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Broccoli, Cheddar & Rice Skillet

Sometimes food can be difficult to photograph; maybe it doesn't look very appealing to begin with, maybe I'm shooting in less than ideal light, maybe I'm feeling lazy and just want to eat the creation I've been labouring on for the last hour, there are many factors. I know this picture isn't the best and doesn't give you much to go on, so let me use words to describe how delightful this dish is. The only thing you really need to know is that it's essentially Mac&Cheese, except rice where the mac usually is. So if you're a fan of noodley, cheesy goodness and or you're avoiding pasta this dish is most certainly for you.

Initially I was interested in this recipe because the person with whom I share most meals, enjoys eating rice on the regular, myself not to much. I thought this would be a good way to score a win on both sides and I guess it kind of was, but interestingly enough I couldn't stop eating it whereas he was less excited - I later learned that he just wants plain white rice with butter, we're never going to agree on that for dinner. Moving right along, this warm, gooey, cheesy, possibly slightly healthful dish (uh, broccoli!) is all that you'd want after a chilly fall or winter day. It is the epitome of comfort food and I for one would be happy to tuck into it pretty much any day of the year. I think the key is the wild rice, it lends an excellent chewy texture that I don't believe some other rices would achieve.

Note that I didn't use "wild rice" as I couldn't find any on short notice, so I opted for an organic long gain brown rice which I thought might be close enough, and it was! Also, if you wanted to make this recipe come together more quickly I think that using rice that had been cooked a day or two prior could work well.

Broccoli, Cheddar & Wild Rice Casserole

3 tablespoons butter 1/2 large onion, diced Salt 2/3 cup uncooked wild rice blend, rinsed 1 pound broccoli 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard powder or 1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon Pinch of cayenne pepper 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 cup whole milk 2/3 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth 8 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice to onion and cook for 1 minute, then add 1 1/3 cups water and a few pinches of salt. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to lowest temperature and cook with the lid on for about 50 minutes (or whatever amount of time is suggested on your package of rice). If you’d like a rice cooker to do this for you, transfer onions, water and rice to the machine and set the machine.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel broccoli stems and dice them into large chunks. Cut florets into 1-inch pieces. Cook in boiling, well-salted water for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

You can use this same pan to make the cheese sauce. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the mustard powder (if using), a pinch of cayenne and garlic and let sizzle for 1 minute. Add flour and whisk until combined, cooking the butter-flour mixture for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly drizzle in milk, whisking constantly, then broth. Bring to a simmer and cook mixture at a simmer, stirring the whole time, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in smooth Dijon mustard if you didn’t use mustard powder.

Remove pan from heat and stir in 1/3 of grated cheese until melted. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Combine cooked wild rice blend and broccoli in a 2-quart baking dish or a 9-inch oven-safe skillet. Pour cheese sauce over and gently nudge to ensure all pieces get some sauce. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake casserole for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly, then run mixture under the broiler until cheese is toasty on top.

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