Yesterday, when I was reading through the Philly Inquirer food section, I noticed a recipe for roasted broccoli tucked in, down at the end of the article about the year's best cookbooks. I think roasting veggies is a great way to prepare them, as it allows all those natural sugars to caramelize and develop maximum flavor. However, I've always struggled when it comes to roasting broccoli, because by the time the stalks cook to tender, the flowers are burnt to a crisp.
The recipe (from the Best of America's Test Kitchen cookbook) is fairly basic (olive oil, salt, a pinch of sugar and pepper) except for one thing. It has you preheat the roasting pan in a 500 degree oven while you prep the broccoli, so that when it comes time to lay the broccoli out on the pan, it gets a cooking boost by the hot pan.
I tried it out last night and was a revelation. The broccoli came out perfectly crisp-tender, but without the acrid flavor that comes when the flower tips get too brown. This one is a winner and I think would be great for a variety of other vegetables. I can't wait to try it with asparagus come spring!
1 large head broccoli (about 13/4 pounds)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Lemon wedges, for serving
1. Trim away the outer peel from the broccoli stalk, otherwise it will turn tough when cooked. For Roasted Broccoli With Garlic, stir 1 tablespoon minced garlic into the olive oil before drizzling it over the broccoli.
2. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a large rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Cut the broccoli at the juncture of the florets and stems; remove the outer peel from the stalk. Cut the stalk into 2- to 3-inch lengths and each length into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Cut the crowns into 4 wedges if 3 to 4 inches in diameter, or 6 wedges if 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Place the broccoli in a large bowl; drizzle with the oil and toss well until evenly coated. Sprinkle with the salt, sugar, and pepper to taste and toss to combine.
3. Working quickly, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Carefully transfer the broccoli to the baking sheet and spread it in an even layer, placing it flat sides down. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast until the stalks are well browned and tender and the florets are lightly browned, 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately with lemon wedges.
Note: For another variation, saute 2 large, chopped shallots until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, roughly chopped, and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat and toss the roasted broccoli with shallots; then sprinkle with 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan.
- From The Best of America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, 2008)