This broccoli and red pepper bake with Parmesan cheese was a colorful side dish next to rosemary simmered canneli beans and garlic Parmesan chicken wings, unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture until I already started eating. I found this recipe on the NY times website through a google search. They call it Broccoli Gratin with Red Pepper and Parmesan but it doesn't seem au gratin to me so I changed the name. Au gratins are like a French casserole and have a nice browned cheesy breadcrumb crust and most often, they start with béchamel sauce, a thick creamy white sauce. It starts with a light roux, equal parts butter and flour lightly cooked, and then milk is gradually whisked in and its simmered until thick enough to coat a spoon.
Bechamel is one of whats known as the 5 mother sauces of French cuisine. Mother sauces are the main sauces that all other sauces start with they include Hollandaise, Tomato, Espagnole and Veloute. Most people are familar with Hollandaise sauce which is featured in eggs Benedict and Tomato sauce which is very common in Italian cuisine. Tomato sauce is unique from the other mother sauces because it does not require a roux to thicken. Espagnole is for dark meat such as beef, it begins with a dark brown roux and veal stalk and is the starter of demi-glaze. Veloute is a pale colored sauce and is commonly served on chicken, it is made with a light roux and usually chicken stock, it forms the base of Supreme sauce which is very commonly served with chicken.
This veggie dish has no sauce therefore I don't think it qualifies as a classic au gratin dish, and while it dose have breadcrumbs and cheese, its crusty top is not nearly as thick as traditional gratins. It was a nice light side and much fancier than just steamed broccoli with cheese on top. The red peppers added a touch of sweetness and a beautiful splash of color to the plate. I used roasted garlic which melted into the oil and added a deep caramelized flavor but fresh garlic will work just fine. The only thing I did not like about this veggie bake was the three pans and steamer I had to clean up after preparing it. The broccoli needs to be steamed first and the red peppers must be sautéed until softened and then it needs to be baked in a casserole dish. However it was delicious and when I make it again I'll probably try to prep the veggies earlier in the day to avoid massive clean up after dinner.
Broccoli and Red Pepper Bake with Parmesan
1 1/2 pounds of broccoli, crowns chopped, and if desired, stalks peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
heavy pinch of salt and pepper
1 tablespoon roasted garlic, or 3 cloves minced fresh garlic
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary
1 handful fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 big handful of panko or bread crumbs
chopped fresh basil for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Steam the broccoli until tender crisp. Run it under cold water when its done to preserve the color if desired.
2. As the broccoli is steaming, heat the oil in a large skillet and add the peppers and salt & pepper and saute until the peppers are softened.
3. Meanwhile, combine the breadcrumbs and cheese in a small bowl and set it aside. Season the bread crumbs with salt and pepper if they are not already seasoned.
3. Add the garlic, steamed broccoli, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and stir well to coat every thing in garlic and oil. Turn the heat down and let it cook for a minutes or two.
4. Transfer the veggies to an 8x8 casserole or baking dish. Top with the cheesy breadcrumbs and bake for about 10-15 minutes until the cheese if fully melted and the topping is somewhat browned.