March 27, 2010

BROCCOLI & CHEESE CASSEROLE

1/2 lb. cold sliced chicken
1 lb. broccoli crowns
3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tbsp. unsalted butter plus 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves finely minced garlic
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs or crushed Ritz crackers
1/2 tsp. paprika
3 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Steam or briefly boil broccoli for about 5 minutes (depends on maturity of the broccoli), or until almost, but not quite tender. Plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. The broccoli should be a bright green in color and should retain a crisp crunch.

In a 2 1/2 quart casserole, melt butter and olive oil in microwave with minced garlic until butter has melted and garlic is sizzling. Toss bread crumbs with the melted butter mixture, to coat; stir in parsley.

Scoop most of the bread crumb mixture onto a sheet of wax paper, and set aside (some bread crumbs may remain in casserole to make a base for the chicken).

Arrange cooked chicken slices in a layer along the bottom of the casserole and top with the steamed broccoli. Cover with sauce (below). Sprinkle with the buttered breadcrumbs or crushed Ritz crackers. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle with paprika for extra color and a piquant flavor.

Brown on the top third shelf in a 350°F. oven for about 15 minutes or until nicely golden.

Variation: Cooked elbow macaroni and sliced mushrooms may be added before being topped with the sauce.

Sauce:

1 cup milk or cream
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup Gruyere or sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. Coleman's Mustard

In a microwavable bowl, melt butter; whisk in flour and when blended, slowly stir in milk. Heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens. Beat a few tablespoons of the hot liquid into 1 egg yolk; then transfer the egg yolk back into the sauce, whisking quickly. Add Gruyere or sharp Cheddar cheese and dry mustard. Microwave for another 1 or 2 minutes or until cheese has melted.

To save on clean-up and extra preparation steps, (an important consideration in the Cooks.com Test Kitchen!) this sauce is easiest to prepare in a microwave, but may also be made in a double boiler, as is done traditionally.

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