Love In The Time of (Whole Pot Roasted) Cauliflower
Greetings Braisers. Today we’re here to talk about WHOLE VEGGIES. The Big Kahunas. The One Piece Deals. The Shimmering Disco Balls of the Culinary Dance Floor we call LIFE.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…actually, I don’t and I would never claim to because I don’t believe in putting ideas and thoughts into other people’s heads.
As Joan said to Richard on the final season of Mad Men, “Don’t make plans for me!” and I am not about to make plans with your thoughts (or is it THOTS, can’t keep up with the spellings these days).
But, perhaps SOME of you are thinking: whole veggies? Sounds confusing. I thought veggies were supposed to be chopped up, frozen, then poured out of a sad plastic bag that’s been living in the shadows of my freezer, feeding liver pate to the cats and wearing the revolutionary costume for today, Mother Darling. How could one eat them WHOLE? I hear you, dear veggie skeptics. And I’m about to blow your mind. Or at least your…stomachs. But I could blow wait where are you going—
—now that you’re back, let me quickly extol the virtues of a whole veggie. 1. They are CHEAP. 2. They are NUTRITIOUS. 3. They are DELICIOUS. And they are v v easy to make! Like a smart looking low budget film, the key here is taking these simple straightforward ingredients and treating them with a little TLC. (Coring the cauliflower, cutting a few parts off the canned tomatoes, whispering sweet nothings as you put the pot in the oven, etc.)
Cauliflower is the missing link of vegetables. It has the texture of a a starch, but tastes like a softer creamy version of broccoli. Also it’s a fractal vegetable, which means that it’s made up of chaotically repeating patterns of cells….and if there’s anything we love at Braised, it’s delicious repeated chaos.
Finally, this dish is FILLING. I mean it! It easily feeds four people as a main course, and more than 4 if you used it as a side. TRUST. However, this is also a great one person meal that can be spread out over a few days. Truly delicious repeated chaos.
Let’s begin, shall we?
WHOLE ROSTED CAULIFLOWER with TOMATO-ANCHOVY GOODNESS
WHAT IT IS: A pot roast, but instead of meat it’s literally cauliflower, covered in a delicious tomato/rosemary/ anchovy sauce (don’t be scared, they’re delicious goddammit, and frankly you barely notice).
IDEAL FOR: Weeknight meals, winter date nights, impressing friends, passive aggressively letting loved ones know they should eat more vegetables, when you aren’t convinced of cauliflower’s flavor potential.
DON’T TRY THIS WHEN: Hmmmmm. Just TRY this. Unless you’re cooking for someone who is very anti-vegetable and the idea of arguing with them is exhausting, which honestly I totally get.
PAIR WITH: A nice salad, maybe some pasta or rice on the side! Oh like a risotto?? Any kind of a Italian grain!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- 1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), white, green or Romanesco (this one is really fancy, and pretty to look at)!
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 5 to 6 anchovy fillets from the cute lil cans they sell in the stores (get one or two extra cans just to have in your house!)
- 3⁄4 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
- 1 can whole tomatoes, drained, trimmed of hard and unripe bits, chopped.
- 1⁄4 cup dry white wine OR chicken stock OR water, LITRALLY water, plus extra for cooking
- 3 large pinches red pepper flakes, but if you’re a spice queen and we know who you are, feel free to put in some more.
- 1 teaspoon flaky salt, like Maldon, or kosher salt
WHAT YA DO:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 450 degrees.
2. Put the cauliflower on its side on a cutting board. Name it, something like Collie or Flowie or whatever. As if coring a tomato, core the base of the cauliflower: insert a small sharp knife about 1 inch into the base of the stem, make a circular cut to loosen the cone-shaped core, then pry it out and discard.
PRO TIP #1
The key thing here is to core Collie so that it retains it’s whole shape. Better to core less of it and have the veggie stay whole. You can always eat around the core.
3. In a deep, heavy ovenproof pot (with a lid OR you can use aluminum foil!), large enough to hold the whole cauliflower, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower cored side up; it should sizzle. Brown the exterior, turning it occasionally with tongs for even browning. This should take about 5 minutes; reduce the heat as needed to prevent scorching. Carefully turn over and brown the other side lightly, about 2 minutes. Now would also be a good time to sing to the vegetable something gentle, to encourage even browning and have a laugh.
PRO TIP #2
This will take longer than 5 minutes, AND you’ll want to have a wide enough pot to easily flip Collie and brown evenly. I WILL SAY: another option is to stick Collie on a baking sheet and run her/him/sie under the broiler (which if you have an oven you have a broiler) on LOW for about five minutes, until the top is golden brown and caramelized.
4. Remove the cauliflower to a plate and add garlic, anchovies and rosemary to the pot. Stir until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, white wine/water/stock, chiles and salt. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Return cauliflower to pot, cored side down. Baste with the tomato liquid and pile some of the solids on top. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes to thicken the tomatoes.
5. Cover the pot, place in the oven and roast until tender, 30 to 45 minutes; a knife will go into the thick stems with almost no resistance. Check on the tomato sauce every 10 minutes or so; it should be punchy and intense but not too thick, so add a glug of wine/water/stock if it seems to be getting too dry.
6. Transfer the cauliflower head to a serving plate or shallow bowl and cut in half, quarters or thick slices.
PRO TIP #3
I’d recommend quarters, they retain their shape and lead to less “WHY IS THIS FALLING APART KILL ME UGH” based frustration. And remember, if it does fall apart a bit, which mine always does when I make this, it’s beyond chill. Just serve in a bowl with sauce on top, nobody will be the wiser.
7. Spoon on all the tasty stuff left in the pot. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs. Serve immediately or at room temperature, passing salt and red pepper flakes at the table. DEVOUR PROMPTLY AND PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK, YOU DID IT!