Broccoli casserole: nuff said

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Thanksgiving has always been a significant holiday to me. Yes, there have always been the traditional gatherings of family and friends around the big table in the fancy eatin' room, but when one truly gets down to business, food makes this particular holiday.

People can have their turkeys, hams and candied yams, they can keep their stuffings

and ambrosia desserts, because when it comes to food, Thanksgiving means only one thing to me: broccoli casserole.

My mother makes it every year and whenever I am unable to return home for the holiday, I have to make it myself.

It is a very simple dish, but for some reason it has become traditional for my family to eat it on Thanksgiving and at Christmas, and the holidays just aren't the same without it.

I have tried broccoli casserole other places, some at restaurants and some at friends and relatives houses, but nothing I have ever eaten compares to my mothers. It is full of cheese, which most anyone will say goes great with broccoli, and of course it is always made with love.

I can remember as a child going back for second and third helpings of turkey just to get another chance to taste a little more broccoli casserole. My mother would always say "It just didn't turn out right this year," but I never noticed.

Some years mom would make two broccoli casseroles. One would be shared with the relatives at the traditional lunch, and the other would be in reserve to go with the left-overs.

A turkey sandwich is great, but it is even better when accompanied by a steaming side-dish of microwaved broccoli casserole. For some reason I can never get enough.

The life of a journalist is not always easy, and getting back home for a one-day holiday is sometimes pretty tough. However, the one thing my mother was able to teach me was how to cook for myself. And, when Thanksgiving comes around, broccoli casserole is always, always part of the meal no matter where I am.

This year I wasn't able to go home for the holidays, but mom's broccoli casserole was with me. I can't let a holiday go by without sharing it with someone.

And, while it keeps me from going to someone's house for dinner empty handed, it also helps me remember my own family and the Thanksgivings we have shared together.

I may not get to see my family, and the first season's greetings may have to be shared by phone, but I can always ease the home-sick feeling I get by making a dish of broccoli casserole.

I want to extend my personal thanks to the family of Mike and Anna King of Georgiana for inviting me to share Thanksgiving with them this year. We had a wonderful meal and some great conversation. I hope you enjoyed mom's broccoli casserole.

In case you’re interested, here's the recipe.

3 small packages of frozen broccoli spears.

2 eggs beaten.

3/4 cup mayonnaise.

1 can cream of mushroom soup.

1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (shredded).

2-3 tablespoons finely chopped onion.

1 box of "Better Cheddar" snack crackers.

Cook broccoli as directed.

Blend eggs, onion, mayonnaise, soup and 1 1/4 cups of cheese to a uniform consistency and fold in cooked broccoli. Pour mixture into a 3 quart casserole dish and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese. Form a top crust of crushed "Better Cheddar" crackers and dot with margarine. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.