Broccoli steaks

A while back, Deb Perelman taught me that it is possible to make vegetables taste like meat, and it’s haunted me ever since. I knew I would not rest until I had tried it.

Vegetables far removed from their natural state are a really big thing on restaurant menus these days. Everywhere I go seems to have a “contorni” / “small plates” / “first course” section on the menu that translates to: veggies that are mindblowingly good.

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It’s like the carrots I had at Upland that were so thoroughly roasted they were practically caramelized and paired so well with my pork chop I almost forgot french fries are a thing.

But I digress.

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The point is not where to get these show-stopping vegetables, it’s how to make them. Starting with broccoli steaks. Now, the reason it took me so long to make them is because anytime I told someone I wanted to make them a broccoli steak the conversation went something like this:

Me: I’m making broccoli steaks.
Them: You’re making me steak?
Me: No, broccoli steaks.
Them: Could you make me a steak instead?

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But finally I found a captive audience (mother, father, boyfriend) and lured them into eating veggie meat with the compromise that there was actual meat (BBQ pulled chicken) on the plate as well.

Turns out, we didn’t need it because the broccoli steaks were a smash hit. Deb, I take my hat off to you. The success is largely in the rub but I knew that from the start. 40% of why meat is so good lies in the preparation, and 60% is because it’s meat (speaking of, have you had the moist brisket at Hill Country BBQ? Please go. Now.)

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Lucky for you, you’ll end up with extra rub so you can put it on: more broccoli steaks, broccoli florets, Brussels sprouts I would imagine, or really anything your heart desires. There’s only one thing I wish I had done differently and that was to really get after it when peeling the broccoli stalks. The cut side was tender but the outside presented a tough skin that I nonetheless fought my way through because I didn’t want to lose a centimeter of that rub. The lesson is to peel the living daylights out of your stalk.

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And whatever you do, don’t skip out on the mustard dipping sauce because it is absolutely essential.

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Broccoli steaks
(from Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

Olive oil
About 1 pound broccoli (I used 2 smallish heads)

For the rub:
2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika (Deb recommends smoked)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch of Chipotle powder or cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt, and more to taste

For the Cider vinegar dip (double if serving 4 people):
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon smooth dijon mustard
Pinch of salt (Deb suggests smoked flaky sea salt which sounds like I thing I need to go buy at Kalustyan’s immediately)
Pinch of pepper flakes
Shake of smoked hot paprika or chipotle powder

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Coat a large roasting pan with olive oil. Combine rub ingredients in a small dish. The flavor you’re going for is mostly salty, a little sweet, with a spicy kick–but not so much that it makes your nose run. Adjust to taste.

Prep broccoli by peeling any knobby bits and outer skin off stalks–this is critical. You really want to get rid of that tough outer stuff.

Cut smaller heads lengthwise through stem into two “steaks;” cut larger ones a second time into four pieces if desired. Place cut side down in roasting pan; drizzle tops very lightly with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with rub. Roast for 20 minutes, until deeply brown underneath.

While roasting, combine cider vinegar dip ingredients.

Flip broccoli pieces using tongs, coat cut side with more rub and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until charred at edges.

Serve with cider vinegar dip, and grated cheddar if desired.

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The broccoli roast: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2015/10/the-broccoli-roast/

 

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