When I first met Chef Christopher Kostow at Aspen Food & Wine four years ago, I couldn't help but fall in love with the way he spoke about food. He had a nurturing love and understanding of each and every plant and protein that goes into his artful, farm-to-table creations at his three-Michelin-starred Meadowood in the heart of wine country. I've been eager to try his food ever since, and earlier this year, he opened a "casual" eatery just down the road called The Charter Oak. Its kitchen is helmed by longtime Meadowood chef de cuisine Katianna Hong, and I knew that we absolutely had to try it!
They wanted to keep things simple, ingredients fresh, and the menu welcoming and approachable. Not only that, but the whole atmosphere inside the restaurant feels like a luxurious hunting lodge, somewhere you could easily kick up your feet by the roaring fire to guzzle a cocktail or 12. When you walk through the door, you're greeted by easily one of the most impressive fire pits I've ever seen. It boldly dominates the back wall leading into the kitchen, and there's a team of chefs who are tenderly smoking the flames, making sure that everything tossed in on the racks comes out perfectly charred. The scent is overwhelmingly sexual in nature, from musky wood notes to smoky ash, and it makes you eager to pull up a seat and start ordering.
That said, while the various proteins we did try were amazing, the vegetable offerings far and away exceeded all of our expectations — so much so that I begged them to send me the recipe for a charred broccoli salad that even we were hesitant to order, as it didn't sound as nearly as enticing as "grilled avocado and ramps," but which our waiter talked us into. Everything about this complex salad screamed perfection. It was a well-balanced mix of salty and vinegary, crunchy and tender, delicate and bold. The creamy house-made ricotta mixed with the vibrant mustard dressing created a delicious coating for the tender broccoli, grown fresh in the garden. The crunch from the puffed grains mixed with the crispy kale-like chips created from the broccoli leaves was simply divine.
Now, I know making it at home won't be quite the same without that wood-stoked fire, but just in case you don't have any trips up to Napa planned anytime soon, this will absolutely satisfy any curiosity cravings. And the best part is, it's a great way to get your family to eat their greens!
The restaurant uses both wild rice and barley in their salad, but you can also use any grain as a substitute.
- For the puffed grains:
- 1 cup wild rice
- Oil for frying
- Salt to taste
- For the mustard vinaigrette:
- 1/2 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons shallots, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup grapeseed oil
- 1/4 cup mustard seed oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- For the salad:
- 3 cups broccoli with leaves
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh ricotta
- 1/4 cup mustard vinaigrette
- Puffed grains
- Mustard flowers, optional
- To make puffed grains: Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil and then add grains. Cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the grains are very soft, just slightly overcooked, and strain. Spread out the grains on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Let dry overnight. The most important thing is to overcook the grains and then let them dry completely before frying.
- In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat oil to 430ºF-450ºF. Fry the rice in batches until crisp. Remove from the oil onto a paper-towel-lined plate and season with salt.
- To make mustard vinaigrette: In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, shallots, mustards, and red wine vinegar until combined. Whisk in the sugar. Keep whisking and slowly stream in the grapeseed oil and mustard seed oil until emulsified. Season with salt.
- To make salad: Remove the leaves from the broccoli and set aside.
- Cut broccoli into 1-inch-long pieces using the florets and the top parts of the stems.
- In a cast-iron pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil until almost smoking. Add the broccoli and sauté until charred. While the broccoli is cooking, season with salt. Remove from the heat. Add remaining oil and fry the broccoli leaves until crisp. Let drain on paper-towel-lined plates.
- Smear the bottom of your serving bowl with a spoonful of ricotta. Toss the broccoli and grains with the vinaigrette and place on top of the ricotta. Scatter with additional small spoonfuls of the ricotta and broccoli leaves. Garnish with mustard flowers.
- Side Dishes, Greens
- 6 servings