What with the luxury accommodations, lovely scenery and lavish menus, it’s not hard to see why people may confuse Blackberry Farm and Gourmandistan. Here are a few key differences:
• While Blackberry Farm remains firmly fixed in the foothills of Eastern Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, Gourmandistan, when given the proper incentive, tends to wander about the globe.
• Relais & Chateaux property catalogs can be found at both places. But Blackberry Farm has them as a proud member of the association, while Gourmandistan merely collects them as part of Steve’s quest to stay in every R&C establishment on Earth.
• Along with Michelin-level cooking, you can find Roasted Broccoli Salad at both Gourmandistan and Blackberry Farm. However, Gourmandistan’s is better.
A number of years ago, we spent a cold but lovely winter weekend at Blackberry Farm.
And while we have memories of shiveringly enjoying S’mores by a bonfire and a cottage suite refrigerator stuffed with free Dove Bars, we don’t recall having broccoli salad. But we gave Michelle’s parents a weekend at Blackberry Farm as a 50th anniversary present, and they recently brought us The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm as a belated thank-you gift. As we were rooting out an oversupply of brassicas, Michelle leafed through the book and spied the recipe for Roasted Broccoli and Pickled Shallot Salad with Candied Pecans.
Deciding to do something with the coffee table tome besides use it as a memory trigger, Michelle followed Chef Sam Beall’s instructions and was less than satisfied. Blanching and drying the florets before roasting without any oil made them limp and mushy. Michelle ignored Beall’s somewhat fiddly way to candy pecans (involving boiling, then deep-frying) in favor of her own technique, because, really, how much better can you make a candied pecan?
A second round, this time roasting unblanched broccolini (we told you we had a lot of brassicas) with a bit of oil, created chewy green florets with deliciously charred end bits—a much better foil for the sharp pickled shallots and sweet pecans.
It made an absolutely delicious salad that we plan to make again and again.
Gourmandistan has no indication that it will join Blackberry Farm as part of the Relais & Chateaux association (unless we can arrange some sort of time share-swap with Château de la Chèvre d’Or, which Steve is more than eager to discuss with anyone who cares to listen). But we’re happy to help improve the organization any way we can—as well as perhaps your next overabundance of broccoli or broccolini!
ROASTED BROCCOLI (OR BROCCOLINI) SALAD WITH PICKLED SHALLOTS AND CANDIED PECANS
(adapted from Sam Beall’s The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm)
- 3 TB sherry vinegar
- 1/2 c. olive oil
- 1 TB sugar
- Salt & pepper
- 2 shallot bulbs
Whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Slice the shallots into very thin rings. Add to vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Roasted broccoli or broccolini:
- 6 c. bite-sized broccoli or broccolini florets and bits of tender stem
- 1 TB olive oil
Preheat oven to 500°.
Toss broccoli or broccolini with oil. Place on a baking sheet. Cook, tossing occasionally, until vegetables are cooked and slightly charred, about 10-12 minutes. (Broccoli may take slightly longer than broccolini.)
- 1/2 c. pecans
- 1/8 c. sugar
- Red pepper flakes
Place nuts in a small, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Toss to toast a bit. Add sugar. Let sugar melt, watching carefully and tossing nuts in it. Add salt and red pepper flakes. When sugar is caramelized and nuts are coated, place the candied nuts on a baking sheet to cool.
Place roasted vegetables in a bowl. Pour pickled shallots and their dressing over. Toss. Taste for seasoning. At serving time, top with chopped candied pecans.