Thursday, January 19, 2012

Broccoli Chips

In the middle of finishing up a couple of twice-baked potatoes a couple of weeks ago, I offered up a little bowl of these "chips" to nibble until dinner was ready. I had cut the tops off a couple of stalks of broccoli and was roasting the florets to crown our potatoes when I felt a slight pang of guilt in tossing the large stems in the trash, as is often done.

On most occasions I happen to like a bit of stem tossed in with the more popular floret caps of broccoli, but not on this. Rather than discard them entirely I figured I'd slice them into thin disks with the help of a mandoline and toss them lightly with some good olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper before popping them into the oven to roast. If they tasted horrible, I'd throw them out with nary a blink of the eye. And if they tasted good, they'd be an unplanned, before-dinner snack.

While I abstain from eating potato chips, except on rare occasions, I happen to love them and am always interested when something is written up as being a great alternative. Kale chips, for example, got a lot of press there for a while. I tried those. I love kale. The chips? Not so much. These little broccoli chips, however, are different. I have to say that this is the absolute closest I've come to thinking I could eat these in the place of potato chips and truly not be totally forlorn at the substitution. 

This particular revelation would be something that I'd text or email to our girls rather than post here, given that it's not much of a recipe. However, in the midst of reading Grant Achatz' book, life, on the line -- completely enthralled with his story, his professional determination, his personal strength, his playful and nostalgic inspirations, and his steadfast commitment to an ideal -- I got to page 230 and changed my mind. Here, Achatz' business partner and co-author, Nick Kokonas, recounts some of Achatz' newest creations in an update written to their investors, and is obviously impressed with his chef's ability to coerce meaningful and profound flavors from unique... and sometimes unlikely... ingredients. Broccoli stems, Kokonas relates, are often tossed aside, thought of as the "offal" of the vegetable world, and yet Achatz has chosen to feature them in a stunning Poached Broccoli Stem plating. I had to laugh thinking back to these chips. I love the idea of putting to use bits of things that you wouldn't normally think appealing. I can only imagine the wondrous flavor of Achatz' broccoli stem creation if a simple little roast of what commonly lands in the compost heap can produce a nibble as tasty as this.

Broccoli Chips 
makes about 1 cup "chips"
Depending on the size of your sheet pan, you may have to roast slices in batches. Also... lightly salting slices and allowing them to sit for 20 minutes, before throughly rinsing and drying them, might produce a slightly crisper consistency. I don't mind the fact that the chips aren't super crispy. Their flavor more than makes up for this. And, don't be concerned if some chips char up a bit. They are the best!

2 generous stems broccoli, coarsely peeled (just trim up a bit)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Thinly slice broccoli stems, using a mandoline if available. Lightly toss slices with olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange slices in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for approximately 10 minutes, until lightly golden-tinged at edges. 

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