recipe

pan-roasted broccoli with fish sauce and almonds

I really believe that almost all self-professed broccoli haters just haven’t had it prepared the right way. Most folks who think that they don’t like broccoli have only had it boiled to death: when broccoli is cooked too long, it grayish, mushy, and farty smelling.

The secret is to not overcook your damn broccoli. One of my favorite ways is also the most simple: par-boil your broccoli florets by cooking in boiling water for a minute or two, then toss in a skillet with some hot oil and/or butter and garlic (I will try to get a recipe up for this soon, but in the meantime, Google will get you pretty close). But broccoli also benefits from direct, high-heat cooking, such as roasting. When blasted with dry heat, broccoli stems turn sweet and the florets shrivel up a bit into concentrated little bombs of flavor.

But hey, we’ve talked about this before. I have since moved on from the oven-roasting method and settled on this one, which I think is easier and a little more versatile. Also, the kitchen in our new place has a sink that is too small to easy wash a half sheet pan, so I avoid cooking with large pans where possible.

First, you need to prepare your vegetable. I cheated yesterday, and used pre-cut broccoli florets from the restaurant supply store ($3.50 for 4 pounds of trimmed, cut broccoli, and none of that goes to waste? Yes please!). But you can easily dispatch your broccoli on your own, just make sure to peel your stems well (see the Jacques Pepin link at the blog post above).

Regarding service: this is great as a hearty lunch on its own, perhaps topped with a poached egg or sprinkled with some sharp cheese. It also works well as a side with any meat, and slips just as easily into Asian dishes as it does Mediterranean dishes.

Finally, a word on fish sauce: yeah, it smells funky. But even if you don’t think you like the taste of fish sauce, give it a try in this recipe. It contrasts with the sweetness of the roasted broccoli and brings out the funkier, more caramelized notes that you get when you roast anything. And the amount you’re using here isn’t even enough to make it register as “fish sauce” on your palate – in fact, I don’t think most people would be able to name the secret ingredient if they didn’t know ahead of time.

Pan-roasted broccoli with fish sauce and almonds

Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Fish Sauce and Almonds

serves 1-4, depending on how hungry you are

  • 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. broccoli florets and/or peeled stems, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional, but please do try it once with the fish sauce)
  • Lemon wedges and dry grated cheese like Parmesan or Romano , for serving (optional)

Place a 12″ pan (preferably cast iron or nonstick, although a regular pan works fine as well) over medium heat and preheat for a good two minutes. Add the oil, broccoli, garlic, and a pinch of salt and toss well. Cook over medium heat, stirring few minutes, for about 5 minutes, or until the broccoli begins to get some nicely browned bits. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the broccoli is almost done to your liking (mine took about 10 minutes, but it could have gone a little longer). You’re looking for the stems to be crisp-tender and the florets to pop a bit in your mouth.

When the broccoli is almost done, add the almonds and turn the heat back up to medium. Cook, stirring more frequently now, until the almonds are nicely toasty and the broccoli is good to go. If you like lots of garlic flavor, remove the cloves, mince or press any or all of them, and stir them into the broccoli. Toss the broccoli with the fish sauce and taste again for salt – it might need another pinch (or if you absolutely insist on doing this without the fish sauce, just add a bit more salt. I have tried it with soy sauce and I don’t like it as much).

Serve with lemon wedges and sharp grating cheese if you’d like. This dish is good piping hot or at room temperature.

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