So when fresh broccoli is on sale (for me it's usually 99cents/lb for the crowns) I stock up and freeze my own broccoli- it is cheaper then buying it already frozen and super easy to do.
First things first: get a large pot of water on to boil. While that is heating up cut the florets off the stems but DONT THROW THEM AWAY! (I'll show you what to do with them in a minute) Pile all your florets in a colander and rinse. I used two colanders for this. In the yellow bowl I saved some florets for the following recipe and set aside. When the water comes to a bowl, salt generously and dump your florets in. Obviously you can do this in batches if you have a lot of broccoli. Leave them in there until they turn a vibrant green (like in the picture above) and then immediately remove them- they should only be in the hot water for not even a minute. You can either shock them in ice water- or just run them under cold water until they cool down (too much work for me to deal with that much ice). If you are making the following recipe don't dump your water out from the pot, we'll use it later for the pasta. When cool enough to handle pile in bags, get as much air out as possible and pop in the freezer! It's that easy!
One thing is that you NEED to blanch before freezing- believe me, I don't know why, but I've tried just putting in the freezer raw, and that doesn't work out. And when you want to eat the broccoli, just cook like you would cook normal store bought frozen.
Let's get back to those stems now...This of course is completely optional, but the stems are full of nutrients and you paid for them, so why throw them away? Personally, I am not a huge stem fan, but I saw this technique on tv and thought it was such an awesome idea. We're gunna make broccoli stem coins...
How cute are these?!
Your coins will vary in size and shape depending on your stems. Also using a mandoline here makes quick work of this. First, using a vegetable peeler, peel the outer layer of the stems if they look woody and dry. Pick off any little leaves if you desire. The broccoli I bought was so gorgeous and fresh that the stems were tender and small (because they were the crowns, but you can do this with regular broccoli too) I quickly peeled the outer layer, rinsed and cut on the mandoline into small, thin coins like you see above.
Now, what do you do with these? Seriously the possibilities are endless. Think of them as peas or water chestnuts. Throw a handful into soups, stews, casseroles, salads, stir-fry’s, etc. I've even eaten them just raw like chips. I haven’t frozen them yet, but instead of blanching them like the florets, all I would do to make them freezer ready is dump into a microwavable dish, add a splash of water, and nuke for about 30 secs-1 min. Then just pop back into the bag and freeze.
And now finally onto the eating part!
I love love love casseroles. I just said the other day that I completely stopped making casseroles like I used too. Tragic really, they are so good and so easy to make and you can even make them the day before!
Chicken, Pasta and Broccoli Casserole
· 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
· about 2 cups of broccoli florets we reserved before
· 1 box of any short cut pasta you like (I used rotini)
· 3 cups of chicken broth
· 2 tbs butter
· 2 tbs flour
· about 1-2 cups of any cheese you like (I used cheddar)
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Get a pot of water boiling for the pasta- if you did the broccoli blanching above then just use the same water that you blanched the broccoli in, no need to use new water. Just remember to salt the water again before you add the pasta. When pasta is done, drain and reserve.
3. Cut your chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. In a skillet heat some oil and when it is hot cook the chicken and season salt and pepper.
4. When the chicken is cooked through, remove and reserve. Next, add a bit more oil if needed and cook the broccoli (season with salt and pepper) just until bright green. You can also add here other veggies, garlic, onions etc but I went quick and simple with just the broccoli. Oh and plus I threw a handful of the broccoli coins in too.
5. When that is done remove and reserve alongside the chicken.
6. In the skillet reduce the heat and add the butter. When the butter melts add the flour and cook the roux for about a minute or so. Then whisk in your chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.
7. Combine all pasta, broccoli and chicken in a casserole dish and pour the thickened sauce all over it. Top with cheese and cover.
8. Cook for about 20- 30 minutes, then uncover and cook until the cheese gets nice and brown and bubbly (you might have to use the broiler for this part).
Technically, this dish is able to be served right away since everything is basically cooked. But cooking it in the oven marries everything nicely. And it also roasts the broccoli a little, which is so good, definitely my favorite way to eat broccoli, it becomes almost nutty. If you are strapped for time just top with cheese and pop under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly.