Sunday, April 22, 2012

Papa's Broccoli Salad

Growing up, one of my favorite ways to eat broccoli was in my dad's broccoli salad. It's a creamy salad with broccoli, sunflower seeds, raisins and bacon. It's one of the first recipes I asked my dad for, when I started cooking for myself. The recipe he gave me is like most of his recipes. He tells you the ingredients and then says that you can add as much or as little of each of them as you like. So, this is the way that I like my broccoli salad, but feel free to modify it to your liking. (My dad, for instance, likes a lot more mayonnaise than I do, and I like more nuts and bacon.) The important thing to remember about any recipe is to make it the way that you and your family like to eat it.
   This recipe is requested often by my hubby, and I keep sunflower seeds around just for this recipe.

This is how I do it.

I cut one pound of bacon into small strips. (I think my dad only uses about 6 slices - 1/2 pound, but I love me some bacon.)

I put the bacon into a dry skillet, and the pieces apart while I cook it over medium to medium high heat.

While the bacon cooks, it's time to start on the star of the show - the broccoli.  You'll need 6 crowns.

I start by cutting off the very end, and throwing it away (or even better, you can compost it!).

Then I cut the stem end off in one large chunk. Don't throw this away! It's just as delicious as the florets, you just need to prepare it. Set it aside for later.

I break the florets into bite-sized (or two bite-sized) pieces.  I find it's easiest to cut the stem end of the floret, and then just pull apart the flower end - it makes less of a mess this way.

They don't all need to be the same size, but you want to be able to eat it with a fork and not make a huge mess.

After the florets are done, I turn my attention to the stem end. I place it right side up and break it down into roughly the same sized stalks. . . .

Like this.

Then I cut the stalks into 1/2 inch pieces.

I place them in a separate container than the florets, because they will need to cook a little longer. (When I was done with all the florets this 4 cup container was overflowing. That's a lot of broccoli. Aren't you glad you didn't throw it all away? Money saved!)

The bacon should be done by now. I like my bacon extra crispy, so that's the way I cooked it. You make it how you like it. I just drain them on a paper towel and set them aside for a little later.

I wash all the stems and florets, to make sure they are exceptionally clean . . .

and I blanch them (cook them quickly in boiling, salted water) for 30 seconds just until the color turns bright green.

I quickly take them out and put them into a bowl with paper towel in the bottom to catch any extra water. You could put them into an ice bath - a bowl of water with ice in it - but I find that the broccoli soaks up the dressing more when it's still a little warm.
 If I were to make the salad in advance - say I needed it for tomorrow or the day after - then I wouldn't even blanch the broccoli. I would just make it raw because the dressing will soften the broccoli a little as it sits. But I want the salad today, so I'm taking the time to blanch it.

The stems will need to sit in the boiling water for a little longer - say, one to two minutes total.

Then I dump all the blanched broccoli and stems into a clean colander, so that I can use the large mixing bowl to make the dressing it.

I put in some mayonnaise,

and some sugar.

Then I stir them together to start dissolving the sugar.

I add a handful of raisins,

some shelled, roasted and salted sunflower seeds (I keep these in the freezer with all my nuts, so they stay fresher longer.)

I add about twice as much sunflower seeds as raisins, but that's just the way I like it.

I half an onion, and then half it again, so that I have 1/4 of an onion.

Then I grate it on the small side of my box grater. You could just dice the onion fine, but I don't like the texture or flavor of raw onion and I find that grating it really helps. You get a nice onion flavor running through the whole dish without biting into a strong piece of onion by itself.

You'll end up with 1-2 Tbsp of grated onion and juice. (When it gets slippery and hard to hold STOP GRATING! You don't want to grate your fingers!)

Dump the onion and onion juice into the mixing bowl along with the cooked bacon.

Then just stir every body together,

and add the dry broccoli. - If the broccoli isn't dry enough the dressing won't stick well. Mine was a little too wet. Don't be like me, dry your broccoli better.

Make sure that it is mixed well and the just refrigerate for a couple hours. It's better if you make it in the morning for that evening, or the day before if you can plan that far ahead.

You can eat it on it's own, or serve it as a side to any number of dishes.

The bright sunlight makes it hard to see the creamy dressing, but it's there.
 Here's the recipe:

Papa's Broccoli Salad

6 small heads of broccoli
1 pound of bacon, cooked and chopped or crumbled
1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup of shelled, roasted and salted sunflower seeds
1/4 onion grated (about 1-2 Tbsp)

Cut the broccoli, florets and stems, into bite sized pieces and wash well. Blanch the florets in salted boiling water for 30 seconds and the stem pieces for 1 -2 minutes. Drain and dry well. (If you are making the salad a day or more in advance, you can skip blanching all together.) In a large mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, and sugar. Stir well. Add the raisins, sunflower seeds, onion and cooked bacon. Stir until combined and add the broccoli. Coat all the broccoli in the dressing and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

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