Usually when I choose a recipe, I feel quite clever and quite sure about myself. “This will be perfect,” I think to myself, and even if it’s not perfectly made or perfectly beautiful, it tends to be tasty and perfect for what I needed it to be. This recipe was not one of those times. I made a bad judgment call and assumption about what this recipe was and could be, and it did not quite live up to those hopes and assumptions. Basically, in the description of the recipe, it was sold as a sort of cheesy broccoli rice casserole replacement, but as a side. In my head, that word “casserole” meant that it could be a main dish.
Not so. For whatever reason, this dish is very much side material. It’s not the kind of thing you want to center your meal around because while it has flavor, it’s not as much as you might want. And while it’s filling, we just barely managed to get 4 servings out of it for the family (plus one smaller leftover serving with the bit we didn’t eat, and the uneaten remains from one child). I thought that being cheesy would make the broccoli part more attractive to children, but for whatever reason the cheese sort of recedes to the back of the flavor profile.
This is not to denigrate this recipe at all – this is just to set expectations. This is the sort of side that needs to be served with something a little heartier. It’s definitely a good way to sneak a good amount of vegetables into the diet of (you or) your child, but does not thrill the palate the way I was expecting when I thought it was a main dish. I suppose this means I should really go in search of a proper casserole recipe instead of finding easy side-substitutions that replicate that idea.
Easy Cheesy Broccoli Rice
Serves 4 as a “main”, or 6 as a side
1 lb. frozen broccoli florets, thawed [Note: make sure these are VERY THAWED]
2 cups long grain rice
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, but recommended)
Freshly cracked pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
Place the rice in a large pot and add 3 cups water. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes. After simmering for 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let the rice rest without removing the lid for an additional 5 minutes. (OR use your favorite method of cooking rice — rice cooker, Instant Pot, etc.)
While the rice is cooking, chop the broccoli florets into tiny pieces. [Regarding the note in the ingredients – chop this while the broccoli is still semi-frozen to make things easy, but make sure it thaws out a LOT. The colder the broccoli is when you dump it in the final mix, the colder your dish will become, and it is less appetizing the cooler it sits on your tongue)
Once the rice has cooked, fluff it gently with a fork. Add the butter, salt, garlic powder, cayenne, and some freshly cracked pepper. Fold the butter and spices into the rice until fairly well combined (the butter should melt quickly in the hot rice).
Add the chopped broccoli and gently fold it into the rice. The broccoli should bring the temperature of the rice down just to the point where it is hot/warm, but not so hot that the cheese immediately melts when stirred into the rice.
Finally, add the Parmesan and cheddar cheeses, and fold to combine again. Taste and adjust the salt or butter if needed. Serve immediately.