Broccoli Parmesan Casserole ♥

My mother was a child of the Depression. She knew how ~ and why ~ to scrimp and save. She stretched fresh milk with powdered milk, she substituted margarine for butter and yes, Parmesan cheese was poured from a green can. Even as a child, I despised all three.

But when Tummy Treasure raved about Kraft's new Grate It Fresh product, I wanted to try it for myself. Within a week, it seemed to show up everywhere ... at one grocery end cap after another, then at Wal*Mart ... always on sale for the equivalent of $6 - 7 a pound.

So I bought some. At least I thought I bought some.

I really truly didn't know, until just now checking Erika's review to link to this post, that what I really bought (and cooked with) was Kraft's green-can-in-new-clothes Parmesan cheese. I didn't know the packaging had changed! I bought the stuff so hated as a child.

And oh dear oh dear .......
my foodie credentials are SO about to be yanked.

You see, I did side-by-side taste tests in this broccoli casserole, testing what I THOUGHT was the new Kraft product and real Parmesan. My take? there was MINIMAL difference between real Parmesan Reggiano at $13.99 a pound and Kraft's green-can product for $6 - $7 a pound.
  • The real stuff did smell better and more cheesy right out of the oven.
  • The real stuff did have a tiny tiny bit of that tell-tale Parmesan tang.
  • But honestly, taste-wise, there was no telling the difference.
  • And I loved the broccoli casserole ... both sides.
Ha! The surprise is on me. Really!!

That said, here's my thought. Should we ditch good Parmesan? (Not that I'd persuade the foodie-est among us.) I think not ... because good Parmesan may be like good olive oil. You save the good stuff for recipes where it's central to a dish's preparation, a dish's proportion.

What ... pray say ... do you think?

DO YOU SUPPOSE ... this qualifies for "Weekend Obnoxious But Amazingly Tasty" at
A Fridge Full of Food? Let's try!

NEXT TIME ...
  • I'll slip the casserole under the broiler to give a little color to the bread crumbs. (Oh! I just now remembered that the recipe had this tip for browning: spraying the bread crumbs with cooking spray before going into the oven. This would be worth a try.)
  • I'll never again use bread flour in a white sauce. I was out of all-purpose. Man, was it hard to incorporate the liquids! And even then, working ever so slowly, the white sauce ended up a tad lumpy.
FROM THE ARCHIVES ... The Recipe Box has other vegetable casseroles and hot dishes.

BROCCOLI PARMESAN CASSEROLE
Adapted from Cooking Light August 2006
Hands-on time: 45 minutes (with fresh broccoli, probably 35 with frozen)
Time to table: 60 minutes
Serves 8
Weight Watchers 3 points per serving
NetCarb 18 per serving


BROCCOLI
Salted water to cover
2 pounds fresh broccoli

SAUCE
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 1/2 cups skim milk (I was out of milk, too, so watered down some half & half)
1 cup fat-free chicken broth (I used a bouillion cube)
1 cup grated cheese (I used provolone, the recipe called for reduced-fat extra sharp cheddar)
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon pepper
[Diced pimento - for color, I skipped this]

TOPPING
1 cup bread crumbs (I used panko, the recipe called for 12 ground garlic melba toasts)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400F (to save oven time, do this about the time the broccoli's done).

BROCCOLI Bring the salted water to a boil in a large covered pot. While the water heats, trim the broccoli. (Use a vegetable peeler to pare away as much thick skin as can be reached on the trunks. Chop the trunks into bite-size pieces and set aside. Cut the florets into bite-size pieces and separately set aside. Why separately? Because they need different cooking times.) Drop the trunks into the water and let cook til soft about 7 minutes. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Drop florets into the water and cook for about 4 minutes, until cooked but still bright green. Drain in a colander.

SAUCE In a medium saucepan on MEDIUM, stir together the flour, salt and mustard. A tablespoon at a time to start, stir in the milk and chicken broth, incorporating each new addition before adding more. Let cook until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Stir in 1 cup of the grated cheese, Parmesan and pepper. Gently combine the broccoli and sauce (use the pan the broccoli cooked in). Transfer to a well-greased baking pan.

TOPPING Mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle over top. Spray the top with cooking spray. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Serves 8, Per Serving: 174 Cal (20% from Fat, 31% from Protein, 49% from Carb); 14 g Protein; 4 g Tot Fat; 2 g Sat Fat; 22 g Carb; 4 g Fiber; NetCarb18; 277 mg Calcium; 2 mg Iron; 480 mg Sodium; 10 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 3 points


(c) Copyright 2006 Kitchen Parade

10 comments:

I love it. :-)

Ever since you told me about this... I confess that I have been using less-than stellar parm cheese for various applications. When the parmesan is a star, I think it benefits a cook to use the real stuff. But when it is just another layer of flavor...well, the food snob in me hides away for a little while.

And the casserole looks really good, btw.

ahhh...score one for corporate american made products!! lol

*whispers*
DucCat and I use it too, in such applications!

*backs away quietly*

I don't buy Kraft brand, but I do use the pre-grated kind for some things. (Don't tell anyone who's a cheese snob.)

I keep both on hand just so that I can use it depending on the application or how important the meal is.

I grew up in what most people would call a foodie home but I never had fresh Parm until I had graduated from college. The green bottle was all we had.

Thanks for this and the link to the other review. The "nice intern at Kraft" had also sent me a sample but with school starting up and all that stuff I'd forgotten to blog about it. I never buy the green can and rarely buy the pre-shredded, as tempting as it is. But this is infinitely easier. I'm not a fan of throwing away the container but the taste was decent. Milder than my regular, but still good. And the kids liked it. Casserole looks great, btw! Going on my "to try" list.

Ah, to be a Parm snob or not to be a Parm snob, that is the question.

One benefit to using the real thing is that it supports the dedicated people in the world who still make cheese the old fashioned way. I have a friend who has been to visit some of these cheese makers in Italy and the whole production process is truly wonderful.

I grew up with the green can too, but now that we can afford better cheese it's all we use.

I have a question, what sez the label in terms of ingredients? Usually these packaged products come with extra chemical goodies to extend their shelf life. That would be an issue for me if I were trying to choose.

Love the broccoli Parm, two of my favorite things cooked together, yum!

Erika ~ yes, you've put it beautifully, when Parmesan is the star in a dish, go for the good stuff.

Jeff ~ glad to create a chuckle!

s'kat ~ *thanks for coming out*

Kalyn ~ since I got a ribbon Microplane that takes off perfect-size ribbons of Parmesana, the pre-grated doesn't appeal anymore

Chrispy ~ You too! Yay!

Ellen ~ Interestingly enough, I'm not seeing the Grate It Fresh product here in St Louis yet. Maybe that nice Kraft intern will send me one too!

Elise ~ The artisan angle is one I didn't consider, thanks for bringing it up ... not that "real people" don't work at Kraft, too. As for the ingredient list, I think you'll aprove: Parmesan cheese (pasteurized part-skim milk, salt, less than 2% of enzymes, cheese culture, cellulose powder to prevent caking, potassium sorbate to protect flavor) -- so that fits, yes, the container's promise of 100% real grated Parmesan? though I don't suppose the artisans are adding the cellulose powder or potassium sorbate to their wheels -- not that we'd know, since the labeling requirements are different (not a sideways slam, just a fact)

I like your Broccoli cheese casserole!! Looks delicious ! My kids would love that dish!! Thanks!!

Now this is the way to eat broccoli.

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