April 21, 2010

Broccoli with Chipotle Cheddar Sauce

1 shallot, minced
4 cups broccoli florets
1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar
12 oz evaporated milk
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the shallot and flour. Cook until thick and the shallots are softened. Add the milk and simmer until it starts to bubble around the sides. Meanwhile, steam the broccoli. Add the spices and cheese to the milk mixture and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes, whisking frequently. Drizzle over hot, well-drained broccoli.

My thoughts:
As long time readers know, I always have a problem with side dishes. We are only a two person household and we cook a lot and making side dishes always seems to result in too many dishes and too many leftovers. Instead, I just add a lot of vegetables to our main dish or make one side dish that incorporates vegetables and starches like mashed potatoes with spinach and/or other smashable vegetables or something like pasta salad.

However, there are times when even I must make a straight up vegetable side dish. We had an enormous amount of broccoli. More broccoli than I've seen outside of a farmers market or field. Few vegetables look good this time of year but broccoli has been crisp and cheap lately so we keep buying it and then forgetting to use it. Since the broccoli had hit a critical mass, I had to do something with it. Although I've used broccoli in a surprising number of ways, I had never really made it as a side dish before. A quick Google search told me that broccoli and cheese sauce is an insanely popular side dish, at least here in the US. I don't remember having it before but it didn't sound like a bad idea. Doesn't cheese make everything better? It seems like people either just heat up a prefab frozen box or melted Velveeta over broccoli. Now, that was an unappetizing prospect. I figured I'd try to make my own sauce from scratch.

I quickly made my own seriously sharp cheddar cheese sauce (taking a note from my own macaroni and cheese recipes and using evaporated milk for creaminess without using cream) and added a healthy dose of chipotle. The sauce was the perfect mix of spicy, smoky and cheesy. It came together very quickly and the sauce was thick enough to coat the broccoli without being gloppy. A tasty alternative to the usual roasted or steamed vegetables in some sort of vinaigrette I normally fall back on.

I still had a bit of leftover the next day but it heated up amazingly well, the sauce didn't separate at all and the broccoli stayed crisp.