I have a very Anglo Saxon/Western European approach to holiday means, despite my general preference for cuisines originating closer to the equator. I guess it makes at least some sense since the Christmas holiday itself, and the way Americans celebrate it, originated in England, and Thanksgiving originated with Western European immigrants. So I prefer a very traditional meal–the one (or 2 or 3) time(s) per year that I want a gorgeous hunk of juicy red meat as my centerpiece with starchy sides. The meat part is always easy, the price notwithstanding, tenderloin for Christmas and prime rib for whatever other holiday meal I might be hosting, in this case Thanksgiving (sorry, just not a turkey fan, never have been). The potato is easy–who does not love potatoes and they are endlessly flexible. However, the green vegetable can cause me fits.
First of all, all of my favorite green vegetables are seasonal in the spring or summer and tend to be plain. There is nothing wrong with plain, but I do regard these meals as my chance to play with dishes I would not normally eat–and I snack on blanched green beans all summer long. Same with roasted asparagus in the spring. Fabulously tasty? Yes. Special? Not really. I do love broccoli, which is much more seasonal, but we eat it plain all year round. So I went hunting for a different way of presenting broccoli.
I am very texturally oriented–as I’ve mentioned before–and there is a very fine line between a texture that sounds revolting to me and one that sounds wonderful (crazy I know but I hate pudding and love mousse. So sue me). So when I came across the Silver Palate’s Broccoli Pureed With Creme Fraiche I had a myriad of reactions. Yum, creme fraiche! Hmm, puree… will it be like pudding or mouse? Yum, broccoli! But yikes will anyone eat it?
I decided to go for it and cannot be happier that I did. Josie, a self-proclaimed skeptic about the dish (she promised she’d try it though), actually ended up loving it. So did I. I added one baking potato, to kind of fluff it up and make it a little more familiar to people. I also added more sour cream than called for. Rich and indulgent, yes, but oh so tasty and colorful.
4 lbs broccoli florets (including a decent chunk of the stems, but not the huge woody stem), chopped
1 medium-large russet potato, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1 cup creme fraiche
4 T sour cream, plus more to taste if needed
1 cup freshly grated high quality Parmesan cheese
1/4 t nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
2 T butter, cut into 8 chunks
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the chopped broccoli into the water–do this in 2 stages if necessary–and blanch for about 3-4 minutes, until tender crisp and bright green. Drain in ice water. Use the same water to boil the potato until tender.
Mash the potatoes by hand and dump in a food processor. Add the creme fraiche and process until smooth. If desired, set aside a couple handfuls of the broccoli to mix in as chunks (I did this to help people realize it was broccoli–I think now you could go either way). Add the broccoli the food processor and process it thoroughly. Remove the puree and mix in the sour cream, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Mix in the reserved chopped broccoli if you did that. Adjust for taste if it seems too bland.
Mound in a small baking dish (eg, 8X8 or pie plate sized). Dab with the chunks of butter. Up until this point it can be made earlier in the day and baked right before dinner. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the for 25 minutes or until steaming hot (if it cools to room temperature it may take a few minutes longer; I think mine took 30 minutes).