cheesy chicken and broccoli

cheesy chicken and broccoli

This cheesy chicken and broccoli is savory and delicious served over fragrant Jasmine rice!

My family moved to the US when I was six years old. As a child of immigrant Iranians who had lived in Germany for six years, I’ve always had some conflicts with cultural identity. We spoke Farsi at home and I didn’t speak a lick of English until I was in second grade. I constantly felt like an outsider in grade school. Since I didn’t have many friends and school work came easy to me, I spent many afternoons at home watching television.


Family Matters, Boy Meets World, and Full House were among my favorite shows. The best scenes were when the families would sit down to dinner. They ate such exotic foods…like meatloaf! My mom, who is a fantastic cook, would always make us delicious Persian meals but the allure of the American family dinner haunted me.

cheesy chicken and broccoli

 

In my desperate desires to fit in with the American kids around me, I vowed to someday marry a football-watching American man and cook things like casseroles and pot pies for dinner. Since marrying my college sweetheart, Kenny, I’ve had the joy of cooking (and eating) my first chicken pot pie at the age of thirty! I’ve even cooked casseroles, blondies, and mashed potatoes – which were all completely foreign to my Iranian palette.

cheesy chicken and broccoli

This cheesy chicken and broccoli dish seems especially American to me. The cheddar cheese and creamy sauce served over medium grain rice are so different from what I grew up with. This dish represents my childhood ambitions come to life and I love cooking it for my football-watching American husband!

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cheesy chicken and broccoli


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  • Author: Sepideh Esmaili Campos

Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 pounds chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter (divided)
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 celery sticks, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • 5 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup half and half (whole milk can also be used)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (use ½ teaspoon if you like heat)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 24 ounces broccoli florets
  • ¼ cup green onions (aka scallions), chopped (plus more for topping)
  • 2 cups white Jasmine rice, cooked according to package instructions

Instructions

  1. The night before: sprinkle 2 teaspoons sea salt on both sides of the chicken thighs, place in a rimmed dish in a single layer, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. (If you forget to salt the chicken the night before, do it as soon as you start cooking and leave the chicken at room temperature for up to 1 hour).
  2. Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a shallow dutch oven over medium heat.
  3. Sprinkle black pepper over the chicken thighs and cook in a single layer (in batches if necessary) in the oil until browned, 5-6 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate. Empty the oil from the pan (but leave the brown bits in the pan) and add the other 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan. Melt over medium heat.
  5. Add the shallots and celery to the pan.
  6. Season with ¼ teaspoon sea salt and cook until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the garlic and thyme, cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  8. Add the white wine, use a wooden spoon to scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan and cook until the wine has completely evaporated, 5-6 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables, toss to coat and cook for a couple minutes.
  10. While stirring, add the chicken stock to the pan a little at a time being sure to stir and combine between additions to avoid lumps.
  11. Slowly stream in the half and half and bring to a bubble. Simmer the sauce until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Periodically scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to avoid scorching.
  12. Once the gravy thickens, add the nutmeg, cayenne and cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese has fully melted.
  13. Lower the heat to medium low, nestle the browned chicken into the gravy along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 20 minutes.
  14. If the gravy gets too thick, add a splash of water or chicken broth while it simmers.
  15. Add the scallions to the gravy and taste. Adjust salt and pepper as necessary.  
  16. While the chicken is simmering, prepare the brocoli.
  17. To blanch the broccoli, bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding enough salt so that it tastes like the sea.
  18. Place another bowl of ice water in the sink next to a colander.
  19. Once the water boils, add the broccoli and boil rapidly until the broccoli is bright green, about 2 minutes.
  20. Immediately strain the broccoli in the colander and transfer to the ice bath for 5 minutes. Strain the broccoli and arrange on a serving plate.
  21. Serve the chicken and broccoli on a plate with rice and generously spoon the gravy over everything. Top with scallions and enjoy.  
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