A broccoli bake – on steroids! A creamy filling with bacon, chicken and broccoli topped with crunchy bread sprinkled with panko and parmesan. Comfort food at it’s best because it’s fast to make (only 15 minutes of active effort), nutritious (430 calories per serving) and can be made ahead.
I have a friend (who shall remain nameless) who is unnaturally obsessed with broccoli. This recipe is dedicated to her!
10 Things I Love About This Bake:
1. The crunchy, cheesy top
The crunchy, cheesy topMade from scratch
4. Everyday ingredients
5. Thrifty – use up leftover bread
The crunchy, cheesy top Creamy cheesy indulgent with only 430 calories
7. Hides a lot of broccoli
8. Potential to hide more veggies
The crunchy, cheesy top Less washing up than a pasta bake
10. Make ahead
Just in case you missed it – the crunchy topping of this bake is awesome!! It takes me a lot of willpower to restrain myself from just scooping the top off and having an entire plate of that for dinner. It’s that good. Truly.
So what is it about this topping that’s just made of plain old sandwich bread? Well, let me tell you – it’s drizzled with a creamy béchamel sauce then sprinkled with panko and parmesan. So when it is baked, you get that incredible combination of golden parmesan crunch on the outside and creamy béchamel sauce soaked bread on the inside.
This bake is like a cross between croque monsieur (but with no ham and a lot less cheese), pasta bake (but with no pasta), strata/bread pudding (but no egg and a lot less bread is used) and a broccoli bake (but a whole lot more interesting!). So as you probably guessed, this is just something I made up. So I have no idea if there is an official name for this dish, hence the long winded unoriginal name.
Actually, this was originally intended to be a pasta bake which never happened. That is, I started out with the full intention of making a pasta bake loaded with broccoli, but then I got lazy and decided that instead of using another pot to cook pasta, I’d top it with bread. A great way to use up leftover bread (in fact, the staler the better). It also means that this bake has less calories than if it was a pasta bake, but it is just as filling.
I made this bake using chicken breast. I am very selective about cooking with chicken breast. It has virtually no fat so unless cooked with caution, it is horribly dry. But you can get away with chicken breast for dishes like this where there is a lot of creamy sauce. Though you can use any boneless chicken cut you want.
It’s surprising how much broccoli is in this. There’s 4 packed cups of florets (cut small) which is one largish broccoli. You could add more vegetables if you want, this recipe makes enough sauce to add another 1 – 1 1/2 cups of vegetables, like diced carrots or peas.
Love to hear if you try it! Or what ideas you have for variations of it, like other vegetables you would add, or maybe add spices or herbs to the sauce?
- 250g / 8oz chicken breast fillet, cut into small bite size pieces
- 2 bacon rashers, diced
- 1 small brown onion (or ½ large), diced
- 4 packed cups broccoli florets (300g/10oz)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- 40g / 1.3oz / 3tbsp butter
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup grated cheese (tasty, cheddar, gruyere or any other good melting cheese)
- 3 cups low fat milk
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp salt
- Black pepper
- 3 to 4 slices of thick slice white sandwich bread, cut into 1cm / ⅓" cubes (note 1)
- ¼ cup panko (or breadcrumbs)
- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
- Fresh parsley, finely chopped, to garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
- Heat olive oil in a deep non stick fry pan over high heat. Add onion, minced garlic and bacon. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes until onion is translucent and bacon is starting to brown.
- Add chicken and cook just until the outside of the chicken turns white (do not cook through). By this time, the onion should be caramelised and bacon should be crisp.
- Remove from pan onto paper towel to drain.
- Lower heat to medium. Wipe pan clean and return to heat.
- Melt butter, then add flour and whisk constantly for 1½ minutes.
- Add 1½ cups of milk, whisking constantly, until it is well combined and lump free. It should be very thick.
- Add remaining milk and whisk to combine well. Cook for 2 minutes or so, whisking constantly, until it thickens to the consistency of pouring cream (not whipped cream).
- Remove from heat and add garlic powder, cheese, salt and pepper. Whisk until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Do a taste test and add more salt if you want.
- Place broccoli in baking dish (see notes for size), then top with chicken onion mixture. Pour over half the béchamel sauce.
- Top with bread cubes, then drizzle over the remaining béchamel sauce as evenly as possible over the bread cubes. Use an egg flip to squash the bread cubes down - this helps disperse the béchamel sauce throughout the bake.
- Sprinkle over panko and parmesan cheese.
- Place in oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
- Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with finely chopped parsley, if desired.
2. Making the béchamel sauce in a deep fry pan instead of a saucepan is a faster way of making this sauce because there is a larger surface area. So if you make it in a saucepan instead, increase the cooking times of each step by 30 seconds to 1 minute.
3. The sauce should be the consistency of pouring cream. The sauce thickens considerably when baking so it is better to be thinner than too thick. If it seems too thick, then add a splash of milk.
4. Use a baking dish that is about 10 to 12 cup capacity, or 22cm x 22cm (9" x 9").
5. FREEZER FRIENDLY - if chicken was previously frozen, cook it through. If chicken was fresh, you can still partially cook it per recipe. Then assemble the bake (including the toppings) then cover tightly with cling wrap and place in the freezer immediately. To cook, defrost completely then follow the recipe directions to bake.
6. This recipe is not suited to assembling then leaving in the fridge (before baking) because the bread may soak up too much moisture. It is also not advised to make the béchamel sauce too far ahead of time (ie. hours) because as it cools, it thickens, making it difficult to pour over the bake. I once tried to make all the components the day before with the idea to just pour the béchamel sauce over and bake. But the béchamel sauce was so thick I couldn't pour or even spread it. I then added milk to thin it to a spreadable consistency but then once baked, it was too watery because the sauce thins considerably when heated.
Nutrition assumes this serves 5.