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There’s nothing bad about broccoli in a creamy cheese sauce with buttery breadcrumbs on top.  Nothing.  But it could be better.

It’s hard to put my finger on what’s missing.  I think I wanted bigger, more hearty pieces of broccoli when what I ended up with was fragments; more of a broccoli infused cheese sauce than broccoli enrobed in cheese sauce.  And that could certainly be my fault.  “Bite size” is in the eye of the eater I guess.  And it’s possible I over-cooked the broccoli, making it break down into smaller pieces.

The lack of bite from the cheese sauce is my error.  At the very last minute I could not find my red pepper sauce (once again illustrated the value of mise en place) so I sprinkled some cayenne pepper in instead.  The McIlhenny’s (or Frank’s Red Hot sauce as it’s written) would have probably added just the kick I wanted.

As Kenji points out, broccoli casserole is really just mac and cheese with broccoli (or cauliflower) stepping in for the macaroni.  So that’s good.  Anytime you replace pasta with a vegetable is admirable, especially in January when we all still care about that stuff.  Come March, when winter seems endless and our “commitment” to eating healthier is like an unfunny joke, we’ll be thinking of new ways to get more carbs in our macaroni holes.  Mark my words, someone will come up with a pasta sandwich. Dipped in cheese.  My money’s on Olive Garden.