When I started this blog, I had no idea there was food that was nearly impossible to photograph looking good. Coq au vin, Creamed Spinach and Ropa Vieja quickly taught me this lesson. The photos aren’t great. They don’t make it on Foodgawker or Tastespotting. They just aren’t pretty. They are fantastic to eat. Amazing, really. But, comparing a picture of Ropa Vieja and, say, a beautiful chocolate chip cookie, I can tell you which one will look better.
I’ve read where other bloggers have promised not to make food that is hard to photograph. I have no such rules. My goal is good food that is easily made. The photos will try to capture my enthusiasm for the subject. I’m no photographer. If you’ve seen my photos at all, you’ve seen that. The best I can say is that I try. Really, really hard.
Broccoli Au Gratin. Broccoli baked in a creamy sauce with cheese. Admit it, it’s not going to look good. It will taste great, however.
My husband and I went on an awesome date night and chose to patronize a famous steakhouse restaurant. We had the creamed spinach and the broccoli au gratin for sides with our steak. Why Broccoli Au Gratin? Well, really, is there a bad “au gratin”? Something cooked in a creamy sauce topped with a cheese topping? Very few things wouldn’t improve under such conditions!!
So, I wanted to try to make the dish when I got home because it was really good! Plus, we eat broccoli three to four times a week. Steamed, with some butter, salt and pepper. Three. Times. A. Week. This would certainly shake that routine up!!
Au Gratin is a French term that translates into the words “to scrape or grate”, likely a reference to the cheese or bread use as a topping for the dish. I believe the New Orleans chefs like Emeril have elevated these creamy dishes with the addition of heat. Cream and cayenne are just made for each other. The heaviness seems to abate a touch when you add unexpected flavors.
This dish is derived in part from Emeril Lagasse’s Broccoli and Cauliflower Au Gratin’s Recipe ( http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/broccoli-and-cauliflower-au-gratin-recipe/index.html)
Broccoli Au Gratin
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50-60 minutes
1 cup water
2 16 ounce bags of broccoli florets
1 stick (8 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt (may need more based on tasting and preference)
4 cups of whole milk (may need more, depending on thickness of sauce)
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese (or a cheddar cheese/monterey jack mixture), divided
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Boil water in medium sauce pan. Add broccoli. Cook until just thawed. You may need to stir several times. Remove from heat, drain well and set aside. Place in a baking dish (at least 3 quarts).
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add flour to the melted butter and whisk until the raw flour taste is cooked out, about 4 minutes. The mixture will be a blonde roux. Do not let the mixture brown or the creamy mixture will be the “wrong” color. Whisk in paprika, mustard, peppers and salt. Add milk and stir with a wooden spoon. As the mixture heats and the flour and butter mixture is incorporated with the milk, the milk will thicken. The mixture should be fairly thick, but not too tight. You should be able to stir it. If the mixture is just too thick, slowly add milk, stir and heat for a bit and repeat that until you get the mixture to the right consistency. Add three quarters of the cheese and stir until melted.
Poor the milk mixture over the broccoli and fold the cream sauce into the broccoli so that the mixture is completely incorporated throughout the baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese, adding more if necessary. Bake until the top is browned and the sides bubble, about 30 minutes. Let sit for about 15 minutes before serving.