Yesterday, when we were thinking about what to have for dinner, we realized that we had a whole head of cauliflower that we hadn’t done anything with, yet. We thought about just doing something quick, like steamed cauliflower, but that’s kind of bland. We also thought about making Pan-Seared Cauliflower, which is tremendously tasty, but that seemed like more trouble than we wanted to tackle right then. Ultimately, we looked in The Laws of Cooking and How to Break Them, by Justin Warner, for ideas about cauliflower and found this recipe.
We choose it because it was different — cocoa on cauliflower, what’s up with that? — plus, the picture showed a nicely-browned cauliflower that looked delicious. On top of all that, the recipe is dead simple. Now, the original version seemed to suggest it for an appetizer, but we just went ahead and had it for dinner.
When you trim the cauliflower, don’t discard the leaves. Save those for another use, such as sliced for cauliflower sticks or stir-fried, or, at the very least, wash and use them for stock. We just saw a graphic in National Geographic that showed over half the food grown is wasted, either left in the field, lost during transport, spoiled in stores or at home, or just tossed out. We think that’s a sin. So, do not waste food: be a good scratcher.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Trim cauliflower. Working from the bottom, trim away those thick leaves, exposing the stem. Work carefully with a paring knife, as it’s easy to slice off a floret inadvertently. Cut off the stem flush with the bottom of the florets, and wash out the cauliflower.
Whisk oil mixture. In a medium bowl, one large enough to hold the head of cauliflower easily, whisk together the oil, cocoa, and salt. The salt won’t dissolve into the oil, so it’ll be grainy, but that’s not an issue. Once the oil mixture is whisked together, transfer it to a measuring cup with a pour spout. Don’t wash the bowl.
Pour oil into cauliflower. Place the cauliflower upside-down in the bowl so the stem is pointing up, and pour about half of the oil mixture over the stem and into the cauliflower to coat and flavor the inside. Roll the cauliflower from side to side to help coat the inside as best you can.
Pour oil over cauliflower. Turn the cauliflower over and pour the rest of the oil mixture over the top. Using your (clean) hands, rub the oil mixture over the cauliflower, turning it this way and that until it’s uniformly coated.
Bake. Place the cauliflower stem-side down in a cast iron pan and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the outside is a deep golden brown and a skewer can be easily inserted into the cauliflower and through the stem.
Serve. To serve, cut into wedges using a sharp serrated knife.
We were underwhelmed. It wasn’t bad, by any means, but the cocoa really didn’t do anything for the cauliflower. And, with the cauliflower left whole, a lot of it didn’t get that crispy, nutty, flavor of roasted cauliflower; instead, it was a few bites of nicely roasted cauliflower around the core that tasted no different than it would have if it had been steamed. So, while it looked good, and sounded different, we really think that we would have been better served by cutting the cauliflower apart, tossing the florets in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then roasting them at a higher temperature, so we’ll give this recipe just three stars, mainly because it’s so easy and looks nice when it comes out of the oven.