Broccoli, cooked forever -- it sounds pretty terrible, doesn't it? You're having a bad cafeteria flashback right now, aren't you? Stay with me.
We've all been groomed to expect not a shade past crisp-tender. Steam it to the point that even one tendril turns yellow, or it starts to emit that creeping sulfurous-funk smell -- and we think we've ruined the whole pot.
And to a degree, we're right. Broccoli overcooked carelessly tastes stale and murky. It brings us back to what now seems a less enlightened time, when people were afraid of their vegetables acting like themselves.
But when you push beyond that disappointing just-too-done state (and throw in a whole lot of olive oil bubbling lazily with garlic, anchovy, and hot peppers) you find yourself with a miraculous substance.
For sharing this rather heretical technique, we can all thank FOOD52er cookbookchick, who discovered it in Tasty, the 2007 James Beard Award-winning cookbook by Roy Finamore.
Finamore is an accomplished cookbook editor who in recent years began writing (very good, very funny) cookbooks himself. This recipe is a spinoff of one he learned from Nancy Silverton -- you remember Nancy.
Here's what "forever" really means: You boil your trimmed stems and florets for five minutes, then drain and slip them into their olive oil bath, covered, for two whole hours. Surely some of the vitamins are cooked right out of it, but if you're worried about that, go eat a kale salad instead.
"The blanching is to send the broccoli on its way to foreverland, softening it just a bit so it starts absorbing the flavors in the oil," Finamore explained in an email. "It also ensures that the broccoli doesn’t fry and get crisp at the beginning, when the oil is at its hottest."
I want to call the result broccoli butter, but it's more appropriately broccoli confit. The florets trap all the oil's richness, and the stems melt away without provocation.
It would be fitting spooned up onto some sturdy bread, blanketing a good ridged pasta, layered onto a pizza, or anointing a sandwich (you better believe it made its way into #amandaskidslunch).
Best of all: No sulfur smell, just the scent of lovely confiting garlic and friends. Broccoli cooked forever is starting to sound downright romantic, isn't it?
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom
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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."