this as anything but “Broccaroni and Cheese”.

This is another one of those recipes where quantities are a best effort at remembering what went into this.  The basic idea is steamed-then-sauteed broccoli topped by a bacon-fat bechamel-like sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 heads of broccoli, broken down
  • 3-4 slices of thick sliced bacon, cut into lardons
  • 4-6 oz ham, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ~1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper

Cook the bacon until nearly crispy, rendering out the fat.  Set the bacon aside.  Reserve most of the fat for the cheese sauce, but leave some in the pan, and cook the onion in it, until translucent and starting to turn golden.  A few minutes before the onion is done, add the garlic.  Set the onion aside — it can join the bacon.  Finally, add the ham to the pan and cook until its caramelizing on the outside.

While you’re waiting for the onions to cook, boil or steam the broccoli.  When I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just put the broccoli into a bowl with some water, and top it with plastic wrap and microwave for 8-10 minutes.  Leave the broccoli a little bit less tender than you want it to finish up, because its going to get cooked a little bit more.

Add the broccoli to the pan — you may want to add a bit more oil or fat to the pan and let it heat up — and saute until it starts to brown to get some yummy caramelization on it.  You might need to cook the broccoli in two batches, depending on the size of the pan — the broccoli should be one layer in the pan.  Combine the broccoli with the bacon, ham and onion.  At this point, I put it into a casserole dish and combined them together.

For the cheese sauce

  •  Reserved bacon fat from above
  • ~1 Tbs. butter
  • ~2 Tbs. flour
  • 8 oz. milk, cream or half-and-half
  • ~1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • ~1 cup Monterey Jack, shredded
  • ~1 cup Cheddar, shredded
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the bacon fat and butter in a sauce pan.  Add flour and cook until it browns.  Add the spices, stir, then add the dairy.  Strictly speaking, you should warm up your dairy, but I didn’t horribly break my sauce by using  slightly-colder-than-room-temperature half-and-half.  Add the dairy, stirring continuously, then add the cheese gradually until it melts into a sauce.  Pour the sauce over the broccoli/ham/bacon/onion and combine.

This is delicious, but I’m not going to pretend its healthy.  I guess its healthier than if there were macaroni noodles in there instead of broccoli.

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