Sometimes a dish sneaks up on you with its goodness. You make it, set it on the table, and then are dumbfounded by the result. This is exactly what happened to me last week as I was unthinkingly trying to get rid of some surplus cauliflower from my organic produce box. As you may know, I love cauliflower—actually all of the cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, rapini, all of them.
A couple of weeks ago I bought a copy of LaRousse Gastronomique. The consensus of the interewebs said to get the pre-revision version, so I bought the 1961 edition. It’s not really a cookbook, but more of an encyclopedia of food. Each entry describes the food/dish/technique in detail and then gives practical examples. I was reading through the “C” section and stumbled upon “cauliflower” or chou-fleur as the French say. I read through all of suggestions for preparation and they sounded all right, but mostly involved boiling in well-salted water, serving either hot or cold and covering with something like cheese or butter or herbs.
Later that day, I’m staring mindlessly into the fridge trying to come up with something for dinner and I thought, What the hell. I’ll just boil that cauliflower up. So I followed the directions and boiled the head whole and topped it with browned butter. Then I sliced the cooked cauliflower like a loaf of bread, plated it, and on went the browned butter (good, European-style). I served it as an entrée with a mesclun salad. It was amazing. Rich, savory, and very satisfying. This is exactly what people mean when they say “more than the sum of its parts.” Cauliflower with browned butter will most certainly make it into regular rotation at my house. I realize it doesn’t sound like much, but you really will just have to take my word for it.