I must admit that I'm an absolute sucker for casseroles. Give me any recipe that involves a can of cream of mushroom soup and some of those fried onions in a can, and I am sold. When I saw this recipe for Broccoli, Rice and Cheddar Casserole in Donald Link's Real Cajun it was all over. Link modernizes this church basement classic with the addition of homemade cream of mushroom soup, panko bread crumbs and artisanal cheese—Colby cheddar from Crowley Cheese in Vermont.
- Yield:8 to 10 as a side dish, 4 to 6 as a main course
- 2 heads broccoli
- 4 cups My Cream of Mushroom Soup (recipe follows)
- 12 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (white Colby Cheddar works well, too)
- 1/2 medium white onion, very thinly sliced
- 2 cups cooked rice
- 1 bunch scallions (white and green parts), finely chopped
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- 1/2 pound shiitake or cremini mushrooms, stemmed
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 a stick) butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
Cut the broccoli into small florets (peel and chop the stems and save for another use, like the kids' lunch. Blanch the broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute, then immediately drain and shock in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. This will keep the broccoli green.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8 x 10-inch baking dish.
Gently warm the mushroom soup in a sauce pan over low heat.
Using a wooden spoon or spatula, combine the broccoli, Cheddar cheese, sliced onion, rice, scallions, salt and pepper, soup and half of the Parmesan in a large mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and bread crumbs. Transfer the broccoli-rice mix to the baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top and then sprinkle the bread crumbs over the cheese. Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Raise the heat to 425°F and cook 5 more minutes, to brown the top if it has not browned already. The sides of the casserole should be bubbling gently.
Let the casserole stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
My Cream of Mushroom Soup
- makes 4 cups -
Adapted from Real Cajun by Donald Link
Thinly slice the mushrooms then finely chop the slices.
Heat a medium saute pan over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter; when it starts to foam, add the mushrooms. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to take on a golden brown color and all of the moisture has cooked off. (For the best flavor, it's essential to get a good sear and color on the mushrooms. If the mushrooms begin to stick to the pan a little, that's good as long as they don't turn black and burn. If the bottom of the pan starts to get too dark before you are ready for the next step, just add a little of the chicken broth or water and whatever is stuck will come right off the bottom of the pan.)
Add the onion, salt, pepper, thyme, and cook 5 minutes more, until the onion is soft. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and reduce the liquid by at least two-thirds over medium heat-there should only be about 3/4 cup of liquid left in the pan.
Transfer the liquid to a medium saucepan. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and gently stir over medium heat until melted. Whisk in the flour and the nutmeg. Stir for 2 minutes and add the cream. Cook over low heat for 7 minutes, then let cool.