Ever since I first read the hyped-up reviews of whole, roasted cauliflower from Miznon, an Israeli eatery in the Marais district of Paris, I’ve wondered: Just how good can plain, roasted cauliflower really be?
Well, I’m here to tell ya, it’s pretty darned good. Good enough to eat half of it in a sitting. Good enough to want to make it again and again this winter…
Because the fields around Cancale and Saint-Malo are French Cauliflower Central. (Brittany produces 75% of France’s cauliflower and exports the vegetables all over Europe as well.) About this time of year, the air starts to take on a cabbage-y smell as all those snowy-white heads are harvested. Those harvesting the cauliflower are impressive-looking as well, with their get-ups of boots and bright yellow oilskin trousers and their machetes (yes, machetes!) in hand to trim the leaves from around the cauliflower heads. (They’re not much for having their pictures taken so I can’t show you what they look like here.)
Here’s the video of chef Eyal Shani making whole roasted cauliflower in the Miznon kitchen. (There’s no doubt in HIS mind that this is a wonderful way to prepare cauliflower – chou-fleur in French.) I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit so it’s a little more foolproof in a home kitchen. The textures and flavors are truly sublime; the floret edges get crispy and smoky while the stems and center turn tender, not soggy. I polished my head off plain –the first half hot, the second half cold—but the next one I plan to try with different sauces. I might even slice it into slabs and use them as a sandwich filling–if I ever end up with any leftovers.
Roasted Whole Cauliflower
3 Tbs. coarse sea salt or 2 Tbs. fine salt, plus more for sprinkling cauliflower
1 small to medium head of cauliflower
2 to 3 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
lemon halves, optional
Bring a large pot of salted water (using the amount of salt mentioned) to a rapid boil, and preheat the oven to 450˚F.
DROP the cauliflower head in the boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, cook 7 to 10 minutes, or until a knife tip can pierce the cauliflower head fairly easily. Drain the cauliflower head, and cool 5 minutes.
POUR 1 Tbs. olive oil on your hands, then rub it all over the cauliflower. Repeat with the remaining oil until the cauliflower is covered in oil, then sprinkle with salt and season with pepper, if desired.
PLACE the cauliflower head on a sheet pan, and roast 20 to 30 minutes, or until the florets turn deep brown-black on the edges. Cool 5 minutes before serving. (It will still be REALLY hot.)