Every year when I’m home I turn my Mothers’s kitchen into a culinary laboratory. Last year it was chocolate chocolate chip cookies with cayenne pepper, bacon gingersnaps and shortbread bon bons. This year it was a broccoli and cauliflower casserole. Mom throws a huge party for our immediate and extended family on New Year’s Day and this year in addition to all the standard fare she wanted a casserole with broccoli and cauliflower so I went online surfing my usual places for the best recipe I could find. I found one on the site of one of my favorite mags, Eating Well, a quarterly rag chock full of heart healthy recipes and other wholesome good news. The instructions were to roast both veggies, make a roux, which is essentially a sauce from fat and flour, add some cheese and viola. I have learned from past experiences that it’s best to half the recipe that way waste is reduced in the unlikely event that the whole thing sucks. I followed the instructions to the T and when it was taste test time I was sadly disappointed; the broccoli had a charred taste and the sauce was thin and boring. I remembered last year at the same time in the very same place when I abandoned the words in the magazine and on the screen and went off on my own… I shut the computer down and decided to take this on… on my own.
First I roasted the cauliflower and blanched the broccoli, 3 mins in boiling water then shocked the buggers in an ice water bath to stop it from cooking. I chopped the both of them up somewhat coarsely enough to press them in a dense layer in a casserole dish. I eliminated the tablespoons of flour and just decided to thicken it as I go, adding small amounts of flour to the sauce until I found the thickness to be what I wanted, some freshly chopped Thyme at the end gave the sauce a little brightness. I pressed the chopped vegetables in the dish, cauliflower first, added the roux, the broccoli and finishing with another layer of sauce and freshly shredded cheddar broiling it just before service. The end result was stellar, the broccoli held its shape, flavor and had a fantastic crunch that was paired perfectly with the rich roux I had made. All in all I was quite proud that I had the balls to go on my own and had the talent and experience to make it happen. I will be doing this again for my vegetarian friends.