Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cauliflower Steaks with White Wine Pan Sauce


Cauliflower, like the potato, is a blank canvas.


But while most will probably say they like (or love) potatoes in one form or another,  the same does not apply to the poor cauliflower.
A lot of people hate it.
Is it just the bland taste? Is it that it's creamy whiteness can turn an unappetizing shade of grey and become fall-apart mushy in texture when overcooked?
The fact that it's related to Brussels sprouts?
Were people made to eat it against their will far too often in earlier days?
Do we just need to have something as a personal protest?

I don't know for sure, but I think this could change people's perceptions of cauliflower...
Besides, anything with a good sear on it will taste good- meat or otherwise.

This method of preparation for cauliflower made it's way to my inbox several months ago, but I just recently retrieved it (and I'm glad I got back to it).
To give credit, the technique is based on that in a Tasting Table recipe from chef Jason Neroni of Superba Snack Bar in Los Angeles.
Sorry, but I have not yet tried the aforementioned recipe, I just decided on something a bit different. Among other more minor differences, his version is served with a green olive pistou, so if that sounds like your cup of tea perhaps you could look it up.
Whichever version you choose, I think you'll find a great vegetarian meal. And "vegetarian" does not mean boring.

The sauce prepared here is a white wine reduction with capers and a lemony zip- which happens to pair very nicely with the slightly sweet and nutty cauliflower. If you're not really a lemon person or happen to be a little wary of the piquancy, maybe only start with half the lemon zest and juice.

One tip: don't get rid of the braising liquid after you remove the cauliflower. It's pretty flavorful and would be great as a base for a soup, or as the liquid for cooking beans or rice.  Just know that it's salty, so adjust as necessary.

And a thought: the sauce would be great with pan-seared fish.

Cauliflower Steaks with White Wine Pan Sauce
Makes 2 steaks, serves 2 as a meal

1 head of cauliflower
4 c (960 ml) vegetable broth
11/2 c (360 ml) dry white wine, divided
5 T (75 ml) olive oil, divided
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 t (a large pinch) dried thyme
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T (26 g) brined capers, drained
3 T (42 g) cold unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly minced parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/175 C.

Trim the cauliflower of any leaves and cut off the root end. Stand the cauliflower on the root end and cut in half vertically. Cut each half of cauliflower again from top to bottom, so that you have two flat-sided steaks, each about 2 inches thick. Save the rounded outside florets for another use.

In a 9x13 inch pan, mix the vegetable broth, 1 c (240 ml) of white wine, 3 T (45 ml) olive oil, 2 T (35 g) kosher salt, garlic, thyme and the bay leaf. When the salt has dissolved, add the cauliflower steaks, turn them once in the broth mixture,  and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake about 45 minutes, or until the cauliflower is fork tender.

With a spatula, carefully remove the cauliflower to a large paper towel-lined plate and blot any moisture from the top of the cauliflower. Set aside.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot (it may smoke a little), about 2 minutes. Add the last 2 T (30 ml) of olive oil. Once it shimmers, add the cauliflower and sear until deep golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Flip the steaks and sear on the other side.  Remove to plates.

Add the last 1/2 c (120 ml) of wine to the hot pan and reduce to about  2 T or (30 ml). Pull the pan off the heat and add the lemon juice and zest, capers, and a pinch of salt. Stir everything together and add the butter. Let the residual heat of the pan melt the butter and shake the pan every so often so that the sauce becomes homogenous. Add several grinds of freshly ground black pepper, taste for seasoning, and spoon the sauce over the plated cauliflower. Top with a nice sprinkling of minced parsley, if using.
Serve warm.


  1. BEAutiful---can you try this with broccoli?

    1. I think in the case of broccoli, you may want to just roast or panfry it to get the caramelization, then have a little sauce along with it.
      Since the tops of florets on a cauliflower are much more dense and tighter than those on the more delicate broccoli, I'm afraid the texture of broccoli which had been braised wouldn't turn out quite so well as cauliflower.