It's like this: I'm tired of relying on cream of mushroom/celery/chicken soup as a base for any casserole that I make. That's where my thoughts automatically veer, simply because of my training in casserole construction and steeping in the tradition of southern cookery and cookbooks. Almost every casserole I've ever made starts with one of those soups as its base. So while that's not so much a bad thing. Um, maybe it is. But I'd like to get away from that cream soup base.
First thing that came to my mind as a substitute was a roux. Enter google. I found an Emeril Lagasse's recipe online that I used, almost exactly in the making of my insanely popular cauliflower broccoli casserole that I brought to the Stokes family Thanksgiving gathering (along with pies).
The only thing I didn't add was his "Essence." Nor did I follow his suggestions for the amount of cauliflower and broccoli. At least, as far as I know I did not. I used a head of cauliflower and two head of broccoli. Plus, I've finally learned how to spell broccoli properly after all these years of stumbling along with one "c" and two "ls".
My roux was abundant. It runneth over. I probably used half to two-thirds of the roux that the instructions in the recipe below made. Perhaps I should have picked a larger casserole dish. But the upside was I had enough roux to whip up a nice dish of baked mac n cheese. What could be nicer than that? No need to let a good roux go to waste.
If you haven't guessed, roux is probably my most favorite creation. I love to say it. I love to whip them up. Gravy, too, since it's the same principle and technique. Crikey, I've forgotten the name of the white cheddar cheese I used for both dishes. It was about a buck an ounce, but good stuff that Earth Fare had on sale the day I stopped in and chatted up the cheesemonger about a good cheddar for casseroles. Started with a B, I think.
Here's the recipe:
1 stick plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
3 pounds cauliflower, trimmed and cut into large florets
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, trimmed and cut into large florets
2 teaspoons salt, plus more as needed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese, about 3 cups
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease a 3-quart casserole dish with 2 teaspoons of butter and set aside.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until tender but still firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Return the water to a boil, add the broccoli and cook until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, refresh under cold running water, and drain again. Place the cauliflower in the prepared pan and top with the broccoli.
In a medium heavy saucepan, melt the remaining stick of butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, whisking constantly over medium heat until thickened into a blond roux, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and the cayenne, stir, and gradually add the cold milk, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 4 minutes.
Bring to a simmer and add the cheese, whisking constantly until the cheese is melted. Remove from the heat. Pour the cheese sauce over the vegetables, gently rapping the casserole dish on the counter top to dispel air bubbles. In a bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, oil, and Essence and evenly distribute over the top of the vegetables. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.
Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
Yield: about 2/3 cup
Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking", by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch. Published by William and Morrow, 1993.
The end product, ahem, the leftovers aren't fancy or styled, but I'm not always about that. I'm about being real. Real life leftovers, for a real life audience. Certainly I need to work on presentation, lighting, and styling of my food for photos accompanying this blog. It ain't good, but it ain't as bad as others I've seen. And, I was more interested in sharing the meat of the post with you rather than the finished product. It's all eaten up, anyway.
Roux is the magic word. Let is roux, let it roux, let it roux!