Photography by Joel Lerner
“With our vegetable-centric dishes, John and I like to take something that’s kind of humble and elevate it,” says Matt DuBois, chef de cuisine at Inovasi in Lake Bluff.
Along with John des Rosiers, the owner and executive chef, the pair turns casual favorites and simple ingredients into interesting and oftentimes eccentric dishes. That means tacking on a star (stars equal gluten-free dishes) and serving Broccoli 2 Ways.
“I really wanted to do something with broccoli as fall was turning into winter,” explains DuBois. The crispy braised broccoli hearts and roasted florettes in the dish came from experimenting with the recipe for traditional broccoli and cheese soup.
The difference with this dish is, well, everything. DuBois started by “cooking and then frying,” the stems, he notes, “because they’re still sort of crunchy, crispy on the outside — but still really nice and tender in the middle.”
DuBois serves the broccoli with fluffy potato croquettes, alpine cheese sauce (“basically the essence of cheese and nothing else”) and crispy garlic chips.
“It’s a nice cold weather dish,” says DuBois. “It has numerous fried elements but it’s not heavy in any way, which makes it nice.”
Broccoli Two Ways, Croquettes, and Cheese Sauce:
Total Time: 60 Minutes
2 large heads broccoli with full stems
2 cloves garlic
Oil for frying
2 Idaho potatoes
Heavy cream, approximately 2-3 ounces
50 grams chopped herbs
Rice flour, for dredging
150 grams alpine style cheese (gruyere or similar), grated
150 grams whole milk
8 grams sodium citrate
Hot water as needed
- Put on a large pot of well-salted water to boil. At the same time, cut the broccoli at the top of the stems where they begin to branch. Break or cut the florets into pieces — a little larger than bite size. Peel the outer layer off the stems using a peeler or paring knife and cut them in half, then cut them all to the same length, four pieces total.
- Prepare an ice bath. Once the water is boiling blanch the floret pieces for about one minute then transfer to the ice bath till chilled. They should be bright green, tender and not raw but still with a little crunch.
- Turn the water down to a simmer and blanch the stems until tender but still al dente. You can check doneness by inserting a paring knife or cake tester. Once tender, lay on a plate to cool or refresh in the ice bath.
- Peel, chop, and boil the potatoes until soft. Drain well, air dry for a minute then rice them and let cool. Once cool, season with herbs and salt to taste, mix in the cheese and cream. Shape into logs that would be the size of four good bites and dredge in rice flour.
- Bring a pot of oil to 275-300 degrees. Shave the garlic lengthwise on a mandolin slicer or cut as thin as possible. Fry the garlic in the oil until lightly golden brown and crispy; it will carry over so pull it just before it is perfectly golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season with fine sea salt. Keep the oil handy to finish the dish.
- Bring the milk to a boil and pour it into a blender. Turn the blender up to high and add the sodium citrate. Slowly add the cheese in bunches until it is all incorporated, scraping the sides of the blender if needed. If the sauce seems to thick, add a little hot water. It will thicken some as it cools. Pour into a container or squeeze bottle and keep in a warm spot, if it cools down too much you can reheat it in a water bath.
- Fry the croquettes until golden brown and crispy, season with salt and reserve on a paper towel. Fry the broccoli stems until blistered and crunchy on the outside, season and drain on paper towel. Reheat the florets and season. Spread some of the cheese sauce on four warm plates. Put one croquette and one piece of stem on each plate. Arrange the florets around the stems and spoon or drizzle cheese sauce over everything. Place garlic chips on top so you will get a little bit on every bite.