Sunday, January 25, 2009

Broccoli Bake with Garlic Breadcrumbs

I've been making Broccoli Bake for years--so long I can't remember where I learned it. I know that I was making it as early as Christmas of 1994 when dear friends and I spent the holidays in a flat near Edinburgh. Ah, the memories. The garlic breadcrumb idea I'm pretty sure came from the Natural Health cookbook.

This is a a great one for kids, provided they don't reject the sight of broccoli and will give it a taste. Most of the time I have made the vegetarian version, but as I had some chicken gravy in the freezer, I used that for this most recent dish. I've often used Quorn pieces in addition to the broccoli; you could use chicken if you wanted protein but don't like fake meat.

I had both broccoli and cauliflower in the fridge, so used a combination, which was tasty. I had dried and saved cubes of leftover Delicious, Crusty Bread and used them for the breadcrumbs. I served the Bake with Sweet Potato 'Fries', though I just cooked them alongside the Bake and they cooked just fine at 350 degrees and puffed just as they do at 450.

This dish has several parts, but they're not too complicated. It is helpful to make a double batch of gravy so that you have some in the freezer for next time.

BREADCRUMB TOPPING
INGREDIENTS
1-2 c. stale bread (whatever you've got on hand--you can also stale fresh bread in the oven)
1 clove garlic, put through a garlic press or very finely minced
1-2 TBSP olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
  1. Crush the stale bread in a food processor until it's in fine crumbs
  2. Add the garlic and pulse to combine
  3. While the food processor is running, add the olive oil--you don't want the mix to be wet and stick together, so just add enough oil for flavor and crispness
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste and pulse
  5. Set mixture aside
GRAVY
I like to make my gravy quite thick when using it for Broccoli Bake, but you can use more traditional proportions of butter and flour (usually 1 TBSP of each for 1 cup of liquid) if you prefer

INGREDIENTS
3 TBSP butter (I'm sure you could use olive oil if you want a vegan dish)
3 TBSP all purpose flour (though I bet you could use whole wheat pastry flour or a combination of flour and nutritional yeast)
2 c. vegetable stock, chicken stock or either one in combination with milk
1 sprig fresh thyme (use 1-2 tsp dried if you don't have fresh and don't discard at the end)
1 bay leaf (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat
  2. Stir in the flour to make a paste and cook until golden (could be as much as 10 minutes)
  3. Turn off the heat (if using gas--remove from the burner entirely if using an electric stove) and add the liquid, a little bit at a time, stirring constantly
  4. Continue adding the liquid. After you've added about half of it, you can start adding larger quantities at a time
  5. Once all the liquid is incorporated, return to medium heat and add the thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring very frequently, and let boil for a few minutes
  7. Discard the thyme and bay leaf, if using
  8. Set aside until you're ready for it (you can make the gravy up to 2 days ahead and can freeze any leftovers)
BROCCOLI BAKE
INGREDIENTS
1 head broccoli including stems OR
1/2 head broccoli and 1/2 head cauliflower
1 package Quorn tenders (optional) OR
1 lb. cooked chicken pieces
Gravy (from above recipe)
Garlic Breadcrumbs (from above recipe)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Clean and chop the broccoli and cauliflower into bite-sized pieces (you may want to remove some of the skin from the broccoli stems)
  3. Steam the broccoli or broccoli/cauliflower until just about the texture you like (it won't get that much softer in the oven so don't underdo it too much)
  4. Place the steamed veggies and Quorn or chicken pieces in a large ovenproof dish (I use our ceramic oval Emile Henry dish)
  5. Pour over the gravy, freezing any excess
  6. Sprinkle over the garlic breadcrumbs
  7. Bake for 30 minutes and then let sit for 10 minutes before serving (to help the gravy set a bit)

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