While cooking, listen to this: Don't Wanna Fight - Alabama Shakes
It might be odd to start a food blog with something that seems so simple. "Rina, I guess cauliflower is fine and all, but what's so special about this? Where's the pizzazz?" NO. This is not just fine, this is spectacular. I included the term "crack" in the title for a reason. Cauliflower might seem like a weird broccoli ghost, but when it's roasted something magical happens. That's not hyperbolic. When roasted at high heat, cauliflower becomes this glorious, caramelized being that it is brown and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. I hate the word meaty, I really do, but I suppose you could call the interior of roasted cauliflower that. I won't, but you can.
I make this all of the time, usually for when I'm hosting or attending a Shabbat dinner and sometimes just for me. I started making this a few years ago - I had just moved to New York for rabbinical school and was going to Shabbat dinners every week. Seeing as the guests and hosts were almost always poor graduate students, and living in the second-most-expensive city in the country, meals were usually potlucks. I volunteered to bring a side dish to one of the first meals of the year, and this is what came out of my oven. My mama would make it all of the time when I was growing up, so I figured it was a good standby. After that dinner I learned that "good" doesn't cover it. The cauliflower was gone. Gone! And in the first twenty minutes! I would never lie to you, and I will happily provide testimonials if you don't believe me. It's just that stupid good. And easy, and healthy (olive oil is a healthy fat!), and makes your house smell divine - you will feel like the kitchen wizard you know you are.
I have been known to stand over my oven and eat it directly from the tray the second it is ready. This is the best way to eat roasted cauliflower, and I encourage you to take part in this sacred ritual. The one downside of roasted cauliflower is that because of its high water content, it shrinks a lot. Like, you think you have a ton of cauliflower going in and then a third of it comes out. No matter! Simply make more. No one will complain, and that way you can eat as much off your stove top as you'd like.
Love and meows, Rina
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER (AKA CRACK)
Yield: serves 4*
Cook Time: 1h 30m
Source: Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
*not that I condone eating two heads of cauliflower by yourself in one go, but it could be argued that this serves 1)
2 Heads of cauliflower
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Optional: garlic powder and paprika for fanciness - just use 1/4-1/2 teaspoon for each, depending on your preferences.
Preheat your oven to 460. I know this is oddly specific, but this is how my dad roasts his and it's divine. Papa Gateau knows all. That being said, know your oven, know yourself (or whatever). That's to say, some ovens, like mine, decide to be much hotter or cooler than the temperature I have chosen for them. As rude as this is, make sure you check your oven temp so that your precious cauliflower doesn't burn to a (potentially tasty but still undesirable) crisp.
Spray your sheet pans with a good amount of cooking spray. You may be tempted to use foil, and I'd understand if you want to preserve the unmarred beauty of your pans. That being said, the cauliflower will caramelize a lot better without the foil, and pans were meant to get dirty. It builds their character.
Cut up your cauliflower into florets. The size is up to you, and will make a difference in how your cauliflower tastes. If you cut the cauliflower up into big pieces, you'll get the caramelized on the outside, soft on the inside texture I mentioned above. If you create tinier pieces, you'll get caramelized bits that are on the chewier side. Both are delicious, so it's up to you! If you decide on bigger pieces, I recommend creating mini-steaks, meaning that the florets are flat on both sides, as opposed to one or both being bumpy.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, salt and any optional spices. Drizzle this mixture onto the cauliflower in a large bowl, or put the cauliflower onto the pans and drizzle directly. Mix well with a spoon or nature's best kitchen utensil, your hands.
Cook cauliflower for 45 minutes-1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. This ensures that the cauliflower has enough time to caramelize on one side without burning.
To serve: if you have self-control, wait till your meal begins or your company arrives. If you are like me, enjoy your stovetop snack. This cauliflower keeps well in the fridge and continues to marinate in that olive oil-salt goodness. If you have leftovers, which I doubt you will, but if you do, you can eat this cold or reheat it.
To serve, part deux: roasted cauliflower is weirdly delicious dipped in barbecue sauce. Maybe not so weirdly, because both roasted cauliflower and barbecue sauce are food of the gods/higher powers/cats you worship as your personal saviors. I highly recommend trying this out - some people say it tastes like chicken nuggets this way; I don't remember what chicken nuggets taste like and frankly I don't care. This is delicious in its own right, trust me.