Thursday, January 03, 2008

Trying to fill him up with chicken, potatoes and roasted cauliflower...

Jeff and I have only come to love cauliflower in the last couple of years and I think our favorite way to prepare it is roasting the chunky florets in a hot oven. While it is very good with a toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, tonight's side, Balsamic and Asiago Roasted Cauliflower, added a few savory ingredients to really punch up the flavor.

Rather than breaking up the florets, try to slice them so there is a good flat surface on at least one side - this gives the cauliflower more surface area on the hot baking sheet, allowing it to caramelize and deepen its flavor. As we've talked about with some other baked dishes (like fries or breaded chicken), I like to preheat the baking sheet first so as soon as the food hits the pan, you can hear it sizzle and begin to cook. The cauliflower is tossed with oil and then seasoned with salt, fresh ground black pepper and marjoram. Marjoram is more mild and slightly sweeter than oregano - it has flavors that are mildly minty and an almost citrus-y flavor. I don't usually have it on hand in the pantry, but our local natural foods co-op has a great bulk spice area where you can buy as much or as little as you need - a great way to test out spices you've not used before! Once the cauliflower has begun to soften and gain a golden hue, the florets are tossed with rich and tangy Balsamic vinegar and then given a light coating of sharp Asiago cheese (though, you could use Parmesan if you don't have Asiago already). The cauliflower goes back into the oven to crisp up the cheese and to concentrate the balsamic flavor. As I said, we quite enjoy plain roasted cauliflower, but we may never go back after trying this!

If I would have really looked closely when I was menu planning for this week, I would have noticed that both recipes tonight used the oven at fairly different temperatures. It is nights like this that I wish we had double ovens! Oh well, I just prepared the protein portion of our meal tonight, Cocoa-Chili-Rubbed Chicken, first and figured it would be just as tasty at room temperature.

A mixture of chili powder, cocoa powder, thyme, oregano, sugar and salt are combined to form a spice rub. The chicken is then brushed with olive oil and given a good massage to generously coat them with the rub. To give the chicken a head start and a good sear, it is briefly cooked in a skillet and then slid into the oven so they can evenly cook through. While they certainly don't taste like chicken coated in chocolate, the cocoa brings a pleasant depth to the chili flavor and adds a slightly bitter edge.

Jeff was feeling especially ravenous tonight, so I also just threw together some basic spicy potato wedges (also with a scattering of Asiago!) that we roasted along side of the cauliflower. While we had the moist chicken breasts with potatoes and cauliflower, I can really see us going in a fantastic different direction by serving it on top of a soft creamy bed of polenta spiked with Parmigiano-Reggiano - next time!


  1. Your dinner looks delicious Joe! I'm always looking for new ways to cook veggies. The cauliflower recipe looks interesting. I plan on trying it soon!

  2. I prefer to roast cauli without salt, only salting after it's finished cooking.

    Try it this way: toss with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper and freshly ground nutmeg. Salt after it's cooked, just before serving. You'll love it.

    I'll definitely try slicing it next time--great tip!

  3. It all looks delicious! It would certainly be a very satisfying meal for me.

  4. I LOVE cauliflower! I am also a fan of Vally Natural foods--what a great co-op. I am lucky enough to live withing walking distance of the Wedge, but when I find myself out in the burbs near Vally Natural Foods I always find an excuse to pop in!


  5. that sounds wonderful, im going to make it tomorrow night, thanks!

  6. We love roasted cauliflower, too... slicing the florets is an EXCELLENT tip... and I'm *so* trying this recipe! :)

  7. Yum, both dishes sound delicious Joe!! Added to my to try list! And this year I am going to be more organized with "the list" and will try the recipes I keep adding to it!!
    Happy 2008 for you and Jeff!!

  8. Val - We are too... you know, have to keep it new and interesting!

    Mrs. W - I'll have to keep that in mind!

    Barbara - Thanks!

    Courtney - I don't get to the Wedge often enough... I used to go there all the time when I lived downtown!

    Ryan - Hope you liked it!

    Culinography - Roasting it brings so much more flavor!

    Ana - Thanks Ana, back at ya!

  9. I have been wanting to try roasted cauliflower for a while now (everyone has been raving on the clbb) and this sounds AWESOME. I can't wait to make it!

  10. Laura - Hope you get a chance to try it out!