12 February 2014

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese

For the past few years I've been following Food 52 as it has grown from a sort of community-based website where amateur food fans like myself could post their successes or enter contests on such recipe topics as "Your best Green and/or Wax Bean Recipe" or "Your Best New Years' Resolution Recipe". The website has evolved to become a well-rounded resource of tested and home recipes in a visually striking site that offers no end of cooking inspiration. Lately I've become a subscriber, following the annual roundup of Cookbook competitions ("the Piglet"), and perusing their selection of "provisions" in a daily email. These overpriced, curated cookware selections always crack me up. I won't be needing an $80 gold soup ladle anytime soon, thank you very much, but as web-browsing has largely taken the place of window shopping, I equate the provisions emails to strolling around Barney's department store windows.

 In recent months I've paid more attention to the Genius Recipes column. The very title reminds me of the PR Genius of Jamie Oliver, whose recipes are almost often prefaced with a superlative such as, "the best",  "beautiful", "wonderful", or "insanely good" as in "insanely good oxtail stew" or "wonderful welsh cakes". I'm pretty sure those oxtails are insanely good, not least of which because Jamie told me so himself. 

The psychology of this sort of seemingly objective but in fact self-congratulatory recipe naming works. For example, nowadays when visiting Food 52, I find myself bypassing ordinary recipes and going directly to the Genius Recipes. Just like I avidly read  the Guardian's "How to Cook the Perfect" recipe series (as in how to cook the perfect Christmas Ham).
For the home cook there is something comforting about the idea that this recipe you are about to embark upon is so well thought out that even you, the home cook, will not muss it up. Also, these adjectives are telling you, it is worth the time it will take to cook the home cooked meal yourself rather than ordering takeout.  

 The cauliflower is dunked whole into a winey, red-peppery broth and simmered until just al dente before being carefully removed and crisped up around its bare exterior in a hot, hot oven. When you remove it to drizzle with olive oil, the oil sizzles before being absorbed into the head of cauliflower. This I found highly satisfying. I also loved the white-on-white quality of the dish, topped with goat cheese, which I had to stop myself from going overboard with. In reality the vegetable by itself is so flavorful many would not really even need the goat cheese, but who am I to say no to cheese? 
 Roasted Cauliflower
Adapted slightly from Food 52, via Bon Appetit Magazine
1 head cauliflower, whole, leaves removed and stem carefully trimmed, keeping base of cauliflower in tact
2 1/4 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for serving
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
Maldon or other coarse sea salt, for serving

Heat oven to 475° F. In the meantime, in a large soup pot, big enough to hold your entire cauliflower, bring wine, oil, salt, lemon juice, butter, red pepper flakes, sugar, bay leaf, and 8 cups water to a boil. Carefully lower in cauliflower, reduce heat, and simmer, rolling over occasionally, until a knife inserts into center, 15 to 20 minutes, being careful not to overcook or let it get mushy. 

Using 2 slotted spoons or a mesh strainer or spider, transfer cauliflower to a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, draining well. Place in oven to roast, rotating pan halfway through, until brown all over, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer cauliflower to a plate. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with whipped goat cheese.

Whipped Goat Cheese
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
3 ounces cream cheese
2 ounces feta cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for serving

Blend goat cheese, cream cheese, feta, cream, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a food processor until smooth; season with sea salt. Transfer whipped goat cheese to a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Note: Whipped goat cheese can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

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