Nostalgic Thanksgiving Side: Broccoli Puff

Broccoli Puff
Broccoli Puff
Photo by Joanna O'Leary

In a recent survey,* 79 percent of Americans admitted to enjoying side dishes more than the turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Hardly a surprising result, certainly, as it's hard to compete with the smorgasboard chorus of stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes, etc., etc. In addition to the aforementioned standard sides, many families serve an outlier dish that has come to be a holiday tradition for one reason or another.

If in your family that dish is ambrosia, my deepest sympathies.

For the O'Leary clan, that outlier dish is Broccoli Puff, first introduced to the family by our beloved matriarch Margaret Berkeley O'Leary (1913-2014; yes, she lived to be 100, folks). Broccoli Puff is not a particularly novel or sophisticated dish and its main ingredients (cheese, cream of mushroom soup, broccoli) probably make it extremely similar to a dozen-odd other mid-Western casseroles of different names.

But that is neither here nor there because Broccoli Puff is damn good as well as amazing way to incorporate cruciferous vegetables (and mayonnaise!) into your Thanksgiving feast.

This article continues on the next page.  

Try not to eat the whole pan.
Try not to eat the whole pan.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary

Margaret Berkeley O'Leary's Broccoli Puff

  • 2 10 oz. packages frozen broccoli spears (defrosted and drained)
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup of seasoned bread crumbs
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Bread or Ritz cracker crumbs to garnish

Cook broccoli and drain. Mix soup, grated cheese, milk, mayonnaise, and egg until well blended. Place broccoli in a 7 1/2 x 12" baking dish, pour in mixture. Top with mixture of breadcrumbs and melted butter. Bake at 350 until warm and bubbly (top should be crispy), approximately 25-30 minutes.

When made correctly, Broccoli Puff boasts a creamy interior rich in dairy fat flavor and a savory, crunchy crumb topping. In theory, you can lighten the recipe by using low-fat cheese, soup, mayo, and skimping on the butter.

But no one will give thanks for that poor excuse for Puff.


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