I will never be Tweeter of the Year. I signed up for Twitter because I was told I was being left behind by the march of time, and I’ve come to enjoy it, as both a consumer and an emitter of 140-character posts (mine are almost always exactly 140 characters, by the way). But I don’t chronicle my every movement, let alone my every thought. I follow very few people apart from those I know in flesh and blood or at least well enough to nod to across the room.
Hence, it is with mild surprise that I introduce today’s cauliflower dish by saying that I got the technique for cooking it from a series of tweets by the U.K. food writer and critic Jay Rayner (@jayrayner1), who learned a slightly different version from Rene Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant.
Rayner’s four telegraphic but strangely tempting posts ran: 1. “Whole roast cauliflower from @ReneRedzepiNoma . . .” / 2. “Method. Slice base of caul to get flat surface. Melt hunk of unsalted butter. Place caul flat side down. Add rosemary twig. Lid on.” / 3. “Heat down to low. Leave for 30 mins. Gently check to see if caramelised. Carefully turn over to get a bit of colour on top. Should be tender”. / 4. “Put in bowl flat side up. Deglaze butter mess with tea spoon of vinegar. Cook out for a min. Pour over. Sprinkle with sea salt. Er that's it”.
To cauliflower lovers like my wife, Jackie, and me, that seemed like a perfect way to go. The vinegar adds a little zippy interest, yet the basic approach does nothing but enhance a favorite vegetable’s mild, sweet funk – and its beauty, since it’s served whole, to be sliced into big wedges like a spherical cake.
So I adopted the pot-roasting and vinegar-deglazing side of the recipe, but needed to make the end result a little more substantial; this, with some bread and butter, was to be our whole dinner.
That’s where our recent trip to Japan came in. While there we visited a miso factory and became even fonder of that useful source of instant flavor, and I’d been waiting for an opportunity to incorporate it into my non-Japanese cooking.
I followed the first couple of tweeted steps, more or less. I melted 2 tablespoons of butter in a pot with a tight-fitting lid, took a slice off the stem end of the cauliflower, salted the vegetable all over and put it flat side down into the pot. I let it cook, covered, over low heat for about 20 minutes, then increased the heat to medium-low. After another 15 minutes, the whole cauliflower was tender and the cut surface was a lovely golden brown (you could let it get quite dark, but that would be a different dish).
I transferred the cauliflower to a bowl, browned side up, then deglazed the pot with an overflowing teaspoon of white wine vinegar. Once this had reduced, I added 2/3 cup of a very light vegetable broth (Japanese-style dashi or plain water would have worked as well) and 2 heaping tablespoons of miso (mine was made with soybeans, barley and rice and was amber in color; any miso will work). This quickly formed a creamy sauce that needed no adjustment of seasoning whatsoever.
I served big wedges of cauliflower — which were delicious on their own — with plenty of sauce. Sauces of this kind are simple to make, but the fermentation process that turns mashed beans and grain into miso generates complex flavors. Miso sauces are good with just about anything, and that includes cauliflower, as it turns out. This made a flavorful, light dinner, leaving us satisfied yet ready for dessert.
Schneider’s Cooking Off the Cuff blogposts appear Fridays in All We Can Eat. Follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/TimetoCook.