An iconic southern broccoli casserole is something every good cook should have up their sleeve. Here’s my version without any of the nutty stuff–no rice, no onions, no eggs, no SPAM because good Lord. What’s that about? Plus the story of how one casserole and some fried apples brought two unlikely girls to a brief bit of friendship.
My freshman year in college, I was homesick for the food I loved. The cafeteria stuff just wasn’t cutting it and you can only eat so many pizzas.
“What do you want?” My mom asked over the phone.
“I wish I had fried apples, broccoli casserole and pork chops. ” I said.
We finished our call and nothing else was really said about the food until a few hours later when my dorm room phone rang.
“Rachie? I’m here!” My mom’s voice crackled over the intercom on the dorm porch.
Yes I have the best mom ever. (Be sure to tell her that if you see her.)
She handed over the food which she had managed to keep hot on a two and a half hour car ride, gave me a hug, told me she loved me and then got back in the car to go home. She didn’t stay 15 minutes.
It was touching for sure–but it was what happened after that that I remember most. Down the hall from my room was a girl named Shaquita. And she pretty much hated the world. Or at least maybe it was just me she hated. She slammed doors, never spoke unless she was yelling about the noise we were making and never, ever socialized.
As I drug my spoils to the dorm kitchen to sort out what sort of goodies I had, Shaquita appeared in the doorway. She looked at my food.
“What is that?” she asked.
“Oh my mom made me dinner and brought it to me.” I said.
She looked stunned. And as she turned to go, I said “Would you like to have some with me?”
She looked like I had just asked her if I could borrow her underwear.
“Seriously? Yes.” She said.
So she and I, sat down on the floor in my room as I explained what the food was. She’d never had a homemade southern broccoli casserole or fried apples even though she was from Alabama. We ate like pigs. We loved every minute of it.
And after that? Well we never were best friends, but at least she would cast a little smile my way from time to time–before she slammed the door.
Tips for the best southern broccoli casserole
I like the ease of frozen chopped broccoli here–I’d recommend it over fresh. And I know I’m not much for a “can of cream of xyz soup” but in this case, it’s pretty important. If you don’t like celery I say don’t sweat it because you won’t taste it.
We don’t go overboard on the mayonnaise in this southern broccoli casserole either. I’ve seen a few recipes that use up to a cup. Yikes. But there is some leeway here if you want to add something you consider essential–like more mayo, or those stupid onions/eggs/rice that I think are shameful here. It’s yours after all–I’ll just cover my eyes and let you go for it and we’ll still get along.
Southern Broccoli Casserole
- 2 10-ounce bags frozen chopped broccoli thawed
- 1 10.5-ounce can cream of celery soup
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise not Miracle Whip
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- dash pepper
- 1/2 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed about 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons butter room temperature or cold is fine
- Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly spray a 1 1/2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix the broccoli, soup, milk, mayonnaise, cheese, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Transfer to the baking dish and cover with the crushed crackers. Dot with small chunks of the butter over the crackers.
- Bake until bubbly on the edges and hot in the center--about 30 minutes. Serve warm. Reheats really well too. Y