Tuesday, October 13, 2015

the broccoli roast

the broccoli roast

One of my probably most annoying insistences in the 15 years that I didn’t eat meat was that I suspected people didn’t really like it as much as they thought they did. Take bacon, no doubt the first thing that comes to mind when some leaf-horfing former vegetarian has the audacity to suggest that you could live without flesh. You love the way it’s smoky and salty and crispy and fatty, right? But how much of that has to do with the actual taste of pork belly, versus the way we’ve treated it to make it even more amazing? How much of Korean short ribs are about the unseemly delicious marinade, how much of Southern fried chicken is about that shattering crust, comprise mostly buttermilk, flour and grandma love? How much of barbecued ribs is about the gloriousness of the meat on the bone versus the long tenderizing, smoking and the sweet-salty-spicy stuff we mop or crust on top? [Sorry, I have to stop this paragraph right here so I can eat it.]


what you'll need
make a little rub

And while it pretty much only took me one pregnancy, the one where I craved burgers nonstop to understand that yes, there is perhaps more to meat than the sum of its seasonings and cooking methods, I still get more excited about vegetables being treated like big ol’ slabs of meat than I do about that what they’ve mimicked. Any restaurant should know how to cook a rib-eye medium-rare; but can they make broccoli steaks?

peel knobby stems
a little dry rub
to flip

Thus, when a friend tipped me off — and by “tipped me off” I mean I saw it on her Instagram and commented “GIMME THAT TELL ME EVERYTHING NOW NOW NOW” — to the broccoli roast at the impossibly charming (I mean, that wallpaper, those bathroom sinks, there is literally nothing there that isn’t already on the Pinterest board of dreams) Burnside Biscuit in Astoria, I pretty much went nuts and routed my whole family’s weekend around getting it in my belly. It did not disappoint, which sucks because Astoria is a small schlep from here. They bring it out in a cast-iron pan still hissing from the wood-burning oven, coated in a light dry rub, a little sharp cheddar and a cider vinegar dipping sauce and you attack this thing with a steak knife. A steak knife! Little makes me as happy as vegetables that require a steak knife.

the broccoli roast

It leaves you with so many big questions to ponder — Are these ribs? Is this barbecue? What if we stopped treating vegetables like side dishes? When a vegetable is the centerpiece, does it need a side of protein? — and I suspect that, like us, you won’t be bothering with any of it because you’ll be too busy shoving forkfuls in your mouth.

the broccoli roast

One year ago: Fall-Toush Salad
Two years ago: Purple Plum Torte
Three years ago: Pancetta, White Bean and Swiss Chard Pot Pies
Four years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
Five years ago: Apple and Cheddar Scones
Six years ago: Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones
Seven years ago: Mom’s Apple Cake and Beef, Leek and Barley Soup
Eight years ago: Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
Nine years ago: Wild Mushroom and Stilton Galette

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Strawberry-Rhubarb Soda Syrup
1.5 Years Ago: Dark Chocolate Macaroons
2.5 Years Ago: Bee Sting Cake
3.5 Years Ago: Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Rabe
4.5 Years Ago: Blackberry and Coconut Macaroon Tart

The Broccoli Roast
Inspired by the one at Burnside Biscuits in Astoria

It’s time we started treating vegetables like big old slabs of meat, don’t you think?

This is not their recipe but my riff on it, inspired by what I ate there; I used a small amount of the dry rub I put on ribs with a little less sugar, and then roasted various stalks of broccoli the way I always do before finishing it with a little cheddar (as they at the restaurant and which can totally be skipped because, honestly, I love cheese but it doesn’t add that much here). The vinegar dipping sauce is like a vinaigrette, minus the oil, and it cuts nicely against the broccoli and rub flavors, the way a squeeze of lemon juice usually does against green vegetables. This is a spectacularly simple and habit-forming way of making broccoli, so you’ll be glad this makes more rub than you’ll need.

Serves 2, heartily

Olive oil
About 1 pound broccoli, although the weight isn’t that important, either in 1 big head or 2 or so “trees”
Grated aged cheddar (optional)

Dry rub
2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika, ideally smoked but regular will also work
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Chipotle powder or ground red pepper (cayenne) to taste
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt, and more to taste

Cider vinegar dip
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon smooth dijon mustard
Pinch of salt, smoked flaky sea salt is wonderful here if you have it
Pinch of pepper flakes
Shake of smoked hot paprika or chipotle powder

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a large roasting pan with a glug or two of olive oil. Combine rub ingredients in a small dish. Taste a pinch; it should be flavorful, but more salty than sweet, with a kick. Make adjustments to taste.

Prep broccoli by peeling any knobby bits and outer skin off stalks. Cut smaller heads lengthwise through stem into two “steaks;” cut larger ones a second time into four wedge-shaped “steaks,” if desired. Place cut side down in roasting pan; drizzle tops very lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with rub. Roast for 20 minutes, until deeply brown underneath. While roasting, combine cider vinegar dip ingredients. Flip, coat cut side with more rub and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until charred at edges. Remove from oven and immediately grate a small amount of cheese over broccoli.

Serve with cider vinegar dip and, if you’d like to be more like the restaurant, with a little pile of smoked sea salt on the side. Eat with forks and steak knives.

P.S. Looking for a different flavor? Try these stunning broccoli steaks, also inspired by my Burnside obsession, with a red chile-sambal romesco.


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