America became a ranch nation in the 1950s thanks to a plumber from Nebraska named Steve Henson. I became a ranch person only a few years ago, when I started buying humble seasoning packets—not to make dressing or dip, but instead, the most snackable roasted broccoli of my life.
Henson, who later founded the popular brand, Hidden Valley, supposedlywhile working a construction job in Alaska, where he had little access to fresh ingredients whenever he cooked for his crew. His original recipe was made from shelf-stable items like garlic and onion powders and dried herbs.
These days, home cooks can pretty easily make ranch dressing from scratch using fresh alliums, buttermilk, mayonnaise, and verdant dill or parsley. But true stans know the most direct route to Henson’s traditional flavor is those very samehe started mailing out to customers nearly 70 years ago.
Much like the sour cream and onion powder that clings to a potato chip, ranch seasoning is a concentrated hit of flavor (and it’ll coat your fingers and your foods in a similarly persistent way). Like many other spice mixes, ranch seasoning is versatile; she doesn’t want to be put in a corner. You can add it to popcorn, soups, biscuit doughs, and vegetables. It makes everything it touches taste creamy-tart from dried buttermilk, sweet-savory from the herbs and alliums, and inexplicably satisfying thanks to MSG.
Though sprinkling ranch seasoning on any vegetable before roasting will give it a jolt of deep umami, broccoli is a personal favorite due to its bumpy texture. Ranch seasoning is fine like cornstarch and easily works its way between the florets, coating each tiny bud in a near-invisible, salty film. When baked until lightly browned and crisp, broccoli becomes totally snackable.
Here’s how to make ranch-roasted broccoli
Preheat oven to 425°. Slice 2 pounds broccoli into florets and add them to a large bowl. Generously drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil or neutral oil, then sprinkle with one 1-oz. packet ranch seasoning. Toss with your hands until evenly coated. Divide the broccoli between two sheet pans, evenly spacing it out and turning the florets flat-side down. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until broccoli is tender and starting to brown.
Preparing a whole bunch of ranch-roasted vegetables to top grain bowls, toss into salads, or serve alongside your favorite pasta makes weeknights a breeze—though I also find it impossible to stop eating the broccoli right out of the oven. Without fail, you’ll find me standing over the still-warm tray, blowing on handfuls of florets and gobbling them down like that bag of sour cream and onion chips.