Hello, and welcome back to Will It Casserole?, the column where I take delicious concepts and re-imagine them as tasty casserole creations. This week, we're taking an already known and loved hotdish - the broccoli cheese casserole - and upgrading to a broccoli beer cheese casserole.
Photo: Claire Lower
D Hooper's suggestion definitely did have potential, and I wanted to see this potential pairing with high potential realise its full potential.
However, you should know that there is no "upgrading" the broccoli itself. (Trust, this is empirical data I gathered while tinkering around with the recipe.) Broccolini is too young and fragile to handle casserole-ing, and Romanesco is halfway to cauliflower. (Plus, I think it's really creepy looking.) Plain, green, honest broccoli is what you want - in fact, it's what you need.
Similarly, there's no need to mess around with fancy, expensive cheeses - I tried Dubliner and an oniony Cotswald - as all nuance gets lost once melted into a vat of beer and condensed milk. An aggressively sharp cheddar will work just fine.
Instead of gumming things up with canned mushroom soup, I pan-fried baby shiitakes in butter along with shallot and garlic for a funky fungi flavour, and added condensed milk to make everything rich. The recipe includes rice, because without it, this is just a broccoli beer cheese dip. To make this casserole, you will need:
- 1 head of broccoli
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 225g of baby shiitake mushrooms
- 1 shallot, halved and sliced thin
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 240ml beer (a brown ale or stout both work fine)
- 300ml unsweetened condensed milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
- 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
- 340g shredded sharp cheddar + 110g for topping
- 3 tablespoons cornflour
- 2 cups cooked rice
- 2 handfuls of crushed pretzels, mixed with 1 tablespoon of melted butter (for topping)
Chop the broccoli into florets, removing the stems and slicing them into 1cm coins. Submerge the broccoli in boiling water for one minute, then remove it from the pot and shock it in an ice bath. Once it has cooled fully, drain it and set it aside.
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms. Season them with salt and pepper, then cook until the edges start to brown a little. Add the shallot, sprinkle in a little more salt and, once it starts to turn translucent, add the garlic.
Cook everything for a few more minutes, until the garlic is golden and fragrant and you have a good bit of glorious fond in the pan, then add the beer.
Beige food is the best food. Photo: Claire Lower
Scrape up all the pretty little burnt bits, then stir in the condensed milk and mustard. Give it a taste, season it with salt and pepper if needed, then leave it alone and let it come to a simmer.
In the meantime, toss the cheese with the cornflour, even though the feeling is the tactile equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.
Once your rich mushroom sauce is gently bubbling, add the cheese, handfuls at a time, stirring after each addition to melt.
Once all the cheese has been added, sneak a taste, confirm that it is good, and mix it in with the broccoli and rice.
Sprinkle on even more cheese, followed by the pretzel and butter mixture, and pop that thing in a 190C oven for 20 minutes of so, until it stars to bubble on the edges.
Give it a few additional minutes under the broiler to get it nice and golden brown on top, then let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Pile a glorious mound of the improved casserole on your plate, and thank D Hooper for his excellent suggestion, toasting him with yet another beer.