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.