The menu at Indaco in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, is peppered with inventive takes on fresh seasonal produce, from peach-topped pizzas to house-made corn-and-chanterelle agnolotti. But executive chef Mark Bolchoz hasn’t exactly been a lifelong fan of every ingredient on the menu.
“I didn’t like okra as a kid because it was just destroyed: It was so cooked, so mushy,” recalls Bolchoz, a Charleston native who ate plenty of the stuff as a kid, albeit begrudgingly. His attitude changed years later when he tried it prepped a little differently: roasted quickly at high heat. “You don’t get as much of the sliminess or the sogginess, and you get a more pure roasted okra flavor,” he says. The experience made him a believer—and prompted him to play around with the dish himself. “I guess you could say it’s reverse-nostalgia.”
At Indaco, Bolchoz serves an Italian-style take on classic Lowcountry stewed okra that pairs the pod with a spicy tomato sauce. It’s a one-two punch of summer produce—one you can try at home, too. Bolchoz says the keys are extra-high heat and to avoid overcrowding the pan while roasting. “Okra has such a high moisture content that you need the highest temperature that you can get out of a household oven,” says Bolchoz, who also recommends roasting it on a charcoal grill with a grill mat for an extra summery alternative. Whatever option you choose, watch carefully and remove the okra when it starts to char. “If you can get the roast right and the color right, then the rest will follow.”