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Anatomy of Cauliflower - Chris DeBarr
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Anatomy of Cauliflower
I believe it was Mark Twain who said that "cauliflower is just a cabbage with a college education," which is botanically true in that the great white flower is related to the cabbage family, and of course Twain is wittily referring to the reputation this Chou-Fleur has for looking like brains. Cauliflower is one of my very favorite Winter vegetables, so this year at Sere we featured it 3 ways.

I had an idea for New Year's Eve to feature tiny "cauliflower steaks" as an amuse-bouche, which we did with truffled bagna cauda. Marko really liked the premise and created a huge, genuine cauliflower steak, which is cut across the grain to show the "arms" of this Winter flower, which we roast, gently coat with Very Old Dutch Gouda, then pan roast again to caramelize & deepen the flavors. We serve this beautiful "steak" with kasha-- buckwheat that's been toasted and gently cooked with small dice of veg and herbs, greens grown locally (as in my backyard local!) by my dear friend, Zoe of Planet to Plate, wilted in a very hot skillet, and finally a rich red beet/fennel sauce. We like serving forth vegetarian food that is rich, satisfying & seductive to even the most ardent meat-eaters. Our Cauliflower Steak did all that...

We began our foray into cauliflower with a rich Cream of Cauliflower Soup, which didn't rely on potatoes nor really even that much cream. After all, cauliflower is white and when puréed in a background of beautiful vegetable broth, roasted garlic, and some heavy cream the result is magnified flavor, not a watered down barely hinting at cauliflower soup that is really a shitty potato soup. Not on our watch! We garnished this velvety liaison of sexy Wintry terroir with a "confetti" of tiny brunoise of fried potatoes, crispy leeks and cauliflower "debris" roasted with Bengali spices. To complete the garnish we made a scallion oil that sparkled with the hint of green we crave in wintertime. That was a gorgeous soup, but next up is a Moroccan carrot soup we have in mind, coming up very soon.

Finally in our trio of cauliflower gems, I made a snail dish that had been on my mind for awhile. Making 'bacon fat' profiteroles (using half butter and half smoky bacon fat we gather from Nueske's killer applewood bacon), I marinate the escargot in parsley & garlic -- the usual conveyors of flavor to these garden critters I love to cook simply-- then gently heat those snails up in a cauliflower cream we infuse with different herbs and finish with goat cheese to purée. The parsley and garlic slough off into the cauliflower and dance with the secret tastes of the herbs, then are cradled onto the fork by the profiteroles. I jokingly say that this dish is like God the way the bacon, especially the bacon, and the infused herbs work inside the flavors: in other words, you can't see Him, but you can always taste His goodness! Ah, well if comparing bacon to The Big Kahuna gets my soul in trouble, well, all I can say is that I am a Southern boy who loves my pig, and had to sneak it into e garden of eatin'!

So this entry is notebook fodder for my memories & database, as Spring has definitely sprung in Nola and these are the very last daze you can taste this trio of cauliflower pretty, pretty. It was quite a glorious trip into the brains and anatomy of cauliflower this winter, but we have more vegetable to reveal their secret inner lives of great flavor. Stay tuned, or run the heck over to Serendipity tonight to get the last of a beautiful tribute to an under appreciated white flower of Winter.

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