Chefs have been trying especially hard to make cauliflower cool over the past couple of years.
No longer the mushy, bland side dish of dinnertimes past, the cruciferous vegetable was, for a couple of years, playfully sliced into thick "steaks" and served beautifully caramelized. Now there's a roasted whole head of cauliflower thing happening at some of our favorite restaurants (Domenica and Aldo Sohm, we're looking at you).
But whether or not cauliflower is an of-the-moment ingredient doesn't necessarily matter—roasting the brassica to golden perfection is a wintertime standby. Brad Farmerie, executive chef of the AvroKo Hospitality Group (NYC's PUBLIC, Saxon + Parole), agrees: He believes in the importance of cool techniques over cool ingredients. So he was the guy to call to devise two entirely different methods—one slow, one quick—to cook the vegetable.
One is right in the ol' wheelhouse: Farmerie, too, has served roasted cauliflower "a million and one ways," but his latest version (see the recipe) is actually inspired by his wife, who cooks a similar dish at home that pairs the vegetable with a chunky watercress and cashew dressing.
Farmerie throws the dressing into the blender, puréeing everything until the cashews form a smooth emulsion for a deliciously fresh and creamy (and vegan!) sauce to pair with curry-roasted cauliflower and red onion. This simple but clever twist makes appearances on the menu at Saxon + Parole, and it's clear why: When the florets start to crisp, they bring out the rich earthy spice of the curry—and when they're paired with an acidic but rich green dressing, new levels of greatness are achieved.
For his quick version, Farmerie pulls from a technique he learned in England way back in the 90s, turning cauliflower into "couscous" by pulsing it in a food processor, then blanching it and tossing it with lemon, herbs, almonds and chopped olives (see the recipe). Served warm or cold, it's a wonderfully bright, simple and satisfying side that's on and off the menu at PUBLIC in various iterations, often with fish or roasted carrots on top. Oh, and for those who are trying to clean up their acts this year, it's gluten free, too—but who's counting?
One recipe may take longer than the other, but both are delicious ways to cook the beloved brassica. Go on: It's time to live cruciferously.
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