Broccoli Stem and Floret Salad

A culinary student colleague, returning from an internship at Daniel told me the experience was generally crummy. One can only tolerate being called a jackass in French for so long. Most astonishing was the sheer waste: a celery stalk is reduced to a precisely measured pile of brunoise barely able to fill a demitasse spoon. A parsnip yields a few wispy threads destined to be dropped ever so delicately into the fryer and cooked to the color of the late afternoon sun.

A restaurant is medieval in structure, gentry in the front, serfs (slaves?) in the rear, which, as it happens, is chock full of period appropriate torture instruments: raging fire, boiling oil, and severe taskmasters. And the persistent fear of infiltration by a fierce power – the INS.

In another genuine touch, the cooks are fed scraps shaved from whatever feast is shipped to the paying diners. In an odd way, however, this phenomenon, the staff meal, should serve as a valuable modern day lesson to us all. Nothing is wasted; bits of veg and meats are turned into stocks and soups and stews and sandwiches and so on, most of which, due to lack of time, are pitifully flavored, but can be, in the leisurely environment of the home cook, turned into satisfying meals.

Nowadays, a chef is measured by his nose-to-tail skills; can he transform every last part of the pig into a delicious morsel. For some reason, especially at home, vegetables are not given the nose-to-tail respect; lop off the broccoli florets and chuck the stem; throw out that unused quarter of a fennel or half a shallot.

While it would be nice to read less about nose-to-tail and more about stem-to-stalk, the home chef should take a page from the restaurant kitchen and use up these bits and pieces. Stuff can be turned into pickles or relishes, chutneys, etc. And it’s a sin to dump something as worthy as a broccoli stalk, which is the moral of today’s post, the all-broccoli salad, or in chefy terms, broccoli two ways. A worthy recipe in the savvy, thrifty spirit of the modern galley workers.

(NOTE: 1. If you don’t have a mandoline, this is the time to buy one. 2. The amounts are purposely vague (you should know how you like your dressing), the only caveat being not to make it too thick and not to overdress. It’s a delicate salad, the last thing you need is soggy, heavy veg.)

Salad of Broccoli Stems and Florets

Serves 4

2 medium bunches broccoli
2 slices bacon
chives
buttermilk
sour cream
touch olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Have bowl of ice water nearby.
  2. Cut off florets into 1/2 –inch size. Using a paring knife, peel stem from end to end, removing tough exterior. Slice peeled stems into strips, ¼-inch thick and about 2 inches long, stack, then julienne. Alternatively, use a mandoline and make your life easier. Keep florets and stems separate.
  3. Blanch florets very briefly, no more than 30 seconds-they should still have bite. Repeat with julienned stem. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to ice water.
  4. Saute the bacon and crumble. Reserve on a paper towel
  5. In a small bowl, whisk buttermilk and sour cream to a dressing consistency (not too thick – SEE NOTE). Add a touch of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss and serve.

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