There's been a lot to celebrate around here lately. I don't know if you heard, but... I'm going to be The Greatest Aunt Ever™ come August. As if that wasn't enough, two great friends got hitched in a sweet and personal ceremony (officiated beautifully by another dear, wise friend) and we danced barefoot in the barn until last call, then returned back to the hotel and caught up with old friends til the early hours of the morning. We traveled to Brooklyn for a long weekend full of amazing food, romps with old friends (and new!), we ate all the pastrami (and much of the corned beef) and my cousin married the love of his life on their ten-year anniversary in a truly lavish and gorgeous wedding.
And then, just upon returning home from New York, my favorite person turned 28. If you can believe it, there's even more excitement coming to us this year (three more weddings, Palm Springs, Vegas, San Francisco, oh my!) so we're keeping birthdays pretty low key. We headed just down the street to Odd Duck for a late, lingering dinner. If you're headed to Milwaukee, Odd Duck is not to be missed (and not to be attempted without a reservation, fyi). Creative small plates, inventive cocktails and stellar, friendly servers. One of the many plates we ordered was so simple but totally luscious: broccoli rabe with cheese sauce and crispy fried shallots. I immediately scrawled down notes (on the back of an old paycheck laying in the bottom of my purse) so I could recreate it at home. Now if only I could figure out those friend green tomatoes...
Happy birthday, Jus. I love the shit out of you.
Broccoli Rabe with Cheese Sauce & Crispy Shallots
2 bunches broccoli rabe 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided 1 ½ cups milk ½ pound cheddar cheese, shredded 2 tablespoons parmesan or pecorino cheese, shredded 1 small shallot, sliced thinly olive oil salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and have a large bowl of ice water standing nearby. Cut the thicker stems off the broccoli and separate them from the fluffier, flowering ends. When the water is boiling, drop the stems into the pot to blanch for 1-2 minutes, then add the flowery heads of the broccoli in for 1-2 minutes more. Using tongs, pull the broccoli from the boiling water and immediately drop it into the ice water to shock it. Once cool, drain the broccoli and set aside. Note: this whole step could be done ahead of time, if needed.
In a small bowl, toss the shallots with 1 tablespoon of flour to evenly coat. Heat a small sauté pan over medium-high heat, then add olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan by about a quarter inch. Shake off the excess flour and add the shallots to the oil, frying until golden brown. Remove the shallots and drain on paper towels, set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat then add 1 tablespoon of flour and cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Pour the milk in, whisking like mad to avoid lumps, and continue to stir until the mixture thickens—about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheddar until it melts completely into the sauce, then add the parmesan or pecorino. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Turn the heat to low just to keep warm until broccoli is heated through.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil, swirl to coat the pan, then add the broccoli (stems and tops). Sauté until heated through and crispy about the edges—3 to 5 minutes.
Top broccoli with cheese sauce, sprinkle with crispy shallots and serve.