I’m pretty sure my mother served rapini to me more than once growing up, but I couldn’t get past the bitterness and appreciate its unique flavour as a kid. Now I love its bitterness and grassiness equally. I love it sautéed with garlic and chilies in pasta, I love it steamed and stir-fried too, and I especially love the idea of serving it in an unexpected way that might bring people around to this slightly divisive vegetable. Trust me, rapini skeptics turn when they try this fried rapini.
It might seem fussy to blanche, bread and fry rapini but I’ve made it for large dinner parties with ease. Below, I’ve added the steps for how to prepare this in advance and serve it hot to guests who are about to realize just how much they love rapini themselves.
1 bunch rapini, washed, stems trimmed, most of the outer leaves removed (save for another use)
10-12 g dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 c Panko breadcrumbs
Ground black pepper
1 large egg
1/4 cup flour
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs butter
Blanch rapini in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes, then shock in ice-cold water. Drain rapini in colander, then squeeze out as much water as possible, gently but firmly. Lay rapini on clean towels and pat dry. Allow to air dry. If making ahead, you can transfer the blanched and dried rapini to an air tight container and refrigerate for a day.
Meanwhile, remove dirt and dust from porcini pieces and grind pieces to a powder in a spice grinder. In a large bowl, combine porcini powder and breadcrumbs, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Break egg into a separate, large bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk. Into a third large bowl, add the flour and season with salt and pepper.
Add the rapini to the flour, toss and dust pieces lightly, ensuring the surfaces are dry and coated evenly in flour. Shake off excess flour and transfer to the egg mixture. Coat the surfaces of the rapini well in the egg wash and then transfer to the breadcrumb mixture. Cover well, pressing the coating onto the greens.
Heat oil and butter in a wide skillet (non-stick is preferable), over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat pan and when the oil is hot, lay the rapini in the skillet in a single layer, working in batches if needed. Fry on one side until the crust turns golden brown (about 2-3 minutes). Turn rapini over and fry on the other side until golden. Serve hot. If making ahead, rapini can sit at room temperate for up to 4 hours. Reheat in a low oven.