Thursday, November 20, 2008

EATS version of 'Cauliflower Crunch'

I was inspired to try this by Allison L's response to a plea for new ideas for cauliflower on the Chowhound Home Cooking board. I have a Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower recipe already that uses crushed coriander seeds, but I loved the name 'Cauliflower Crunch' and the idea of it being truly crunchy, not just roasted. However, I think there was a typo in her post; I tried putting the cauliflower at 350 degrees, but I had a feeling that was too hot and she meant 250. Sure enough, after 30 minutes, the cauliflower was getting dark brown tips and would have been carbonized by the end of 2 hours. I turned the oven down to 250 and would start at 250 next time. It's possible that cooking at 250 the whole time will not lead to any caramelization and the florets will just be dried out; I'll change the recipe if that occurs! The other approach would be to do a really fast roast on a hot baking tray in a 500 degree oven; this could be nice but also risks burnt tips and an interior that is not cooked enough.

We all really loved this preparation. The stalk was a bit chewy for Elspeth, but she gobbled the florets. It was reminiscent of potato chips. I didn't use garam masala because Elspeth hasn't been totally onboard with Indian spices and I wanted to test the method first. Next time, I think I would add about 1 tsp of sugar to intensify the sweetness. I'm not enough of a food scientist to know if there would be a significant difference if the sugar were sprinkled on before or after the application of oil.

1 head cauliflower (we used green cauliflower from the farmers' market)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher or table salt or to taste (Maldon salt might be tasty, but I don't know if kids would like it)
Freshly-ground pepper to taste
1 TBSP olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees
  2. Thinly slice the head of cauliflower, removing excess stalk. Rinse slices
  3. Mix the sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil in a large bowl
  4. Either add the cauliflower and mix gently (this might lead to a lot of breakage) or go to step 4
  5. Place cauliflower in a single layer on a baking tray. If you haven't coated it with the oil/sugar/salt mixture, do so now. Rub in with your hands and try to coat cauliflower on all sides. I have found with roasting things that less oil is actually better than too much
  6. Bake at 250 for 45 minutes and check. Bake until cauliflower is thoroughly cooked and crunchy
  7. If the cauliflower is cooked but isn't caramelized, I bet you could put it under the broiler for a few moments to finish off

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