In the culinary world, vegetables have always taken a back seat to meat. Not in Sean Brock's world. "People take vegetables for granted," says the food virtuoso behind McCrady's, the Charleston, S.C., farm-to-table, veggie-centric joint. "I can convert you into a vegetable fanatic."
But achieving that feat isn't as simple as just handing over a recipe card. "Each vegetable has a unique personality and voice," says Brock. And those individual nuances make veggies, compared to your average hunk of meat, harder to get just right. But when done correctly, he says, vegetables can yield incredibly richer rewards.
We recently asked Brock – who rocks a sleeve of tattoos that feature a farmer's market's variety of everything from carrots, to gourds, to tomatoes – for a few rules that can help turn anyone from a kitchen novice to a seasoned chef into a vegetable whisperer. Here's what he told us.
Treat 'em like meat.
Your uncle the hunter, who hasn't had a meatless day since '91, might cringe at the notion, but he should know that veggies can be an excellent stand-in for meat. Indeed, roasting big plants like cauliflower and broccoli as you would a whole turkey or big hunk of wild game renders undeniably awesome main courses. "You cut that thing into steaks when you're done, and it's just like an entree," says Brock.
Your move: Grab a large head of cauliflower or broccoli and screw a cookie cutter up into the stem so that you can stand the vegetable up the way that it grows. Prop the vegetable in a cast iron pan, and add about an inch of canola oil to the pan. Place the pan in an oven that's set to 350 degrees. When the oil is hot, intermittently baste the vegetable with a spoon as it roasts – the way you would a piece of meat. After about 30 minutes, take the vegetable out of the oven, and carve it into "steaks." Top them with browned butter and lemon juice.
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