The other day, Abby came barging through the front door, shedding backpack and winter layers in big thwunks on the floor as she made her way to the kitchen, and asked what was for dinner.
“Some kind of chicken and and some kind of broccoli,” I told her.
“Oh mom, can it be the kind of broccoli that is super crispy, almost burnt and salty? I am so in the mood for that kind of broccoli.”
I love a girl who knows what she wants.
“Yes,” I told her. “It can absolutely be that kind of broccoli.”
It was the latest evidence to support my belief that broccoli is having a moment right now. After generations of being bullied by green-hating toddlers and 20th-century kale supremacists, broccoli seems to be grabbing back in big bold ways. There it was at a local haunt, wood-roasted, crisp-tender, swimming in buttermilk ranch, topped with deep-fried shallots; there it was bright and pureed on Nigella’s instagram outshining the perfectly pan-fried haddock resting on top of it; there it was again, yesterday, in the New York Times, being “butter-steamed” along with its cruciferous cousin cauliflower; and in Bon Appetit where it was given some serious hero treatment.
But I think maybe our favorite run-in with the New It Vegetable was down in Staunton, Virginia, where we were lucky enough to dine at Shenandoah gem Zynodoa after a day of hiking and road-tripping. The menu is packed with locally sourced specialties like Virginia-peanut Crusted Catfish and Country Ham and Poached Egg Pasta. But it didn’t take very long for us to zero in on the starter we wanted — Crispy Glazed Broccoli. Sweet and hot, crunchy and spicy, we loved it so much we made them give us the recipe so we could make it ourselves. I recommend you follow suit.
Crispy Glazed Broccoli with Sweet Chile Glaze & Crispy Ginger
This recipe was developed by Matt Hull, Sous Chef at Zynodoa, Staunton, VA. Zynodoa deep-fries the broccoli, which, of course, is never going to result in something that tastes bad, but we are not deep-fryers in our house (not because we have anything against it, but we just haven’t ever learned how to do it), so this recipe is reworked using our high-heat-blast method. The original also called for benne seeds, but we took Hull’s recommendation to replace with sesame seeds. We ate this with a basic baked chicken, but it would be wonderful with a simple roasted salmon, too.
2-3 small heads of broccoli, cut into halves or quarters
4 tablespoons hot sauce (something such as Frank’s or Texas Pete is suitable for home chefs)
2 tablespoons of local wildflower honey (sorghum molasses or agave nectar can also be substituted for vegan alternative)
1 tablespoon of light brown sugar, tightly packed
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
3-4 ounces of cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes (omit for vegan alternative)
1 large knob of ginger, julienned as small as possible
1/4 cup olive oil
Benne seeds, lightly toasted, to garnish (white sesame seeds will also work just fine)
Preheat oven to 450°F.
In a small sauce pot, combine hot sauce, honey, brown sugar, and salt and bring to a soft simmer until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove the pan from the heat and while the mixture is hot, whisk in the cold butter to thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper accordingly.
Once the glaze is ready, set aside to cool. Toss the broccoli in olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet. In the same bowl, toss ginger pieces in whatever oil remains, and place on one corner of the cookie sheet. Roast for 15 minutes. You’re looking for the outer edges of the broccoli to be browned and crispy. If the ginger is looking overly brown, i.e. burnt, cover with foil to avoid burning. I find you have a little more flexibility with the broccoli.
To finish, toss the crispy broccoli and ginger in about a tablespoon of the glaze. Sprinkle with benne seeds. Drizzle a little of the remaining sauce on the broccoli, if desired.