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Going Back to Cauli

Brooklyn chef Dale Talde bucks tradition with his spicy Buffalo-ed cauliflower
Photos: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table
Buffalo Cauliflower

In a restaurant kitchen, when you don't know what to do with an ingredient, "you throw it in the fryer and see what happens . . . or just Buffalo it, adobo it or Caesar it," Top Chef alum and Brooklyn restaurant owner Dale Talde says.

You'll probably end up with something simple and delicious, and maybe a little out of left field, à la Talde's spicy Buffalo-ed cauliflower (see the recipe), which appears in his new book Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from the Philippines to Brooklyn ($32).

Talde's enthusiasm for all things inauthentic smacks readers in an entertainingly irreverent (and mouthwatering) way: There are recipes for butter-toast ramen with bacon; sausage, egg and American cheese fried rice; phot roast (pot roast meets pho); and so on.

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His philosophy is "not to spite the people who say I learned to make this dish from a Sicilian grandmother . . . it's just to say that there is food out there that isn't from a 100-year-old recipe, and it's still good," he says. The philosophy suits him. He was raised in Chicago by Filipino immigrants with one foot in each world. "I'm trying to make food now that speaks to who I am—my identity is proudly inauthentic."

While his mother made Filipino dishes at home, he and his dad would sneak out at lunch for burgers and tacos. "I grew up infatuated with burgers and pizza and fried chicken and tacos, because they had the thrill of the forbidden. Because they felt special. Because Dad loved them. Oh, and because they were bangin'," he writes. That love runs deep for Talde, and recipes for American classics aren't immune to his inauthentic touch. There are chicken nugs marinated in yogurt and hot sauce, "very warm" pepperoni pockets made with frozen roti and, of course, that Buffalo-style roasted cauliflower with blue cheese.

Talde recommends roasting a whole head of cauliflower, uncut "out of pure laziness," the chef jokes. "Also, I like the idea of treating vegetables like a piece of meat. If you treat a vegetable like that, it's a main event, not a side."

Once the cauli's out of the oven, it's cut into florets and tossed with a mix of Frank's RedHot sauce, Sriracha and a whole lot of butter, and then finally topped with crumbles of creamy blue cheese. Eaten with toothpicks, it's great snack for a party or game day.

Talde still remembers his first pilgrimage for Buffalo wings when he was 18. A friend took him to Buffalo Joe's in Chicago. "I was like, shit, that's really good."

You'll say the same about his cauliflower version.

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