When I was little I disliked most vegetables, but I loved broccoli. I loved it more than any other food except cold cereal or buttered noodles, and my grandfather would make me “cheesy broccoli.” My grandparents both disapproved of my pickiness but couldn’t bear to see me go without greens, so the house was stocked with broccoli every time I arrived. And because they were my grandparents and had to find little ways to spoil me, my grandfather would always give into my requests for extra cheese. The cheese would melt and bubble, and it was more delicious than anything: tender and green below, but tangy and cheesy above.
I remembered the simple trick of cheesy broccoli years into my parenting life, when enough time had gone by that it seemed like a new idea. Now it’s on the birthday and sleepover rotation, not because it’s labor- or time-intensive, but because I like to hold on to the recipe for little celebrations.
For non-cheesy normal weeknight broccoli, I steam the florets and drizzle them with olive oil. But when we need it to be special, it’s all about the cheese.
1 pound broccoli
1½ cups grated Cheddar cheese
1. Separate the levels of your steamer pot. Fill the lower level with a few inches of water, and set the pot over high heat to bring the water to a boil.
2. While the water boils, prepare the broccoli. Cut off the main stem and trim away the scarred bottom. Slice the stem into ½-inch rounds. Then separate the broccoli head into florets, slicing first through the remaining stem, then moving on to slice through each head to create 2- to 3-inch florets.
3. Preheat the broiler to 450°F or medium-high, depending on your options.
4. Pack the broccoli into the upper level of the steamer basket. Insert the upper level into the lower level and cover the pot. Steam until the florets are tender and don’t taste grassy, 5 to 7 minutes.
5. Transfer to a 9 × 13-inch broiler-proof baking pan and top with the grated cheese. Broil until the cheese melts and becomes crispy, 1 to 2 minutes.
. Copyright © 2018 by Alana Chernila. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Johnny Autry. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.