Broccoli might not be on everyone’s Thanksgiving table but with our lovely broccoli harvest last week, I decided it could be front and center at our celebration this year…I just had to figure out how to make that happen.
Essentially, my goal was to feature the best of broccoli under the worst of conditions. Not to knock Thanksgiving feasts, but much of what is prepared for this meal is presented in a ‘standby’ condition where it can tolerate an hour or more (usually more) of wait time before it is consumed . This is exacerbated by the fact that we often gather in large family groups in one home where the oven/s and stovetop capacity can be limited. So all the lovely roasted broccoli recipes were not viable options.
The foods on our Thanksgiving plates often represent a grand sampling of warm spoonfuls of casserole like foods. Although there is nothing wrong with having multiple items on one plate, one must admit that the flavors all begin to muddle as there is no real star of the meal but instead, a lot of ‘B team’ players jumping onto the field at once and competing for your palate. The fact that a river of gravy seems to be what ties all these flavors together is quite telling.
I didn’t want to subject our dear broccoli to this end so I thought long and hard as to how to make it more of a surprise, star player for the night. Forgive my assumption of success, but here is how I managed it!
After rummaging thru multitudes of recipes that feature broccoli, I found one that had all of the prerequisites I was looking for in the remarkable cookbook – Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. A friend of the farm, Carolyn Wolff, had given this book to us several years ago and we have cooked from it many times with success since it features ‘vibrant vegetable’ recipes. In it, I found a simple recipe for Broccoli and Gorgonzola pie which can be served hot or room temp and looked to be a perfect way to feature our broccoli.
I altered the recipe just a bit to suit my needs so I think I can share here what I did by giving credit to my inspiration and not feel as if I have violated the copyright. I started by cutting up and steaming our fresh broccoli. When the broccoli is really fresh, the stem pieces are just as tasty as the heads. This is about three pounds of blanched broccoli that was drained and cooled while I prepared the rest.
I needed to effectively double this recipe but I didn’t want two “pies” so I decided to make one really large one in a long, narrow, shallow dish that I happened to have in my cupboard. It is 20″ long and about 8″ at its widest so I adjusted the recipe as I went to suit these proportions. I used Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry since so many chefs seem to approve of this convenience. I joined two sheets to form the bottom crust by rolling them into one, making sure to secure the seam. I placed the crust carefully in the dish and then topped that with parchment paper and weights (dried beans in my case) to try to keep the pastry from ‘puffing’ too much. Yotam calls this “baking blind” which was a new term to me but I understand that the bottom of the crust needs taming while the sides can continue to puff out. Here is what my crust looked like after baking. I was a bit worried about the uneven edges but that didn’t seem to affect the end results at all. While this was cooking, I made the simplest of white sauces; I sauteed scallions from our fields (which I substituted for leeks that the recipe called for) in butter on the stove top until tender. I then added cream, water (yes, surprise, to me too!), Dijon mustard, and seasonings and stirred until thick, removing it quickly from the stove top so as not to compromise the cream.
After the bottom crust cooled, I poured the cream sauce into the bottom.
Then I added the broccoli and pressed it into the base sauce and generously sprinkled with Gorgonzola cheese.
The next part was a bit tricky…I rolled out two more sheets of puff pastry and joined them to span the top of the pie. The top crust is adhered to the bottom with beaten egg that is applied to the edges of the bottom crust before adding the top layer. Once the top crust was applied, I trimmed the edges, applied the remainder of the egg wash to the top crust and slashed it to allow for steam to escape.
Voila, my Broccoli Pie with Gorgonzola Cheese ala Seven Oaks Farm. It was a memorable Thanksgiving dish that received rave reviews. The unique presentation of broccoli held its ground in the tussle of flavors that normally vie for attention on the Thanksgiving table. We will consider bringing it to the feast again another year and encourage others to add broccoli to their Thanksgiving tables as well!