How Whole Roasted Cauliflowers Are Taking Center Stage

Restaurants are serving up cauliflower in a whole new way — literally. Whole roasted heads of the cruciferous vegetable are the latest crowning glory at the table. After roasting them, chefs get creative with sauces and embellishments that take this vegetable from mundane to magnificent.

Chef Ben Ford believes serving a whole head of cauliflower shows off the vegetable in its most-natural state. His version features the sunny Italian flavors of chicken piccata.

“This dish is full of flavor, and because the cauliflower is served whole, it’s meaty enough to satisfy meat eaters. I also love foods that can be shared; and if it’s served with a sharp knife sticking out of it, all the better,” says Ford.

Photo by: Will Crocker ©Will Crocker 2011

Will Crocker, Will Crocker 2011

Chef Alon Shaya was inspired to roast a whole head of cauliflower while on a trip to his native Israel. Says Shaya, “I spent a few days testing a recipe that cooked the whole head until just tender with some lemon, white wine, spicy chiles and olive oil. Then, once fully cooked, we could roast it in the pizza oven to caramelize it. I love the combination of cauliflower and feta; it’s like the cousin to broccoli and cheddar. The dish was a big hit from day one, and has only gotten more popular.” Indeed, the restaurant sells nearly 700 heads each week.

From the “Roots and Leaves” section of the menu, this cauliflower is dripping with brown butter and topped with a crunchy topping of ham, ginger and shallots. According to Chef Chad Johnson, the dish came about from his obsession with goat’s milk butter.

Says Johnson, “We were playing around with different options to showcase its unique acidity. Once we settled on the combination with cauliflower, the rest of the garnishes fell into place as a way to make every bite a little different.”

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