Every Thanksgiving I find myself wanting to try new recipes. We are a small crowd, just the five of us, and I'm typically not looking to have major leftovers. For the past six years we have gone to the Outer Banks for Thanksgiving. And, let me tell you it is the most magical place that time of year. The beach crowds are gone and it's mostly filled with locals. I can get up in the morning and walk the dogs without their leashes. It is the ultimate peaceful locale to spend your Thanksgiving. I especially love it because it gets me recharged to conquer December before the Christmas season begins.
The first couple of years we started going I made all of our typical sides. Huge amounts of sweet potato casserole that no one really liked. Huge amounts of dressing that was wasted after the first couple of days. Gigantic salads full of apples and celery and greens. In the end, I would pack up the leftovers to take home with us only to see it go to waste because everyone was sick of Thanksgiving food after several days of leftovers
. A month later we'd have almost the exact same meal for Christmas when it is typically consumed with little enthusiasm.
Two years ago I decided to change things up. Since it was just us, I didn't need all of the typical dishes. After polling the crew, I discovered no one really liked the sweet potatoes. They liked the marshmallows on top but not the sweet potatoes. Would you like a generous helping of toasted marshmallows with your turkey? Apparently, my kids would. The dressing is always a hit and can't be missed, but I cut my recipe in half. I'll have to share it with you another time. The salads were typically only eaten by me, so again I chose to make it smaller.
All of this leads to the only dish that the crew can't live without: broccoli casserole. I'm sure broccoli and Thanksgiving don't go together in most people's Thanksgiving must-haves. However, in my house, we have been making this side dish for as long as I can remember. We'd eat it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, with fried chicken and pork chops. I introduced it to my college friends and it became one of my absolute most requested dishes to make for them and even later for our Thanksgiving potlucks at work.
The broccoli is mixed with a creamy cheese sauce made of blue cheese and cream cheese. It is topped with a crumbling of Ritz crackers that when baked in the oven gives you a crunchy topping so good that you'll find yourself digging into the crackers just to add a bit more to your helping. Honestly, I could just eat a bowl of this casserole and call an end to Thanksgiving. Of course, until dessert is served.
Broccoli Casserole is a creamy casserole of broccoli mixed with a blue cheese and cream cheese sauce and topped off with crunchy Ritz crackers. It is sure to be a side dish hit to keep in your menu rotation.
- 16 ounce frozen broccoli pieces or 12.5 ounce bag of fresh broccoli pieces
- 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
- 1 cup Milk
- 3 ounces Cream Cheese
- 8 ounces Blue Cheese, crumbled
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled Ritz Crackers
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. If using frozen broccoli, place in large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5-10 minutes. Do not let the broccoli get too soft. Drain and set aside. If using fresh broccoli (my favorite way), steam the broccoli until al dente. The broccoli will cook more in the oven so you don't want it to start out overcooked.
3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add in the flour and whisk until a paste is formed. Add the cream cheese and stir until it gets creamy. Pour in the milk, continually whisking. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens. Add in the blue cheese crumbles. At this point, move on to a spoon and continue stirring until the blue cheese melts.
4. In a large bowl, add the cooked broccoli. Pour in the cheese sauce and stir it to mix it in. Pour the mixture into a 9 inch round or square casserole dish.
5. With your hands, crumble the Ritz crackers over the top of the broccoli mixture. I like big chunks rather than crumbs because they stay crunchier when baked.
6. Bake for 30 minutes. The casserole is done when the broccoli is bubbling and the crackers have browned.
Note: You can make ahead. I typically make this up the night before and leave the crackers off the top. You can take it out the day of and bake without the crackers until it bubbles. You might have to add a few minutes to the cooking time because it's coming from the fridge. Add the topping for the last 10 minutes of cooking time.