Why It Works
- Young, high-moisture Taleggio produces a smooth, creamy cheese sauce without the need for added emulsifiers.
- Making a gremolata out of broccoli stems and floret scraps turns food waste into a bright garnish.
- Cutting and searing broccoli in large steak-like pieces rather than smaller florets makes it easier to get even coloring without overcooking them.
Broccoli and cheese is a classic, cold-weather comfort food combination that can and should be endlessly adapted and reimagined. In this version, thick-cut pieces of broccoli are cooked like steaks—seared in a screaming-hot cast iron skillet—and then paired with a creamy, dead-easy Taleggio cheese sauce. All of this gets topped off with a no-waste gremolata made using leftover broccoli stems and floret scraps for a vegetarian main course that can satisfy chlorophyll-adverse meat-eaters as well.
- 8 ounces (225g) Taleggio cheese, rind removed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (see note)
- 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
- 2 heads broccoli (about 2 pounds; 900g)
- 1/3 cup (80ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup (15g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
- 1 small green jalapeño (about 1/2 ounce; 15g), stemmed, seeded, and finely minced
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) vegetable oil, plus more as needed
Place Taleggio in a large heat-proof liquid measuring cup or tall-sided bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a simmer over medium-high heat. Pour hot cream over the Taleggio, and immediately cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for 20 minutes; then use an immersion blender or blender to process cheese mixture into a very smooth purée with the consistency of nacho cheese sauce. (The sauce can be thinned to desired consistency with additional hot cream.) Cover and set aside until ready to serve. To reheat sauce, microwave on high heat, stopping and stirring every 15 seconds until it is loosened up and warmed through; be careful not to get it very hot, lest it break.
Using a sharp knife, separate broccoli crowns from stems, just below the point where the florets converge on the stem (this will hold the florets together); reserve stems. Slice crowns lengthwise into 3/4-inch-thick steaks, trimming them such that each piece has two flat sides; set aside. Roughly chop broccoli floret trimmings into small pieces; transfer to small mixing bowl. Trim away bottom ends and tough outer layer of broccoli stems and cut stems into fine dice (following steps 9-12 in this knife-skills guide). Add stems to bowl with chopped floret pieces.
Add olive oil, parsley, jalapeño, garlic, and lemon zest to bowl with stems and florets, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil over high heat until smoking. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, add broccoli steaks, season with salt, and cook, using a small cast iron skillet or weight to press down on broccoli for even charring. Cook until charred on first side, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn broccoli over, add remaining vegetable oil, and cook until broccoli is charred on second side and stem sections are just cooked through (poke them with the tip of a paring knife or cake tester to test for doneness; they should be firm but tender enough to be pierced without resistance), 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate or baking sheet, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining broccoli.
Warm a large serving plate or individual serving plates. Spread warmed Taleggio sauce in an even layer on the plate(s). Arrange broccoli steaks on top of cheese sauce, and then top with gremolata. Serve immediately.
Taleggio is a very soft cheese, and it is therefore easier to cut when well-chilled. Pop it in the freezer for 10 minutes before cutting to make it a snap.
Make-Ahead and Storage
While the finished dish is best enjoyed immediately, the Taleggio cheese sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. To reheat sauce, microwave on high heat, stopping and stirring every 15 seconds until it is loosened up and warmed through.