I love cooking for friends. When we first moved into my apartment, we had commissioned our carpenter to make an extra long table that could sit 10 people (or 12 at a pinch). Our earstwhile carpenter gamely took on the job, but discovered that because the table was extra long, it could not fit into the lift and he and his men had to carry the table up 15 stories to get to my place. I did feel quite bad about that. But this table has figured in many a dinner and it is always great to have friends over for long dinners and lots of good food.
Tonight’s menu included a whole roasted cauliflower. I’ve always been rather fascinated with roasting cauliflower – I use cauliflower in so many things like fried rice or in mash anyway; it is very much a staple in the house. Yotam Ottolenghi, who is a chef who champions vegetables, has really nice roast cauliflower recipes but I didn’t seem to be able to make the whole roasted cauliflower work before. However, this week I had gone for dinner at Pollen at Gardens by the Bay and I really enjoyed the roasted cauliflower in Parmesan sauce. It was a treat I had been looking forward too as it was our 20th wedding anniversary and tulips (my favourite flower) were being featured in the Flower Dome of Gardens by the Bay. I really enjoyed dinner although it was freezing in the dome (I wonder if they had brought the thermostat down to keep the tulips in good shape). The hot roasted cauliflower was a lifesaver and I was freshly inspired to try roasting whole cauliflower again.
Pollen’s version of roast cauliflower with sprouts on top.
The trick to this roasted cauliflower is to give enough time for the bake. I realized that a large head of cauliflower takes a whole 2 hours to bake through. And somehow the results are amazing. The roasted cauliflower is tender, succulent and slightly nutty in flavor. I also pat myself on the back that I think I bettered Pollen’s Parmesan cheese sauce by making a more herby and rich version with anchovies. It helped that I had anchovy fillets in truffle oil, a gift from a friend who globetrots and picks up a lot of specialty food items at the same time. I am a grateful beneficiary of his travels.
So I think the gang I cooked for tonight enjoyed the food. The cauliflower was a great accompaniment to 72-hour sous vide short ribs. I think I did cook a little too much (not all the dishes could fit onto my long table!) but that’s the Chinese way. We have to have lots of leftovers if not we would not be considered to have hosted a dinner properly. Unlike most restaurants however, there is little for wastage in my home as the leftovers will make a good hash for Sunday. And I do have a bunch of voracious teenagers at home.
Roasted Whole Cauliflower
- 1 large head of cauliflower
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- 6 anchovy fillets
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180 deg C
- Wash the cauliflower and pat dry. Trim off the leaves and carefully cut the base of the cauliflower to core out the stem without cutting through the florets
- Place the cauliflower into a cast iron skillet or a casserole dish
- Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower and season with salt and pepper
- Cover the cauliflower and the skillet with aluminum foil and put in the oven
- In the meantime, prepare the herb sauce. In a food processor, chop the garlic, parsley, anchovies, vinegar and butter to form a paste. Mix in the Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes and then set aside.
- After 1 1/2 hours of baking, remove the foil from the top of the cauliflower
- Spoon off the olive oil from the skillet and drizzle over the top of the cauliflower
- Continue roasting for about 1/2 hour more to brown the cauliflower
- Test the cauliflower done-ness by poking the head with a fork. The fork should slide in easily. Of not continue roasting for another 10-15 more minutes.
- Remove the cauliflower and skillet from the oven. Coat the top of the cauliflower with the herb and butter mix. Serve hot immediately.