Coal-Roasted Cauliflower with Romesco

We love a whole oven-roasted cauliflower. It is creamy and tender on the inside and golden and caramelized on the outside. The possibilities are endless — puree it into a rich soup, chop it up for a delicious pasta dish or serve as is, so everyone gets a wedge. Is it possible to get the same results on a campfire or charcoal grill, we wondered? Dropping it into the coals on its own would only result in a burnt exterior. So we wrapped ours in a salt dough that seals once it hits the coals, allowing the cauliflower to steam until tender while also roasting from the direct heat of the coals. The result is a super-flavorful, cauliflower that pairs perfectly with the smoky romesco served with it.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 10 min
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt (see Cook's Note)

2 cups all-purpose flour (see Cook's Note) 

2 large egg whites 

1 large cauliflower, leaves trimmed 

2 red bell peppers 

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil  

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 

2 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces 

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 

1 teaspoon smoked paprika 

2 plum tomatoes, cored and quartered 

Directions

  1. Add 2 cups of the salt with the flour, egg whites and 1 cup water to a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until completely mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
  2. Prepare a campfire or charcoal grill for cooking at medium-high heat (you'll know it's ready when you can hold your hand about 2 inches above the fire or grates for only 2 to 3 seconds).  
  3. Put the cauliflower on a clean work surface, stem-side down, and rub the salt paste all over the florets until they are completely covered. Flip the cauliflower in your hands (you may want to flour your hands if the cauliflower is a little sticky); holding it by the exposed stem, gently nestle it into the coals. Cook, rotating occasionally by grasping the stem with grilling tongs, until the stem is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife and the crust is blackened all over, 35 to 40 minutes. Try not to crack the crust so that it stays sealed and the cauliflower can steam while it roasts. Transfer to a baking sheet and let cool for 5 minutes, then use tongs to crack the crust from the cauliflower and discard it.  
  4. While the cauliflower is cooking, put the bell peppers in the coals and cook, turning frequently with the tongs, until blackened. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and cover with a plate to steam and soften, about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel the skin from the peppers, remove all the seeds and discard skin and seeds. Set peppers aside. 
  5. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the garlic along with the bread pieces. Cook, stirring, until the bread is golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and add the red peppers, remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar, smoked paprika, tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth.  

Cook’s Note

Though the dough in this recipe uses a lot of salt, most of it stays in the crust that's removed when you are done cooking. When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)