Saveur (January/February 2011)
There's a noticeable trend right now of certain high-end chefs incorporating low-brow snack foods into their dishes. Call it a locavore backlash, or maybe just nostalgia for childhood treats. But there's definitely a streak of restaurants across the country where you're likely to see local meats and farm-sourced vegetables spiced up by things like Tang and Pop-Rocks.
Some of it, honestly, comes off as goofy stunt-food. But we were stopped in our tracks by this dish of Broccoli with Cheetos.
There's no way it could taste good, right? No. Or could it? It couldn't!
This recipe is from Craig Koketsu, the chef at New York City restaurant Park Avenue Winter. We've actually eaten there, and it's great! (And a very cool concept: The entire restaurant -- menu, chairs, lighting, decor -- changes with every season. So when it's Park Avenue Spring, it's a totally different place.)
As intrigued as we were about this dish, it was a little bit of a hard sell for us initially. See, we're some of those weird people who actually love broccoli. As in, we eat it all the time, and we'd never think of dousing it in a cheese sauce. We typically just either steam it or coat it in a little olive oil and roast it.
But we just had to try this spin on broccoli. The cheese sauce is super simple: Heat up cream with a few aromatics, stir in the cheese, and that's it. Parboiling the broccoli and then dunking it in cold water keeps it firm, fresh and beautifully green, even after you sauté it in oil.
It's all pretty traditional until the very last step: Top with a generous sprinkling of Cheetos. So crazy! There's no way this could taste good!
We took a bite.
Um, it's delicious. Like, really, really good.
The cheese sauce is great -- smooth and creamy with a mild sharpness. And the Cheetos actually add a terrific crunchy texture and an almost great cheese taste. (We can't believe we just typed that sentence.)
Look, are we gonna start sprinkling Cheetos on all our vegetables? Not likely. But if you want a fun side dish that's relatively easy and sure to turn heads, this is terrific!
Now, excuse us while we go make some Doritos Fried Chicken.
Hang on, that actually sounds delicious...
(This photo: Saveur)
2 cups heavy cream
3 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. minced shallots
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups grated aged Gouda
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt, to taste
1 1/4 lbs. (about 2 large heads) broccoli, cut into small florets, stems cut crosswise into 1/4″ slices
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
2 cups original Cheetos, crushed by hand
Make the cheese sauce: Heat cream, 2 tbsp. garlic, shallots, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in cheeses until melted, and season with salt. Set a fine strainer over a small saucepan and strain sauce, discarding solids. Set aside and keep warm.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add broccoli and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain broccoli, transfer to a bowl of ice water, and let chill. Drain and transfer to paper towels to dry; set aside. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic and chile flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add broccoli and cook, stirring often, until just subtly browned, about 6 minutes.
To serve, spoon cheese sauce evenly among 6 warm serving bowls or small plates. Top sauce with broccoli and a generous sprinkling of Cheetos. Serve immediately.