Chicago's Parachute shows us how perfectly browned cauliflower is a blank canvas for flavor, which in this case comes from crisp spiced chicken skin and a bright herbaceous and tangy raita spiked with cilantro.
We know, chicken skin in a recipe with no chicken? Yes, because you can always use chicken a million other ways. Call your butcher and ask for the skin, because they most often have extra. Maybe even ask for enough to make a double batch—because after you've rubbed it with tandoori masala and baked it until deep brown and crunchy, you might want to make more to throw on salads, sandwiches and even pasta.
To learn more, read "You Used to Caul Me on My Cell Phone."
Cauliflower with Tandoori Chicken Skin
Recipe adapted from Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim, Parachute, Chicago, IL
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus chilling time
Cook Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 35 minutes, plus chilling time
For the Tandoori Chicken Skin:
Chicken skin from one 3½-pound chicken
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons tandoori masala spice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Raita:
½ cup packed cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
½ cup packed mint leaves
⅓ cup buttermilk
⅓ cup whole-fat Greek yogurt
1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
¾ teaspoon garam masala
¼ cup canola oil
Kosher salt, to taste
For the Cauliflower:
Canola oil, for frying
1 small head cauliflower, cut into 1½-inch pieces (10 cups cauliflower florets)
Kosher salt, to taste
1. Make the tandoori chicken skin: Place the chicken skin onto a cutting board, skin-side facing down, and use the back of a large knife to scrape away the fat. Lay the cleaned chicken skin onto a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and chill in the fridge to dry out, uncovered, for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 300°. Place the air-chilled chicken skin in a large bowl and massage with the oil, masala and salt. Return the skin to the wire rack, laying it flat and skin-side up, and and bake until crisp, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool for a few minutes before cutting into large pieces.
3. Make the raita: In a blender, mix the cilantro, mint, buttermilk, yogurt, garlic and garam masala on medium speed until smooth. Lower the speed and add the oil in a steady stream until emulsified. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt. Makes 1 cup and can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
4. Fry the cauliflower: In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, add enough oil to fill to a 2-inch depth and bring to 400° over medium-high heat. Working in batches of 3, fry the cauliflower, flipping occasionally with a large slotted spoon or spider, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer the cauliflower to a paper towel-lined sheet tray and immediately season with salt. Repeat with the remaining florets.
5. To serve: Spoon 3 tablespoons of raita into the bottom of 4 serving bowls and place the cauliflower over top. Garnish with chicken skins and cilantro leaves, and serve with the extra raita.
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