I joke sometimes that I like to do everything the hard way. But it's not really a joke. The older I get, the more I prefer to do things that are not necessarily healthier, but that is often a happy coincidence. I just prefer things to be homemade. Not pseudo Sandra Lee style. So by that token it was my mission to make the classic holiday Broccoli Rice Casserole without the Cheez Whiz or Velveeta and Cream of Crap soup.
I started out as the original recipe I have starts out, by sauteing onions and celery in about half a stick of butter. I used half a large sweet onion (if you read my blog regularly you know I pretty much exclusively use whatever sweet onions are in season) and 3 ribs of celery, chopped.
After the onions are starting to get translucent, I added an 8 oz. package of mushrooms, chopped.
Be sure to season with salt and pepper as you go. Since you aren't using processed junk, you need to season more. You want to cook the onions, celery and mushrooms for a few minutes then add a 10 oz. package of frozen chopped broccoli. I don't have a problem using the frozen product here because a) the ingredients listed on the package are "broccoli" and that's it. And 2) it's all chopped and ready for you. Cook the veggies together until all the liquid comes out of the mushrooms and broccoli and evaporates from the pan. You do not want a watery casserole.
In meantime, you can be cooking your rice. I happen to really like the microwave method. The rice comes out perfect and fluffy every time. So in a microwave safe dish with a lid, add one cup of rice and 2 cups of water. Cook on high for 5 minutes then cook on medium high for another 10 minutes. Check it after this time. You may need another few minutes on medium high or you may not. When it's done, fluff it up and set aside to cool.
In another pan, we're going to make a simple bechamel sauce. Don't panic! It's really not any big deal. All you need is one quarter cup of butter and one quarter cup of flour.
On medium heat, whisk the butter and flour together as the butter melts then when completely melted and mixed, cook together, whisking the whole time, for another minute or so. It will give off a nutty aroma. I know, I know, chefs on TV say "nutty" for everything. But in this case it's really true. Then add 2 cups of milk.
Still on medium heat, keep whisking the milk mixture until it starts to thicken. Are you remembering to season? It's at this point that in addition to salt and pepper, that I added about a teaspoon of dried thyme. When the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, then you are ready to add the good stuff.
The good stuff being, not Velveeta. Not Cheez Whiz. Certainly not. The good stuff is 8 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese. Mild, sharp, or extra sharp. You chose. I go with extra sharp.
Stir until smooth. It won't take long, so as soon as it's smooth or even close to smooth, take it off the heat. In a large bowl, combine the veggies and the rice.
Then pour that delicious sauce over the whole thing and stir to combine.
Then put the whole thing in a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
Cover and cook at 350 for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and cook for another 10 minutes. The casserole should be browning on the sides and kind of bubbly.
Now, when I figure out how to make this without using so many pots and pans, I'll let you know!