Just because they cook for a living doesn’t mean the city’s talented chefs are immune to temperamental taste buds. We challenged a few to lean into their least favorite ingredients and create original recipes that left our mouths watering—and that even they find (relatively) easy to swallow.
Chef Nick Dixon of Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant has loathed broccoli rabe ever since he first tried it in culinary school, where he recoiled at what he describes as a medicinal bitterness. He’s not shy about his feelings on the subject. “People know how adamant I am about not putting that on the menu,” he says, and that includes no fewer than three chefs de cuisine who have made valiant attempts to serve it at the South Boston eatery. Here, Dixon’s own kung pao treatment sees the star ingredient charred and mixed with a sweet chili sauce, honey roasted peanuts and Szechuan peppercorns, plus the “intense” flavors of soy sauce and sesame oil. “The sweet, the salty, the spiciness—it all kind of melds together to mask that bitter taste,” Dixon says. But don’t expect a change of heart. “It still does taste like Advil,” he says. “No matter what.”
2 bunches broccoli rabe
Sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for brushing the rabe
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
2 tablespoons sambal oelek
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups Mae Ploy chili sauce
1 cup peanuts
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of Szechuan peppercorns, ground
- · Boil a medium pot three-quarters full of salted water. (Water should be salty like the sea.) Have a bowl of ice water ready. Drop the broccoli rabe in the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove it with tongs or a strainer and place it into the ice water to cool. Remove and pat dry with a paper towel. Set the broccoli rabe aside on a towel.
- · In a small saucepot, sauté the sesame oil, ginger and garlic for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Add the sugar and vinegar and simmer for 2 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Add the soy sauce, sambal and lemon juice, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the Mae Ploy chili sauce and bring to a boil.
- · In a 375-degree oven, roast the peanuts for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Place the hot peanuts in a bowl and drizzle with honey. Add in the confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of sea salt. After the peanuts cool, grind them in a food processor.
- · On a hot grill, brush the broccoli rabe with sesame oil and lightly season with salt. Place the broccoli rabe on a hot spot on the grill and char for about 3 minutes on one side. Flip and char for 1 minute. Place the broccoli rabe in a medium bowl and toss with a few spoonfuls of sauce. Place the broccoli rabe onto a plate and garnish with honey-roasted peanuts and Szechuan peppercorns.