There are times during the year when it is cold, miserable, dark, nasty and thoroughly gloomy and Aunt Toby is not in the mood to cook anything that does not have a heapin’ hunk of comfort in it. Tonight was one of those times. It was in the 30s, windy, raining, and just depressing all day.
And I got a call part of the way through the day from the DH about dinner and I told him to make sure we had broccoli because I wanted to “do Wendy’s™” as this is referred to in our house. This particular dish has been on my mind for several days for several different reasons:
1. It’s simple and easy.
2. More green veggies is always better.
3. It reminded me of when the Little Siberians were really little, the DH and I were not making a lot of money and going out to eat was an event that did not take place very often. This dish is an approximation (and I think it’s better, but that is just moi) of the famous baked potato dish from that fast food restaurant. My kids loved it then and still do.
Potatoes, bakers are best, but any potato that is not labeled ‘waxy’ or ‘salad potato’ will work.
Homemade cheese sauce (recipe below)
Scrub potatoes well, pierce in a couple of places with a knife and put into a 400 degree F oven to bake for 45 minutes. Don’t bother doing the microwave oven thing because they just..do..not…taste…the…same.
Wash and cut up your broccoli the way you like it. Whole spears, chopped up whatever, doesn’t matter, just don’t chop it up too small. Put in a good sized sauce pan with an inch of water and leave it for the last five minutes before serving to steam.
After the potatoes have been in the oven for about 30 minutes, start the cheese sauce:
Two tablespoons of butter
Two tablespoons of flour
Two cups of milk (any will do, including skim)
One cup of shredded cheese – cheddar is best but you can mix cheeses. I would not use blue cheese though if you are feeding this to kids.
In a sauce pan, put the butter on a low heat and melt. Put in the flour and stir around. Once it starts to bubble a little bit, lower the heat and start putting the milk in a teeny bit at a time, stirring madly while to you do so. This will help prevent lumps.
Once you’ve put in all the milk, raise the heat a little bit – it will be less than half way but definitely warmer than low. The liquid will start to thicken up. Once it starts doing that, put in the cheese and stir until completely melted into the liquid. The liquid should be a lot thicker now. If it is not, add more cheese. Do NOT add more flour (at this point, adding ‘raw’ flour will just ruin the flavor..). Take off the heat and wait for potatoes and broccoli to be done.
When the potatoes have been in for 45 minutes, check them (I give them a squeeze, but you might have a different gauge for baked potato ‘doneness’). If they are finished, turn the oven down or even off and put the pot of broccoli on the stove. Bring it to a boil and boil for 5 minutes.
No more than five minutes, OK? Then take out, drain the liquid out of the broccoli and put everything in separate bowls and let everyone combine their meal the way they want to (some kids want the broccoli separate from the potatoes; some kids want everything together; some kids want cheese on the broccoli only. This way, they can do their own thing). Serve with a green salad or fruit.
And what do you use the water from the broccoli for? Put that in the fridge and save it to put in gravies, soups or casseroles.
Now, for a vegan alternative to the cheese sauce, I’d suggest making the sauce according to the recipe and substituting white beans and/or chickpeas for the cheese.