Some food combinations are just meant to be—ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, strawberries and chocolate, and, of course, broccoli and cheddar. The trick to making this simple pairing shine is making the most of your ingredients. First, garlic is slowly fried in extra-virgin olive oil until golden and crisp. (Starting the garlic in cold oil will help it cook evenly and infuse the oil with savory goodness.) Then, that garlicky oil is used to dress the broccoli before it gets roasted at high heat until deeply browned and caramelized. Pile the broccoli atop the dreamiest, creamiest bowlful of cheddar polenta, and garnish with the garlic chips, lemon zest, and a spritz of lemon juice. And don’t skip out on the lemon—it’s there to cut the richness of the polenta and lift the broccoli’s deep green flavor. Before you start cooking, let’s talk cheese. Sharp or extra-sharp block cheddar is a must for that intense cheesy flavor. (Save anything fancy, like bandage-wrapped cheddars, aged over 12 months, for your cheese board.) There’s also some sneaky mozzarella in the mix, too. I find that too much sharp cheddar can sometimes make the polenta grainy, so a little mozzarella adds that Instagram-worthy cheese pull action. Low-moisture mozzarella is better than fresh here; too much water content can cause the cheese to clump rather than become silky and pullable. —Asha Loupy
extra-virgin olive oil
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more to taste
coarse polenta (not instant)
1 1/2 pounds
broccoli, cut into florets
red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
sharp cheddar, coarsely grated (about 1½ cups)
low-moisture mozzarella, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
- Heat the oven to 425°F.
- Place the oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is light golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a paper towel–lined plate, then sprinkle with salt. Reserve the garlic oil.
- Combine the milk, 2 cups of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large pot over medium-high heat, and bring to a gentle boil. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the polenta. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently so the bottom doesn’t scorch, until the mixture starts to thicken, 4 to 5 minutes. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is tender, 40 to 50 minutes.
- As soon as the polenta is covered, start the broccoli: Place the broccoli on a sheet pan, drizzle with 6 tablespoons of the reserved garlic oil, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss to coat the florets, then spread them into an even layer. Roast, flipping halfway through, until deeply browned and caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes. Turn off the oven to keep the broccoli warm.
- To finish the polenta, turn off the heat and stir in the cheddar, mozzarella, and butter, until the cheese is melted. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.
- To finish the broccoli, remove from the oven and grate the zest of the lemon on top. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze one half over the broccoli, and toss to combine. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges for serving.
- Ladle the cheesy polenta into a shallow serving bowl, or individual bowls, and top with the broccoli. Garnish with the garlic chips and a drizzle of the reserved garlic olive oil. Serve with the lemon wedges for squeezing on top and more red pepper flakes if you’d like.