The Accidental Broccoli

We have no one to blame but ourselves, but Tuesday nights are hell. I’ll spare you the numbing logistical details, but all that’s relevant here is that a few times a month, by the time I pull into the driveway with the girls in the backseat, it’s almost 8:30 at night. We stagger through the door, shedding soccer bags, shin guards and rancid socks, the girls head upstairs to shower… and we start dinner. It’s late on a school night, and everyone is starving. The goal here, to be clear, is not a Michelin star. The goal is to get something on the table in 25 minutes, and then get the kids to bed. This means a no-fuss main (say, sweet Italian chicken sausage fried with some roughly sliced onions), a starch that will satisfy the hunger of a post-soccer-practicing hyena tween (bread fried in olive oil, or some quick potatoes), and a vegetable that does not require any washing, chopping, peeling, mandolin-ing, or de-stemming. One recent Tuesday night, I went with broccoli. I tossed it in the baking dish with a bunch of olive oil, salt, and pepper, cranked the oven to 450, and threw it in.

Fifteen minutes later, Abby came downstairs. She’s always the first to come down, dressed in her white nightgown with the little green flowers on it, running a brush through her still-wet hair. She walked into the kitchen, and stopped. She crinkled up her nose.

“What’s that smell?” she said.

“Really, Abby? Is that a nice thing to say to the person who’s making your dinner?”

“No,” she said. “I think something’s burning.”

Oh, right. The broccoli. The broccoli was burning! I opened the oven door to find a baking dish filled with a tangle of smoldering black twigs, what looked to be evidence from a forest fire investigation. But it was late, and we were hungry, so sucked it up and we went to town on that burned broccoli. I don’t know what it says about our vegetable-preparing skills in general, but something happened that night that has never happened before in all the dinners we have eaten together as a family over the last ten years: The kids went nuts over broccoli. It’s not like they are broccoli haters. They’ve always eaten it without complaint, but it’s not like they go out of their way to eat it. This was different. This was crispy and salty and way more flavorful and intense than the soggy, steamed stuff they were used to, the stuff Abby would unapologetically DIP IN KETCHUP before placing in her mouth.

I wish we could say we meant to do it. — Andy

Accidental Broccoli 

1 bunch broccoli (about 4 cups), cut into small florets. (the smaller the florets, the crispier the experience)
1/4 cup olive oil, maybe a little more
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F. In a baking dish, toss the broccoli with olive oil and salt. The goal is for every little mini broccoli bud to be glistening but not drenched, so monitor the oil drizzling process carefully. Roast for 15 minutes, tossing if you think to, until broccoli is slightly sizzling and the tips are browned, but not black. (It can be a fine line between crispy and charred to the core.) It would definitely not be the worst thing to toss with a drop or two of Sriracha, or the dressing from David Chang’s famous brussels sprouts recipe*, but you’ll see, each broccoli stalk is like a little piece of salty popcorn. They’ll be gone before you can do any dressing up at all.

*other suggestions from Facebook commenters that sound reaaaally good: finish with a squeeze of lemon or grated Parmesan; toss in a little sugar before roasting for extra caramelizing. (Thanks Andrea, Krista Anne, Johanna)

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54 Comments

Awads

this is exactly how i prepare broccoli in the winter when i already have my oven hot….high heat, add some slivered garlic and a few shakes of red pepper flakes. we all go nuts for it, including my 7 year old boy!

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Jmbh

We always cook it like this. It’s particularly delicious when coated in Taste of Thai’s Spicy Peanut Bake and a little olive oil.

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scout

my picky eater kids, 4 and 2, actually fight — FIGHT — over who gets the last of the broccoli. We prepare it this way as well! One night my son passed up on a cookie in favor of a few more roasted sprouts. weird.

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Jen

We do the same with cauliflower; pop it in the oven first and add the broccoli after ten minutes. Serve with couscous and yesterday’s leftover grilled meat for a quick dinner!

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Katie

I really don’t like broccoli. Never had. That was until I roasted it. It’s a totally different vegetable roasted!!!! So good.

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Alli

America’s Test Kitchen has a broccoli recipe like this with a little bit of sugar to help the broccoli caramelize. OMG. It barely makes it onto our plates – my husband and I just eat it off the pan! I also may or may not have set off the smoke alarm one time, though…

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Katie

Yes! Roasted Broccoli was a game-changer for me. Try it with a big sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a squirt of lemon!

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Kat Chavez

My oldest hates it this way, along with the hubs but my and youngest two and me…well lets just say I don’t usually cater to what people like but I always make broccoli two ways. When we do stir fry I use sesame oil and sesame seeds with nutritional yeast. DELISH!!!

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Jen

This is my absolute favorite way to eat broccoli, and I always save the smallest, burniest pieces for last. It’s also good with a little squeeze of lemon and some grated parmesan on top. But it sure does make the house smell like broccoli, and not in a good way.

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Trish

We do this with cauliflower as well. It’s the only way I can get my gang to eat broccoli or cauliflower without masses of cheese sauce. YUM.

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Jan @ Family Bites

This is how we love it too. Even the one who can only eat the “tops of the broccoli” because the stems are “too gross.” I wish this had been served to me when I was growing up.

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Emilie

I recently discovered that if I put all of the stir fry ingredients into the roasting pan and spread it out enough and add the sauce at the beginning and at the end then I can have a perfectly crispy way more flavorful stirfry without standing at the stove. I’ve even added the rice noodles for the last minute in the oven. This crispy broccolli is a key ingredient in the usual melange. All can be prepped in the morning or night before then walk into kitchen, toss into pan, walk away and do something else, and dinner is done!

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Nicole

Funny – I am eating this right now as I checked on some of my blogs! And I often cook dinner the night before for the next night and just reheat for your Tuesday-type of nights. Faster and people are happier (including me post-work/sports crazy)- and really, grilled sausages reheat wonderfully!

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Susan

Yup. I’ve learned broccoli really does taste better when you burn it a little bit. I am in the habit of scorching it in a cast iron skillet, then adding some garlic, kosher salt and a little water, then turning off the heat and putting a lid on to let it steam for a few minutes. My kids don’t like it (sigh) but my husband and I love it!

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Libby

Oh yes, we call this one “blasted broccoli” and finish it with a drizzle of balsamic at the very end. So satisfying!

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Lori

Just had a variation of this tonight– with shrimp (Melissa’s one-baking- sheet recipe, sort of—changed up the spices to use what I had). It was incredible! It’s inspiring to me to read of your family meals; what great habits you are cultivating and great memories creating!

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Beth B

Don’t forget the stems. Slice them up or cut into matchstick-like pieces. They’re my favorite parts.

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Bea

My 7 year old will only eat broccoli when it is boiled for exactly three minutes, resulting in what she calls “dry tops”. She absolutely refused to eat the roasted broccoli last night because it was burned but that was fine with me simply because there was more for me and my husband. Delicious!

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Cora

This is the way my kids eat broccoli or cauliflower too. They refuse to eat it any other way, which is fine by me!

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Heather

LOL! This is the only way my kids like broccoli. Also throw in a handful of peeled garlic. Don’t even cut it. Everyone in our house loves roasted broccoli with garlic. Yum! Califlower is also really good like this too!

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Barb

Also good on the grill, if a bit trickier (I don’t always get it right but this is what I try): steam or boil LARGE stalks of broccoli for a very short time, let cool just so you can handle them and slice them in half lengthwise (to maximize contact with the grill)– olive oil and salt them, and grill over medium high and just blackened (I switch to the cooler side of the grill if they seem too crunchy, have even microwaved to finish, since the key is the blackened bit). I will take these to work the next day too; microwaved and finished with a few curls of fresh parm or a drizzle of balsamic.

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Erin Waite

My daughter and I fell totally for this style of broccoli and have come home from some overly-long outing and burnt/roasted broccoli as a snack, instead of reaching for the potato chips. She makes it after school for herself or friends often. So glad others have discovered this as well!

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Katie M.

We fry it up, usually, thank you for the tip to bake them instead. Hey another flavor/texture to add would be PINE NUTS. They add a whole new flavor and texture to the broccoli, we do have kids too and they always ask for seconds!

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Lauren

OMG! My 8 year old only likes broccoli when it is burned and salty like that! I like broccoli lots of ways, but I will confess I like the crispy bits best.

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Lane Hinson

This is how we eat all of our broccoli, but it also works amazingly well for cauliflower, asparagus, carrots, even squash. The broccoli and cauliflower also make a fantastic soup if you toss them in a pot with chicken stock, a cubed potato, and then thicken it with a little bit of milk before pureeing the whole thing.

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Rosie

I find that most ‘strongly flavored’ veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower or brussels taste better if they are on the edge of burnt. And a sprinkling of parmesan never hurts either.

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Hillary

I’ve been roasting broccoli like this for about a year now. I drizzle olive oil then sprinkle a little garlic salt or garlic powder. It’s pretty fab. Might try adding parm reg next time

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Starr

This is how we make our broccoli, and the kids love it! Same goes for roasted brussels sprouts–my kids especially like the brown “chips” that flake off.

On a side note, I got your Dinner: A Love Story from the library based on your work on Motherlode, and liked it so much, I bought it! I can’t wait to try some of the recipes because I need some tried and true simples meals–I tend to go a little overboard too often…

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Nancy

My girls, like yours not huge broccoli fans but really put away the roasted broccoli – I also add roasted pumpkin seeds and shredded Romano and put it on top of brown rice. I can’t take credit, it is Martha Stewart’s recipe.

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Pam M

We did the same thing with asparagus! It came out crispy on the outside and melty on the inside. We’ve “burned” it ever since.

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Mary

I used to always steam broccoli and melt a little cheddar cheese on top, because it was the only way my boys would eat it. Then my oldest started complaining about broccoli every time we had it. He said it was mushy. So I tried roasting instead. He declared it “the only way you should ever cook broccoli again!!” and proceeded to clean his plate.

So thanks!

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Lorri

We eat almost all of our vegetables this way- broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc. In a large baggie we toss together salt, pepper, garlic powder, parmesan, olive oil, truffle oil, and a little water. Add your vegi of choice and mash it all together. Pour it on a baking sheet and roast! Even better with a convection oven!!

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Margit Van Schaick

I’d be somewhat concerned about the 450 degree heat with olive oil–couln’t roasting at 380 degrees work just as well? I’m going to try that, to see. My understanding is that you need to be careful about heat, depending on the type of oil used.

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--

Forget broccoli, cauliflower etc, kale made this way is absolutely the best. I eat it with yogurt dip. (And adding garlic for roasting.)

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Patti

Love this. We have “accidentally” stumbled upon this gem too. #newslettergiveaway

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Lisa Hathaway

This is one of our new favorite side dishes. I think I’m going to add it to the menu tonight … since I just now started thinking about dinner and it’s 5:07.

#newslettergiveaway

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Mandy

Making this tonight with a side of peanut sauce to get my toddlers to eat it. #newslettergiveaway

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Amy K.

I love serendipitous treasures like this! I will try this on my kids and hopefully they will love it, too (two out of three are not broccoli fans). We are very familiar with those crazy soccer nights, ugh — I usually resort to pasta because it’s fast, and I’m SICK of pasta… your suggestions sound much better, thank you! #newslettergiveaway

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Bianca

This is my favorite way to make broccoli (and most other veggies)! Unfortunately, my toddler’s favorite vegetable is frozen peas, still frozen, which makes me feel like a terrible mother. I’m hoping crunchy roasted broccoli can take over the #1 spot on his dinner plate. #newslettergiveaway

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Julie

Made this broccoli tonight at the same time I roasted baked potatoes. Couldn’t stop nibbling on it when it came out of the oven. Due to the potatoes I baked a little under suggested temperature (425F) which resulted in not-so-crispy so I looking forward to trying again at a little higher temp. So easy and quick! Great for weeknight dinner.

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Alina

I made mine stir fried with Himalayan salt and pepper they burned a little like yours but was so tasty, crunchy and lil burned. I tossed some balsamic glasa in the last 10 secs and it was so good. But my partner never wants to try anything that looks like little trees (=cauliflower and broccoli) -.-

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