Last fall, Food52 posted a recipe for a whole roasted cauliflower. Roasted cauliflower, or really, roasted vegetables on the whole, is just about my favorite way to enjoy any of the colder weather veggies. I am not new to this method. Still, when I saw the proposal to roast the entire cauliflower whole, I was a little skeptical. Would it take a million years to cook? Would it taste like the roasted cauliflower I know?
Better. Introducing first the poaching of an entire cauliflower, and then roasting. Suddenly it all made sense. The poaching process allows the cauliflower to soak up extra flavor and retain its moisture, which is normally one of the biggest problems with roasting any vegetable. Once you get all the flavor, you run the risk of the finished veggies being too dry or too drenched in oil.
Thank you, Alon Shaya, for addressing this issue with such flair. Besides, this is a truly beautiful table presentation, if you're feeling so inclined. I bet you your guests have never seen cauliflower served this way before. (The original recipe also suggested goat cheese, which I'm sure would be delightful, though I chose not to include it in this vegan rendition.)
For this recipe, you'll need:
1 large cauliflower, trimmed with leaves and stems removed
8 cups of water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Earth Balance or preferred vegan margarine
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. In a large pot, bring your 8 cups of water, oil, salt, lemon juice, Earth Balance, red pepper flakes, sugar and bay leaf to a rolling boil. Very carefully, lower the cauliflower into the mixture, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Every few minutes, flip the cauliflower around in the pot to make sure that it cooks evenly.
Carefully transfer the cauliflower head (Shaya recommends two slotted spoons) to a parchment lined baking sheet and allow to dry for a few minutes. Transfer to the oven to roast for 30-40 minutes, being sure to rotate the pan halfway through.
I think this might be the only time I would describe a cauliflower as, well, juicy. But it was. It soaked up all that goodness and flavor from the poaching process (oh yeah, and also the fat from the olive oil, which I'm guessing didn't hurt) and it was just good. Like GOOD, good. Like never going back to the old roasting method good. Okay, maybe not that, but close enough.
The original recipe can be found here.