Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sam Sifton's Roasted Cauliflower with Anchovy Bread Crumbs

The week  leading up to Thanksgiving we ended up eating a lot of random vegetarian meals.  It just seemed like the proper (and healthy) thing to do since we knew we would be stuffing ourselves silly on Thanksgiving.  And logically, some of those vegetarian meals were based on recipes that I had considered making as a side dish for Thanksgiving, but didn't quite make the cut.  Before I go any further I should state that this dish was only in the running because Serious Eats raved about it.  It didn't actually go with anything else we were serving (more on that later) but it sounded interesting enough that I bookmarked it as an option if we changed up the menu (we didn't).  Once I knew our menu was set and this dish wasn't going to make it onto the Thanksgiving table, I decided to try it out on just Alex and I.  Our end verdict was that while the cauliflower was pretty good, it wasn't as good as other cauliflower dishes we have made in the past - in terms of texture and flavor.  The bread crumbs did provide a promised hit of "salty-funky" flavor, but I felt like you didn't taste the sage or the lemon.  I also thought the bread crumbs weren't quite as delicious as I had hoped.  As I mentioned below, they were a little oily and gummy, rather than crispy and flavorful.  If I were to make this dish again I would substitute the bread crumbs and the almonds from Mario Batali's St. John's Eve Pasta for the bread crumbs here.  And then I would probably roast the cauliflower much longer - like we did with the Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Cumin a few weeks ago.  Roasting it longer would provide the wonderful sweet, nutty flavor and crispy texture that I really enjoyed with that dish.  To be perfectly honest, with all of the changes I would have to make to this dish before I would make it again I'm not sure there will be a re-do, but such is life.  It wasn't a bad dish.  It just wasn't anything to write home about, nor was it a dish that I would be dying to serve to my family for future Thanksgivings...

Recipe after the jump!

Sam Sifton's Roasted Cauliflower with Anchovy Bread Crumbs Adapted from Serious Eats

For the cauliflower

2 heads cauliflower
8 to 10 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Anchovy Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and diced
1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Break cauliflower into florets and toss in a bowl with sage, lemon zest, sugar, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread out on a large baking sheet. Place in oven and cook until tender and golden, approximately 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare bread crumbs. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan set over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add the anchovies, garlic, shallot, and bread crumbs. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until golden.  Our bread crumbs were golden, but they were still oily and soggy at this point (probably because they were fairly large in size) and if yours are still kind of oily/soggy you might want to do what we did and add them to the cauliflower for the last 5 minutes as it roasts.  That helps to dry them out and crisp them up.

In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower and bread crumbs and serve on a warmed platter.

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