These crispy, cheesy, caramelized florets of broccoli and cauliflower are a wonderful meal time vegetable. But they’re so tempting, easy to pick up and pop in your mouth, that they would make a hard-to-resist impromptu hors d’oeuvre before dinner begins.
You can prepare either broccoli or cauliflower alone with this recipe, though a combination is especially colorful. The florets are partly cooked by my Covered Skillet method, then tossed with grated cheese and bread crumbs and baked until golden. The cauliflower and broccoli cook at different rates in the skillet, as detailed in the recipe. If you’re preparing just one kind of florets, just adjust your timing.
- 1 pound broccoli
- 1 pound cauliflower
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons sliced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon peperoncino (hot red pepper flakes)
- For the Gratinate:
- 2 tablespoons soft butter, for the baking sheet
- 2/3 cup plus a few tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
- 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
- Lemon slices, for serving
PREPPING AND SKILLET COOKING:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees. Snap or slice off the big clusters of broccoli and cauliflower florets from the stems. Trim the stalks of the broccoli pieces but don’t separate the tiny florets. Slice the cauliflower clusters in half or quarters so that they’re roughly equal in size to the broccoli pieces. You’ll need only the floret pieces for this dish so save all the good stalk and stem pieces for soup or another dish.
Set the skillet over medium-high heat, pour in the oil and scatter the garlic. Let them cook, tossing them in the pan once or twice, until they just begin to color, 3 to 4 minutes.
Drop in the cauliflower pieces and sprinkle on 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the peperoncino. Cover the skillet, give it good shake to roll the florets around, and cook for about 5 minutes, on medium heat, shaking the pan again once or twice.
Uncover and add the broccoli florets, sprinkle another 1/4 teaspoon salt on top, and pour in the water.Cover and cook another 4 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan now and again, until the broccoli’s started sizzling and softening too. Remove the pan from the heat and scrape all the florets into a large mixing bowl, with all of the oil and garlic.
ASSEMBLING AND BAKING THE GRATINATE:
Let the florets cool for a few minutes while you coat the baking sheet with the butter. Mix the 2/3 cup of grated cheese and the bread crumbs together.
Pour about half the crumbs on top of the florets and toss all together. Pour over the rest of the crumbs and toss again, until the florets are well coated and the crumbs are moistened.
Lay the florets on the baking sheet, in one layer with space between them, so all surfaces will crisp and caramelize in the oven. Scrape up any crumbs in the bowl and sprinkle them on the vegetables. Finally, sprinkle extra cheese lightly all over the florets, using another 2 or 3 tablespoons, if you love cheese (as much as I do).
Put the sheet into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, rotate the pan back to front for even browning and cook 10 minutes more. The florets should be crispy and nicely colored but may need a few more minutes for deep color. If they’re still not dark enough after 5 minutes, raise the oven heat or move the sheet to a higher rack and bake a bit longer.
Let the vegetables cool on the sheet briefly then arrange them on a serving platter. Scrape up the crispy bits of crumbs and cheese and crumble them over the florets.
Serve warm or room temperature, with sliced lemon. Eat them by squeezing a few drops onto a floret and pop it in your mouth!