We were fortunate this week to score an invite to a dinner, hosted by a currently unkitchened chef, where a sampling of 5 varieties of heritage-style pigs was set to take place. More on the pork served next week in a post about the evening.
The invite came with a request for side dishes and wine. Wine was the easy part; standard rule for us is to grab the oldest bottle that is appropriate (color, style, food/non-food necessary) from our modest stockpile. We certainly hit the lottery this go round with a Ridge Geyserville 1995 coming up in rotation.
As for the side dish, we went with a well-worn cauliflower dish from our repertoire, which is both easy to prepare and needs very little attention. To minimize cost when doing sides for 25 people, Trader Joe’s is a good place to go for your shopping. We picked up a few cheap heads of cauliflower, which thankfully is amongst their limited stock, but will detail our recipe for a single head below.
- Remove from plastic, turn upside down and peel off as many leaves as possible.
- Using a short, sharp knife, cut out the core tracing just inside the edge of the flowerets.
- Trim any brown spots off the top of the head and cut into even sized flowerets, cutting larger ones if half if necessary.
- In 475 degree oven, preheat a pan (Pyrex rectangle, lasagna, cookie sheet) with between 2 tablespoons and 1/3 cup of oil, whatever is comfortable for your diet.
- When hot, but not smoking, add the cauliflower toss in 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt (we like Maldon or sub kosher if you need to), once again less or more to taste.
- Roast for approximately 45 minutes giving the pan a good shake every 10-15 minutes. Turn down heat or add more oil if it starts to burn.
- Toast a ¼ cup of pine nuts and remove to a cutting board.
- Finely chop the pine nuts with a tablespoon of Aleppo pepper. These peppers, medium hot and originally from Turkey or Syria, are wonderful and very friendly with many ingredients. Substitute Ancho or basic crushed red pepper if you must.
- Add this nut/pepper mix to the cauliflower when it is well browned and cooked through, cooking for 3 minutes in the over before removing the whole pan.
Needless to say, unless your ego is huge it is a bit terrifying for a hobbyist to cook for real food professionals. Recipes that prepare simple dishes without too much flavor clutter, and allow ingredients to shine, are always a safe route to take.
Till next week.