The temperature in Chicago has plummeted recently, and I am starting to feel like a bear going into hibernation. I’ve got some new winter boots that look a bit like moon boots, a long puffy coat that looks like I’m wearing a sleeping bag, and a hat that I pull almost completely over my eyes. But it’s not just my arsenal of winter gear that has me feeling like I’m in hibernation – it’s also that innate craving for heartier foods. For me, that craving often involves cheese. That’s why my second Thanksgiving side recipe is a broccoli gratin smothered in sharp, bubbling Wisconsin cheddar. You might not think a broccoli dish could be so addicting, but this is the kind of thing you simply cannot stop nibbling on. It’s dead simple and is sure to please even your pickiest eaters at the Thanksgiving table.
I’ve mentioned many times before that mushy vegetables are one of my greatest fears, so I sautee the broccoli on high heat for just five minutes before baking the gratin. The broccoli comes out tender yet firm, rather than taking on a globular consistency. The dish has a bit of a kick from sauteeing the broccoli with some red pepper flakes, so tone down the amount if you want a milder version. And I love making my own breadcrumbs for this, but if you’re in a hurry, store bought would be fine too. The key is to not overcook the broccoli and to get a sharp cheddar cheese – everything else is completely foolproof.
Just like the brussels sprout recipe I shared last week, this Thanksgiving side can also be prepped in advance. You can sautee the broccoli and assemble the gratin a few hours in advance, and then simply bake it a few minutes before dinner. In about 25 minutes total, you’ll have a delicious side dish ready to be served.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- About 12 oz. broccoli florets, washed and cut into small pieces
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 medium slices of good fresh bread, such as sourdough (or about 1 cup of breadcrumbs)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup sharp white cheddar, grated
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Heat the olive oil and red pepper flakes in a large saucepan until the oil is heated through and the pepper flakes are fragrant.
- Add the broccoli florets and cook on medium-high heat for about five minutes, stirring often. Cook until the broccoli is bright green and is cooked through, but still firm.
- Add the bread slices to a food processor and blend until the bread is finely ground into breadcrumbs. Add olive oil, a pinch of salt and a few cracks of freshly ground black pepper to the breadcrumbs and stir well.
- Toast the breadcrumbs in a skillet over medium heat for about five minutes, or until they are a golden color.
- Add the sauteed broccoli to a baking dish; cover with the cheese and then the breadcrumbs.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the breadcrumbs are lightly browned. Serve immediately.
This gratin is on the smaller side, so double the recipe if you’re feeding a larger crowd.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.
Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen says
I have a head of broccoli in the fridge that I’ve been trying to decide what to do with – now I know. I’m making this tonight – it looks great, Julia. Thanks.
That’s so great to hear, Geraldine! Please let me know how it turns out for you. Don’t you love when you can make something out of whatever is on hand?
Wow–great idea to saute the broccoli in red pepper flakes. We go through a LOT of red pepper flakes in this house! And the sharp cheddar will definitely liven things up too. This looks tasty as well as nutritious and should offer some much-need comfort during our hibernation months!
I know you are big red pepper flake fans – that’s probably where I got it from too! Sauteeing them before adding in the broccoli seems to release some of their flavors, too, so you will have to try that! And yes, this is definitely hibernation food. We need it!
Traci | Vanilla And Bean says
I have been virtually living in my fleece since last week when the temps hit 20F! WHAAAA? It’s too early around here for that! It has gone on for a week too! But we’re out of the woods tomorrow; its supposed to warm up to around 40! YaY!!
Great recipe, Julia! I typically default to steamed broccoli and don’t tend to get creative with it… I forget about it as a main dish, sadly. But this gratin would make a delicious main dish, easily (or side)! Broccoli is comin in droves from my CSA so its perfect timing! Now I just need to go get some sharp cheddar! BTW – I love the shot of that forkfull comin at me! Delicious!!
Wow, 20 is really cold for Washington! We are used to the cold here, but that doesn’t mean I am ready for it yet…and I totally agree, it’s too early! Your CSA sounds awesome, Traci. Brussels sprouts and now broccoli? Amazing! I hope you enjoy the recipe 🙂
I’m loving the pepper flake idea. And the sharp cheddar sounds great, too. Some years I boycott the cheese from Wisconsin for sporting reasons. But the Bears were never going anywhere this season anyway, so getting trounced twice by the Packers was of no consequence.
Haha! Well, Trader Joe’s has a delicious Wisconsin sharp cheddar for those days when you’re not boycotting the state…and on the other days, I did see that they have some sharp cheddars from England and Wales! So you’re set either way.
anna @ annamayeveryday says
Delicious! A perfect supper and the weather is so cold that would be perfect tonight!
Thanks, Anna! It’s definitely a great side dish for cozy nights in the winter.