Monday, April 15, 2019

Better than popcorn

I’m proud to say that this is a recipe I thought up all by myself, and I’m so proud. 

It stars cauliflower. I used to loathe this vegetable and could never understand who in the world would bother to a) buy it, b) eat it, and c) why. But then I discovered roasting, and suddenly cauliflower became one of my favorite things in the world.

This all has to do with texture and flavor. Boiled or even stir-fried cauliflower is so boring. Sorry, but it really is. Not much going on there at all. 

But toss those florets in oil and roast them? That leads to sheer nirvana. 

We’d been eating heads of cauliflower for years ever since I figured this out a couple of decades ago. 

Vegetable's answer to clouds
I’d roast it, toss on some salt or something, and we’d happily snack on cauliflower like popcorn. 

The crispy-edged pieces are particularly delightful, since they virtually fry up in the oven into absolute perfection. It’s truly a terrific way to devour a massive amount of vegetables with alacrity.

But then, when confronted one day with a gorgeous cloud of cauliflower, my eyes drifted over to the pantry and settled upon my big old can of Chinese satay sauce, and the combination sounded brilliant. So, I roasted the cauliflower until it was almost done, tossed it with an amped-up satay sauce, and the results were beyond delicious.

Select heads of cauliflower that are heavy for their size, as this means they’re fresh and haven’t dried out yet. Look at the leaves, which should be green and happy, as well as the surface of the white florets, which ought to be as unblemished as possible. Trim off the very bottom, but use all the rest, even the core. It truly is completely edible. 
I'll happily eat the whole thing

Besides, once you try this recipe, you’ll not want to waste a morsel.

Roasted cauliflower with Chinese satay sauce chez Huang
Huángjiā shāchá kăo yēcàihuā 黃家沙茶烤椰菜花
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

1 head cauliflower
½ cup | 125 ml peanut or salad oil
½ cup | 125 ml Chinese satay sauce or shacha (see Note)
2 tablespoons regular soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, trimmed and chopped

1. Place the rack in the center of your oven and set the oven to 400ºF | 200ºC. Have a large rimmed baking sheet ready. 
Cut into florets

2. Rinse the cauliflower and shake it more or less dry. You don’t need to cut off the leaves, as they will crisp up nicely in the oven. Cut the cauliflower into golf-ball-sized pieces or in whatever shape you want – no need to be terribly accurate here, as the smallish bits will crisp up, while the thicker pieces will provide a juicy contrast. Win-win. 

3. Place the cauliflower on the baking sheet and drizzle the oil over it. Toss the cauliflower a little with the oil and then set the sheet in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, by which time the edges of the cauliflower will be lightly golden.

4. While the cauliflower is roasting, mix together the rest of the ingredients, except for the scallions. Remove the cauliflower from the oven at the end of the 40 minutes, toss it with this sauce, and return the sheet to the over for another 15 minutes or so. You want lots of crispiness going on in there, believe me, but no burning, so keep an eye on things. When it’s done to your liking, toss with the scallions and serve immediately. 

Bull's Eye Brand

The only brand of Chinese satay sauce worth buying in my humble opinion in Bull’s Head from Taiwan, which says it’s “barbecue sauce” on the label. Don’t believe them – it’s satay. 

This brand has three varieties: traditional (clear lid, which tells you there’s dried seafood in it), vegetarian (green lid), and Sichuan seasoning (red lid). All are good. Use whatever variety you prefer. Keep this in a cool pantry, where it will stay perfect for quite a few months.