Refining Rocky Top Relais & Chateaux Roasted Broccoli Salad

Broccolini salad

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!


(adapted from Sam Beall’s The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm)

Pickled shallots:

  • 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.)

Candied pecans:

  • 1/2 c. pecans
  • 1/8 c. sugar
  • Salt
  • 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.

Salad assembly:

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.



  1. You’ve made a compelling argument – your methods definitely sound best!
    Nice looking retreat nevertheless and I’ve been to Tennessee a few times and would definitely visit again 😉

    • And a good description it is! At this point in the year, I’m mighty tired of broccoli (being about the only reliable vegetable one can buy at the grocery). Nevertheless, I keep craving this salad.

    • Thanks, Karen! It really is a yummy salad. You know, sepia covers up a world of bad (and the color versions of those photos really were terribly bad)! Blackberry Farm is a lovely place if you ever make it this way. We absolutely loved it, but, truthfully, I’m not sure we’ll go back. It is breathtakingly expensive and, at least when we visited, there was a supplement for most everything which was somewhat annoying.

  2. Quite divine, i have seen these candied pecans but I really don’t have a sweet tooth,but now I see that if they are in with a blend of different flavours they must be fab. I must try this and i am with greg.. why wait! c

  3. We had the pleasure of staying in a R et Ch establishment once – it was lovely. This salad, with your adjustments, sounds lovely, and as it happens I have a raft of pecans now, so… As a general observation, R et Ch. are nice places to visit, but I’d rather LIVE in Gourmandistan. Ken

    • You can come visit anytime. While we’d make terrible innkeepers (not terribly friendly in the morning and all), we’d make an exception for the Garum Factory folks! R&C places are reliably wonderful. Especially in foreign countries when burdened with jet lag. But one definitely pays for the privilege.

  4. That is a a fantastic sounding salad. Each time I’ve tried making a roasted broccoli salad it has been a green nightmare. I think I’m just going to look enviously at your pictures and imagine how good it would be to eat:)

  5. I have a supply of roasted broccolini (roasted unblanched, with oil–there is no other way) just waiting for this treatment for lunch. I look forward to buying your cookbook when I come to stay!

    • Aint it the truth? I don’t know what they were thinking on that one. Maybe 500° is hotter in a restaurant oven than in mine? I’ll remember that promise if I ever come out with one! And, of course, I’ll give you a discount. 🙂

  6. You had my attention with the roasting of the broccolini. It is such a wonderful way to prepare it — or broccoli for that matter. I’m sure the candied pecans would work wonderfully here, I just don’t trust myself to leave enough for the salad. I’d have to taste them .. again and again and again. I’ll just have to make a triple batch.

  7. I love roasted vegetables but would never blanch any of them (with the exceptions of peeled potatoes) first. How weird and unnecessary! Sometimes, you need to take these matters into your own hands.

    • I know. I don’t get it. Of course, one never knows who’s actually writing the cookbooks. So I don’t blame the chef. Anyways, it’s a wonderful recipe and I salute whomever came up with the combination, because it’s really a great one.

  8. Very handy guide on the key differences 🙂

    I adore roasted brassicas. They are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Especially the slightly charred caramlised bits. I wonder if chinese broccoli or gai lan can be prepared in the same way? It’s quite similar to broccolini.

  9. Wow, this looks amazing. What a great weekend you must have had. I went to a booksigning for Blackberry Farm (and I always allow myself the indulgence of a new cookbook if I can get it signed, after all) and it’s so lovely to look at. Thanks for spotlighting–I do need to explore my copy more.

    • Oh, do! I’m not one to make things over and over, but I have done so with this one. In fact, we had it for the umpteenth time last night. It’s a definite keeper.

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