Tue Feb 23, 2016
Last month, a series of unfortunate events prevented me from celebrating my birthday over three consecutive weekends. One of the things I was looking forward to the most was a dinner at a local tapas joint, so when the time finally came dine there after numerous reservation changes, I was extra eager to make the best of that meal.
Upon sitting down, the waitress recommend the special broccoli dish, which seemed like a bit of a gamble as it was large format, meaning it would take the place of two or three normal tapas-sized items. I went for it though, and while the flavors the broccoli was dressed with were excellent, the vegetable itself was less than ideal. Their fault in my eyes—they boiled the broccoli.
As I was eating that soft broccoli, I couldn't help but wonder why they would choose to boil instead of roast it, robbing the green vegetable of a lot of its great natural flavor. Exiting that dinner with just the slightest pang of disappointment—everything else we ordered was on point—I was left with a desire to make broccoli the way I think it should be, slow roasted until crisp-tender, rendering it as tasty as it can be.
After getting the idea to grill broccoli in my head, my mind swirled with possibilities of how to season and serve it. There were so many variations that it was hard to settle on just one, so I decided to take a step back and start with just simplest incarnations of roast broccoli.
In the oven, I tend to roast broccoli in floret form, but that's not well suited for the grill, where small pieces are liable to slip through the grates. So I went with a "steak" preparation, as I've done with cauliflower in the past. The bunch of broccoli I picked up was made up of three heads on the smaller size, so I opted to leave each whole, but if they were larger, I would have either halved or quartered them, depending on their size.
Although I didn't need to cut these heads into smaller chunks, I did lob off the harder ends of each stalk and then used a vegetable peeler to trim down the tougher, outer areas of stalk so the entire thing would be edible in the end.
When I said I wanted to do a simple preparation, I meant it. I originally only tossed my broccoli with oil, salt, and pepper at first, but decided to throw in some red pepper flakes as well because I particularly enjoy the small bits of heat they add, but they're totally not a necessity.
Once I had my broccoli prepped, I set-up a two-zone indirect fire, where all the coals were situated on one side of the charcoal grate. I then arranged each piece of broccoli on the cooking grates with the thick stalk end facing towards the fire, and the floret end facing away. Since the stalks take longer to cook, I was hoping this arrangement would allow them to cook fully without fear of charring the florets to death.
I let the broccoli roast for 20 minutes over high heat, at which point the thick stalks seemed crisp-tender, and the florets had picked up decent crispness in areas—I love a little crunch on the florets of my broccoli.
After plating, I realized I probably should have halved these babies—they didn't seem too big on their own, but were comically large when set next to the steak and potatoes I enjoyed them with. While I thought I had gotten the perfect doneness on my broccoli, I should have let it roast probably 5-10 minutes longer as they veered more towards crisp than tender. Still, it was the flavor I was after, and that was spot on.
Unlike those drab and flimsy stalks of boiled broccoli I experienced a couple weeks prior, these had an intensified broccoli flavor and even slight bits of sweetness where there was light caramelization. They didn't need to be gussied up with extra seasonings—salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes were all that was required for them to be delicious. That being said, I now have a good handful of broccoli ideas in my head I need to get out, plus I want to rectify my cooking error, so expect to see more and even better broccoli creations coming soon!
Simple Grilled Broccoli
- Prep Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 30 Minutes
- 4 servings
- 1lb broccoli
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Cut smaller heads of broccoli into 2 large steaks, larger heads into 4. Using a vegetable peeler, trim tougher outer layer off bottom of stalks. Place broccoli in a large bowl and toss with oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper until thoroughly coated and evenly seasoned.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place broccoli on cool side of grill with stalk ends facing the fire. Cover and roast until thickest parts of broccoli are crisp-tender and florets crisp around the edges, 20-30 minutes. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.