Well, “better” is a relative term…but this is a very delicious and perhaps better-for-you broccoli rice casserole than the canned soup-based one we grew up with, I think. And one that I believe would appeal to young and old alike.
First off, this one is chocked full of fresh broccoli (in season right now!) and is paired with sweet onion and brown rice bound together with a nutmeg-scented parmesan cream sauce. Add a little Black Forest Ham if you like, or leave it out if you don’t. And while I did use some butter in the sauce, I also used 1% low fat milk instead of cream, which worked just fine and enhanced the natural sweetness of the ingredients.
The resulting dish has a lovely nutty flavor from the brown rice, broccoli and roux-based Parmesan cream sauce combo, with a nice salty-sweet hit from the ham, if you use it. And trust me ham or no, it’s a filling and comforting meal in one pot…my favorite kind in the winter, or anytime!
Now here’s the trick. This was so tasty that I never got a good picture of it before we inhaled it for dinners this week! So with my apologies for the flash picture, and only one view, at least you can see how colorful it is.
Hand Update: I’m almost back to speed in the kitchen. After exams, x-rays and some prescription meds this week, the good news is that it’s just a small tear in the tendon of the hand, and should be much better by next week. The moral of this story: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Broccoli and Brown Rice Casserole with Onions, Ham and Parmesan
Makes 6-8 generous servings
2 cups long grain brown rice
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 lbs. fresh broccoli florets
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
3 Tablespoons of flour
1 1/2 cups low fat milk
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, or to taste
2 cups cubed (1/4″) Black Forest Ham (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium sized pot with a lid, bring the rice and the 4 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover until the rice is just tender and has absorbed the water, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff the rice with a fork, set aside.
In another medium sized pot, bring some water to a boil and drop the broccoli into the water in batches, allowing each batch to cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain the broccoli in a colander and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.
In a large deep sided skillet, heat the butter over medium low heat and add the onions. Cook the onions until they are tender and transparent, then add the flour and stir constantly, allowing the flour to cook and develop a light roux, about 4-5 minutes. Add in the milk while stirring constantly to incorporate the roux into the milk. Bring the mixture just back to a simmer, allowing it to thicken. Turn the heat off, then add 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper and the nutmeg and stir well to combine. Add in the cooked rice, the broccoli florets and the ham (if using) to the prepared parmesan cream sauce, and stir well to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a pinch more salt, pepper and nutmeg, if needed. Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish that has been buttered, and sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese evenly over the top. Place it in a 350 degree F oven and bake until it is heated through and bubbling, and the top is very lightly browned, about 20-30 minutes. Serve. Keeps well in the fridge and reheats beautifully.