I was a pretty good student growing up. I always got straight A’s… well, if you don’t count math and P.E. I’m allergic to numbers and exercise, and I argued that I should have been officially excused from both (my teachers didn’t agree). But overall, I worked really hard and did my best to bring home stellar report cards.
My mom understood this. She also understood that once in a while, I deserved a break. Every few months, she surprised me with a “play hooky” note– Please excuse my daughter Tori from school at noon today, we have a family commitment. She’d pick me up in the school parking lot, then we’d go to lunch and spend the afternoon shopping. We’d chat about life and the novels we’re reading and everything but school. It was a great way to unwind and enjoy some girly time together.
For lunch, we’d always go to a small cafe in town and order the same thing– broccoli cheese potatoes. They were so good… cheesy, gooey, melty sauce over perfectly steamed tender broccoli. The secret to these delicious potatoes was the sauce. I tried replicating the potatoes in college a few times, but failed. Simply melting cheddar cheese didn’t do it, and melted American cheese wasn’t sharp enough. I needed something more creamy and oozy and good, but I couldn’t figure out the secret.
After Mother’s Day, I found myself remembering those lazy afternoons with mom. After a little experimentation, I nailed the sauce and was finally able to replicate those famous broccoli cheese potatoes. It’s not health food, not by a long shot… but each serving does contain a nice portion of tender broccoli, which I suppose helps to make it a little less naughty. You can add a smaller amount of sauce to each potato if you’re watching your waistline (this recipe offers a generous portion of sauce). To make the cheese spicy, add cayenne pepper to taste– careful, it’s super spicy!
These Broccoli Cheese Potatoes are rich and indulgent, an easy vegetarian dairy meal for those weeknights when you’re craving comfort food.
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Broccoli Cheese Potatoes
- 4 large russet potatoes (12-15 oz each)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 10 oz broccoli florets
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp flour (for gluten free substitute 2 tsp potato starch)
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place a rack on the lowest part of the oven and another rack in the middle of the oven. Place a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven (line with aluminum foil for easier cleanup). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub the potatoes clean and pat them dry. Stab a few slits on both sides of each potato with a sharp steak knife.
Hold the potatoes over a mixing bowl and rub them with extra virgin olive oil,
then coat them generously with kosher salt.
Place the potatoes directly on the middle rack above the baking sheet.
Let the potatoes bake for 60-70 minutes till soft inside. Squeeze them after baking to test for doneness-- they should give when you apply pressure. Remove potatoes from the oven and let them stand uncovered to cool slightly. Meanwhile, make your broccoli and sauce.
Slice broccoli florets into small bite-sized pieces. Place the broccoli in a saucepan along with 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil on the stovetop. Cover the pot and reduce heat to medium low. Let the broccoli steam till tender and bright green (about 10-12 minutes). Drain.
Whisk in the flour to form a thick paste.
Slowly pour in the milk, whisking till milk is smooth. Heat over medium, whisking constantly, till the mixture thickens and bubbles around the edges. Do not let the sauce come to a full boil.
Whisk in the grated cheese and stir till melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp of salt and a large pinch of pepper). Reduce heat to lowest setting, stirring frequently, until ready to assemble potatoes. Drain the cooked broccoli.
Slice each baked potato across the top lengthwise. Grab both ends of the potato and squeeze together to open the potato wide.
Stuff each potato with a quarter of the cooked broccoli florets.
Top each potato with cheese sauce. Serve hot.