November 9, 2012
Roasted Cauliflower and It's All in The Name
It's a fact that some things just sound better in French. I'd rather dig into half a ruby-red pamplemousse for breakfast. Given the choice, I like the sound of sauteéd champignons layered on my steak. And Damien's favorite after a decade of French classes in school? The pommes de terre - far more romantic than a plain old potato.
But, above all, chou-fleur is my favorite. Among the first French words I learned while in culinary school, it's stayed with me ever since. Cauliflower has a quiet beauty that is often underappreciated and so I think its more-charming French name has an elegant ring to it and is therefore more apt. One thing's for sure, here in the States, no one ever accuses cauliflower of being high-brow. Universally loathed by children, and many adults for that matter, I'm not sure what places this veggie so much further down the ranks than, say, its relative broccoli. Or what about Romanesco? Romanesco, a more decorative variety of cauliflower, gets a lot of street-cred - and my theory is that, contrary to Shakespeare's thoughts on the subject, it's all in the name.
I think if the plain cauliflower were more widely known as chou-fleur, we'd see it on more menus and in more shopping carts and market bags. I also think that if cauliflower were roasted as a rule, rather than boiled or steamed, more cooks and eaters would sing its praises. I contend that it is hard to beat a good roasted chou-fleur - crispy, salted, caramelized edges take this humble vegetable from plain to fancy in one fell swoop. And with very little effort or seasoning - which means it had the raw talent all along - it just needs a little push in the right direction. Although as simple as can be, I love teaching this recipe in my classes because it gets them every. single. time. When I say you will eat the whole tray of this - I do not tell a lie. Made correctly, this chou-fleur is as satisfying as a tray of French fries. Almost.
What you'll need:
1 large head of cauliflower
salt and pepper
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Preheat your oven to 450ªF.
Rinse and dry the cauliflower and separate into individual, bite-sized florets.
Transfer the florets to a baking sheet, making sure they are in one, even layer.
Season generously with salt and black pepper. Drizzle the olive oil over the florets. Use your hands to toss the cauliflower, coating it in the oil and seasoning.
Gently press the florets into one even layer on the sheet and insert into the center of the oven.
Roast for 30 minutes, remove from the oven, toss again and place the tray back into the oven for another 30 minutes, or until the edges are crispy and browned.
Make sure the cauliflower florets are very dry before tossing with the oil and placing in the oven - this will help them to roast and caramelize, rather than steam and soften.
Since cauliflower make for such a beautiful blank canvas, I often make variations of this dish by incorporating other herbs and spices. Depending on what it is accompanying, I often add curry powder, or rosemary and garlic topped with breadcrumbs, or a drizzle of lemon juice, or smoky paprika.