Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Despite hailing from Minnesota, one of the nation’s foremost centers of casserole (or, as we call it, “hot dish”) technology, I’ve never had the cheesy broccoli rice casserole on which this recipe is based. Apparently, it features Velveeta and canned cream of mushroom soup, which, let’s face it, made occasional appearances in my childhood but were certainly not staples of our diet, and I’ve never been much of a rice lover, so it’s not surprising I dodged that bullet. (Sorry, cheesy-broccoli-rice-cassorole fans; I’m sure the original version is surprisingly tasty despite its humble ingredients.) Annie’s Eats developed this less processed version in September, but although I rely heavily on that site, I somehow overlooked the recipe until November, when this adaptation appeared at Confections of a Foodie Bride.

I think the photo, showing a delicious-looking, browned, cheesy crust atop a green-spangled expanse of quinoa, is what got my mouth watering. I’m definitely a fan of the broccoli-cheddar combo, and I’m always looking for different ways to serve quinoa but hadn’t yet tried a successful casserole version. (My previous attempt had actually been kind of gross.) Once I realized this was basically mac and cheese made with quinoa and broccoli, I was naturally on board. I ended up making a hybrid of the two recipes; I liked the Foodie Bride use of real garlic and mustard instead of the powdered forms, but I went with Annie’s shallots over yellow onion and her addition of cooked chicken (I just poached some breasts) so I didn’t have to cook anything else to serve alongside. Then I scaled all the quantities (except the garlic, broccoli, and cheese, because who doesn’t want more of those things?) back by one-third, since the original recipes claimed to serve between eight and twelve people and we are but two, albeit a hungry two who would be eating this as a main dish.

The result was delicious, creamy and comforting without feeling heavy at all, and even A, a noted quinoa skeptic who is hardly passionate about broccoli, enjoyed it enough to happily consume leftovers. This is a welcome addition to my quinoa recipe library (where it joins fritters, hash, a couple of soups, and many, many salads) and my very limited hot dish—er, casserole—repertoire.

1 cup quinoa, uncooked
2 medium crowns of broccoli, cut into small florets
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 shallots, diced
1⅓ cups milk
1 clove garlic, minced
2 generous teaspoons Dijon mustard
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1⅓ cups shredded cooked chicken

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place the quinoa in a saucepan with water and ½ teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed. Transfer the quinoa to a 9-by-13 casserole dish.

3. Steam the broccoli until crisp-tender and add it to the quinoa in the casserole dish.

4. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, shallots, garlic, mustard, cayenne, a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. Let cook 1 to 2 minutes and then slowly add the milk, whisking until the sauce is smooth. Let the sauce simmer, reducing the heat if necessary, about 5 minutes, until thickened and bubbling. Remove from heat and, a handful at a time, whisk in the all cheddar except about ½ cup or so (which you will reserve to sprinkle atop the casserole). Stir until cheese is completely melted, then season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add chicken to the quinoa-broccoli mixture, then pour the sauce over it. Toss to coat, mixing well. Sprinkle the reserved cheddar over the top.

6. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.

Serves: 4–6
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Good

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