One of my most treasured recipes; it has been a staple at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mother makes some dishes, I make a few, and my aunt brings broccoli cheese casserole. A few years ago she didn't bring it. It was like someone killed Thanksgiving. With my mother's coconut-frosted chocolate cake, it's one of the dishes I most anticipate all year. "I didn't realize it was that important," she told me.
"Let's be clear," I said, "This isn't something I ever have to ask for again. This just has to be here. It's not the holidays without it. Period. Please, please bring it." We haven't had that problem again.
I've eaten at some of the country's best restaurants, but there's something about this I'd take over every one of those meals. Salty and cheesy with a crispy top and a creamy interior — honestly, I love eating it almost just as much the next day... cold. What's the secret behind it? Where did it come from?
"You go to the French Culinary Institute and you love this easy to make broccoli and cheese casserole," my aunt said, laughing. "I think that's hysterical. I learned this dish from my mother-in-law Joan Miller who got if from her sister-in-law Ruth Miller. It's easy to make, it's different, and it's good. And when the kids were little this is how I'd get them to eat their broocoli."
One secret according to Aunt Jean? You have to use Hellmann's. "It comes out too thin if you use light mayonnaise, or anthing except Hellmann's." I wouldn't know. I don't want her changing a thing. So here's the recipe. I'm only willing to share it because without Aunt Jeannie making it, it will still be amazing, but you'll never quite have it quite as good. It's still definitely worth trying.
- 2 packages of frozen broccoli (defrosted), or the same amount fresh if you're not in a rush, chopped
- 2 eggs, well-beaten
- 1 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise
- 1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup ("It can't be low-sodium, it can't be half-fat," she said. "it's watery and it's just not as good.")
- ½-1 onion, chopped
- 2 cups sharp Cheddar, grated
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Defrost the broccoli (or chop the same amount of fresh broccoli). Spray the 2-quart Corningware container or other casserole dish with Pam. Mix broccoli with eggs, mayonnaise, cream of mushroom soup, minced onions, ¾ of the shredded Cheddar, salt (you don't need too much because there's already a lot in the cheese), and pepper. Sprinkle remaining Cheddar evenly over the top. Lightly sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.
Bake at 350 degrees uncovered. "I check it after 45 minutes," Aunt Jean said. "When it's bubbling I turn it down. But it depends on the oven. I always check it after 45 minutes. If it's not bubbling, leave it. If it's bubbling take it out."