Feb 02 2014
If anyone asks, tell them cauliflower is officially my favorite year-round vegetable. Truth be told, there are few vegetables I do not care for (green peppers are a nemesis of mine), but of all the ones left to choose from, cauliflower wins. It’s available year-round (unlike tomatoes, for example, which are really sad-looking in the winter), fresh or frozen, and it’s delicious raw or cooked, hot or cold, in both light meals and heartier dishes. I’d be hard-pressed to think of another edible plant that is as versatile as this one.
I had a few people over for dinner yesterday, lured as they were by the promise of a slowly oven-cooked, lusciously rich boeuf bourguignon. As I was staring into the refrigerator, planning the rest of the menu (which included a sinful chocolate and whiskey cake), the head of cauliflower that was sitting on one of the shelves gave me a come-hither look I could not resist. What can I say? I’m easy, apparently.
The beauty of the recipe I’m about to give you is that it really came together as it was being made. There was no planning, no laying out of things, no making sure I had whatever I needed on hand; all I could manage was a creative outburst that dictated what the next move should be only seconds before it happened, using whatever was available in my kitchen. There are no pictures of the process itself because I never paused long enough to even think that it might make a nice blog post. I told you there was no planning involved. All I have is a picture of the finished product:
I began by sautéing the cut up and washed cauliflower with a diced onion in a mixture of peanut oil and butter, with a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, until those vegetables started to turn the kind of caramel color that made me want to just eat the whole thing like that, all by myself standing in the kitchen, dinner with friends be damned. I am, however, a responsible adult (on Thursday afternoons), and so I carried on. Still, I need everyone to know it was an ordeal, as there is little reason in being so well-behaved if no one is there to acknowledge the deed – cf. tree falling in forest + noise.
After I won this hard-fought battle against my own gourmandise, a decision had to be made regarding the future of the golden mixture in the pot: which liquid would go in? which flavoring would be used? would there be light at the end of the tunnel and if so, would that indicate that John Irving has quit messing around already and finally written another novel as worthy of his talent as A Prayer for Owen Meany? These are all important questions. Time being of the essence for the cauliflower, however, I chose to answer the liquid and flavoring questions first, in the following manner: roasted coriander, cayenne pepper, turkey stock (made and frozen at Christmas time), and a little bit of cream. Some rice was added to thicken things up, and my work here was done. [riding off into the sunset]
The results? How’s wow, brown cow?
As far as John Irving goes, you got me there.
1 head cauliflower, cut up and washed
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1 Tbsp butter
6 cups stock or broth of any kind
1/2 cup arborio rice (the kind used for risotto)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a large dutch oven, sauté the cauliflower and onion in the oil and butter over medium heat (be careful: the butter might splatter a little in the oil as it heats up). Sprinkle on some sea salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the vegetables turn a lovely golden brown; this could take 10 min. or so. Add the coriander and cook a minute or two more, until fragrant.
Pour stock in the pot and bring to a boil. Add rice, cover, lower the heat and let simmer for 30 min or so, until the cauliflower is very soft and the rice is cooked.
Turn off heat and let cool for a little while. Use an immersion blender to mix until very smooth and creamy. Add cream and cayenne pepper, taste and adjust for salt and spice, reheat if necessary, and serve! A chilled glass of unoaked Sauvignon Blanc would be perfect with this, or a dry Riesling.