I CAN’T DECIDE WHETHER I WANT THIS, OR A BEEF BURGER FOR DINNER.
WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME?!
I think as far as being an honest and balanced recipe-curator goes, since the day I publicly checked a carrot gingerbread cake w/ cardamon frosting and fried gingers and mashed potato butter-aioli into the category of “vegetables” without changing a shade, my failure in this aspect has been pretty self-explanatory. It’s not that I deliberately faked the book, because after all, technically, there were credible amounts of vegetables in all those recipes. Two whole carrots in that cake, no kidding! But it doesn’t help covering the obvious that truth is, I don’t… believe in vegetables. I mean I know they’re real, like real corns in my Doritos and whatnots, but the last time I actually felt it was when a tub of poutine from Montreal was eyeing me from the bar, and even that turned out to be a little disappointment.
But don’t you dare think that I haven’t sacrificed anything as a vegetable-doubter in my whole existence so far. Besides a pouch of cottage cheese-like substance I carry around my waist and thighs at all times, it is also with tremendous sadness that I say, I could never have a mini pet-pig named Chicharron (my hypothetical pet-pig name). You know what happens when you name a pig – well bye bye, pork. Nor can I have a sheep named Ricotta, or a cow named Gelato… My fantastic farm-dream, gone, all because spinach can’t agree with me. So all these years, I suffered, I really did. But just like that, as if someone heard my misery, in an unexpected morning just like any other, this reluctant doubter crashed into her veggie-calling like being hit by a double-decker bus when I saw this dish on the Deb’s Instagram. Thing is, you see, this would the second time that I was going to make something inspired by her IG, which was starting to feel a bit stalker-like, so naturally, I resisted, I really did. I mean, treating broccoli with the kind of substantial respect it isn’t normally granted, kind of like the cauliflower steaks, I guess, can be good, but let’s not appear to be too desperate yet. So I dug my head into making my first blog-video ever, or perfecting that recipe that didn’t seem to want to stop getting better, all but just avoiding the inevitable that on Saturday, a head of broccoli miraculously appearing in my fridge out of the blue. I’ve got no clue who put it there but I guess I had to cook it.
Well the pros and cons about imagining a recipe purely based a glimpse, is always that A) You’re flying blind, but B) Flying blind might land you somewhere unexpectedly beautiful. What would I do (I pondered as I Googled the nearest micro pig-breeder…) if I were to roast a whole head of broccoli? Coated in extra virgin olive oil, rubbed with sea salt and cracked pepper, the standard stuff. But I think I would half the broccoli, quarter even, depending on its size, to expand the flat surfaces that could acquire the maximum browning. Then instead of shaved cheese and vinaigrette, the dish reminded me of the Catalonian festival where they dip the deeply charred spring onions in to roasted pepper romeso sauce. But of course in this case, not just roasted pepper, but blackend and peeled red hot chilli, a Southeast Asian sambal and romesco-hybrid blended with garlic, ginger, fish sauce, Dijon and white wine vinegar for acidity, and blanched almonds for body.
I’m not even kidding. The result shattered my doubter’s believe-system. How could it be so good? The deeply caramelised surfaces of the broccoli, tempting from the start with its transformed earthiness through the escaping heat of the oven, almost tasted like roasted seaweed or mushrooms with that fifth umami-ness. The lightly sea salted fleshes were tender but still firm, with the charred florets and burnt bits, already a satisfactory result for any veggie-doubters. But when you smudge a dollop of that red chilli sambal romesco on the top… when you smudge a good, big dollop of that burning, tangy and savoury red chilli sambal romesco on top…, it was a moment that could only be described as, the moment I found Veggiesus Christ. I can’t tell you enough how the fish sauce, the heat, the faint ginger-ness and Dijon, transformed this well-meaning Spanish romesco into a sharp-tongued and addictive character. I mean, even now, three days after we’ve been eating this straight, I still can’t quite decide whether I want it again, or switch to a beef burger for dinner. What’s happening to me?! Jason just said, “I can eat this everyday.” What’s happening to us!
Chicharron, I can almost hear you squeal.
- 20~22 (220 grams) Asian long red chilli
- 4 tbsp (42 grams) blanched almonds, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tsp (7 grams) ginger
- 4 tbsp (54 grams) extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 head of broccoli
- 2~3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and pepper to season
- TO MAKE THE RED CHILLI SAMBAL ROMESCO: Lightly toast the blanched almonds in a skillet over medium heat until slightly browned, then set aside. Over open flames or with a blow-torch, char the surface of the red chilli until thoroughly blackened (the more thorough you do this, the easier it is to peel), then wait until cool enough to handle. Hold the stem of the chilli with one hand, then scrape the blackened skin off with a small knife on the other hand. Make a small slit at the tip of the chilli, then scrape gently to push the seeds out. It's ok if there are small bits of burnt skin or seeds left here and there. Transfer all the skinned chilli into a blender, along with almonds, garlic, ginger, olive oil, fish sauce, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar and honey. Blend until smooth, then set aside in a jar. Can be kept in the fridge for several days.
- TO MAKE BROCCOLI STEAK: Preheat the oven on 445 F/230 C. Wash the broccoli then trim off the dried tip at the bottom of the stem. Use a vegetable-peeler to remove the fibrous skins along the stems and exterior branches, until you see tender fleshes. Find a good symmetrical angle, then cut the broccoli in half, or quarter, whatever you prefer, then set aside in an oven-proof skillet. Drizzle 2~3 tbsp of olive oil into the florets of the broccoli, then over the branches/stem to coat. Lightly season all over with salt and pepper (don't over-salt because the sauce is already salty), then place them with the cut-side down.
- Set the skillet over medium-high heat and brown the cut-side for a few min to give them a head-start. Leave the broccoli with the cut-side down still, then transfer into the oven to roast for 8~9 min. Turn the broccoli over with the cut-side facing up (the cut-side should be deeply caramelied by this point), and roast for another 8~9 until tender. Serve immediately with lots and lots of red chilli sambal romesco.