Editor’s note: At the Table with the Gabels features tasty recipes and tips from Vanessa Gabel and her daughter, Kaitlyn, of Danville.
Kaitlyn: We often make a version of this recipe as a baked potato chowder rather than a broccoli and bacon bake, but I love it both ways.
It is such an easy meal to put together with barely any left over. If there are any leftovers, it’s a perfect meal to pack in a thermos and take for lunch.
It could also be eaten as a side dish or a main meal; we’ll definitely be taking this as a side for holidays. It was delicious as is, but you could also add chicken, different cheeses, or more vegetables such as peppers or even corn.
Instead of adding butter to cook the onions, we just cooked them in the leftover bacon grease, which not only added flavor, but also reused the grease we would’ve just thrown away.
Vanessa: The only bad thing I can say about making this creamy broccoli and bacon bake is that I didn’t double the recipe.
It was quite delicious (though not nearly as healthy as some of the other recipes I normally make), and the flavors were accentuated with the 2-3 tablespoons of leftover bacon grease that we used to brown the onions, in lieu of the butter. We chose to bake the bacon instead of frying it.
I prefer this method, as the bacon doesn’t shrivel up, and tends to cook more evenly.
The recipe took slightly longer with this change, but I feel like it was worth it. If you’ve got a piece of cast iron, that would be the perfect piece to make this one pot meal, as it can effortlessly move between stovetop, oven and broiler. We also opted to use frozen broccoli instead of fresh.
Let’s face it, with school starting and all the changes about to transpire in many folks’ schedules, meal prep is hard. Don’t fall prey to temptation to swing by the drive through.
Take shortcuts in meals where you can so that you can get out of the kitchen faster to spend more time around the table with those you love. Maybe that means frozen ingredients instead of fresh, maybe it’s cooking the bacon the night before so you can have that ready to go. A little planning will buy you a lot of time in the long run.
Creamy Broccoli and Bacon Bake
8 ounces bacon
2 tbsp. butter
1 onion diced
5 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups light cream (or for a richer sauce, you can use heavy or thickened cream)
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 pound broccoli florets, from 2-3 broccoli heads — stems removed (frozen broccoli works also)
Salt and pepper to season
1/2 cup fresh shredded or grated mozzarella
1/3 cup fresh shredded or grated parmesan cheese
Red pepper flakes to taste
Preheat broiler on medium heat if you have the option.
Fry the bacon in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat until crispy. Or you can bake it at 400 degrees for 15-25 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to soak up some of the grease. Set aside.
Drain most of the bacon fat from the pan, leaving about 1-2 tablespoons for added flavor (adjust this amount to your liking). In the same pan, melt the butter, add the onion and cook until transparent (about 2 minutes), while scraping up any browned bits leftover from the bacon. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper and cook while stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes, or until just turning vibrant in color.
Press or slice in the garlic and stir it through the broccoli for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Pour in the cream, reduce heat down to low and let simmer for about 3-4 minutes while stirring occasionally, or until the sauce thickens to your liking.
Roughly chop the bacon and add to the broccoli, mix well.
Top with the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Broil until the cheese is bubbling and golden (about 2-3 minutes).
Season with a little extra pepper and/or red pepper flakes, if desired.