Two weeks ago, I invited friends over to let me cook them dinner. Hosting isn’t something I do very often (and, if we’re being honest, cooking isn’t either), but I dug through some of Bon Appétit‘s easier recipes, selected a few, and prayed that my guests would survive the night. Going into it, I thought the main dish, a Thai chicken and rice number, would be the centerpiece. It certainly took the most effort.
So I was surprised when everyone emailed me after the fact gushing about the salty and crispy roasted, charred broccoli and peanut side I served. “What was IN that?” “Link me?????!” “Peanuts should be in everything!!”
I mostly laughed to myself: It was the simplest dish I served, a total afterthought of a side I included on the menu just so I could feel good about being in the same room as a daily serving of vegetables. But my friends were completely right. What seemed at the outset like just another pile of meh broccoli was actually a showstopper, rocking a crispy, crunchy texture that made the vegetable seem more like chips. And that’s a very good quality for broccoli to have.
It starts with the way you chop it. Instead of cutting a whole broccoli so that it separates into giant (often discarded) tree trunks and tree top florets, the stems get chopped into small pieces too. Roughly chop the stem into smaller pieces (about ¼” thick) and cut the florets along the individual branches. These cuts make a difference, because when you crank the oven up to a scorching 450°, the pieces get crispy and charred on the outside but are tender on the inside after about 15 to 20 minutes. (Pro tip: I finished the last two minutes or so in the broiler to double the crispiness.)
Even though the recipe says to cook the florets and the stems separately (half in a skillet, half in the oven), I absolutely did not, because multitasking like that is harder than I needed on a Monday night. I did bust out the skillet to season the broccoli though. After you take all the crispy, charred broccoli out of the oven, drizzle 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar on top. Then, heat your skillet on medium-high, add your already-roasted broccoli along with unsalted, roasted peanuts and ½ tsp. sugar, cooking and stirring until the nuts are golden brown. Top with some thinly sliced scallions.
This next and last step I kept from my guests, until they asked what it was seasoned with: It has a few sprinkles of nutritional yeast. I was skeptical, but nutritional yeast is basically a shaker of Cheeto dust and makes me want to eat broccoli, so who am I to question it? If you don’t want to buy a whole container of nutritional yeast just to sample it, a few drizzles of soy sauce will deliver the salty/umami quality you’re looking for. Never thought I’d say it, but turns out this broccoli is the kind of side dish people actually write to my home about.
Speaking of showstoppers