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THE CONFIDENT COOK

Recipe: A roasted whole cauliflower with crunchy crumbs makes a glorious presentation

Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Crunchy CrumbsSally Pasley Vargas

Serves 4

A New Year's resolution to eat more vegetables is a bit of a challenge since January is about the worst month in the Northeast for vegetables. But a roasted whole cauliflower with a coating of mustard, olive oil, and lemon juice is as delicious as it is dramatic. I used to find it difficult to cook the whole head all the way through in the oven without first steaming it on the stovetop. Needless to say, getting it in and out of a huge pot of boiling water was too cumbersome, and frankly, a little dangerous. My new method is to it steam the whole cauliflower in the oven, covered with foil at first, then uncovered so it can brown. Before setting it in the baking dish, trim the bottom stem so the head sits without wobbling. Set the cauliflower in a bath of vegetable or chicken stock with Dijon mustard, sprigs of fresh thyme, capers, and garlic cloves smashed just enough to break their skins. Halfway through cooking, remove the foil. The cauliflower continues roasting and browns while the liquid in the pan reduces to make a flavorful sauce. Sprinkle the head with golden, crunchy crumbs made with sourdough bread or a baguette mixed with parsley, mustard, and Parmesan, then toasted. Present the whole golden, glorious cauliflower at the table, then cut it into wedges. Who says vegetables in winter are boring?

CRUMBS

1 handful parsley leaves
2slices sourdough or French bread, torn into pieces
2tablespoons olive oil
1rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Set the oven at 425 degrees. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a food processor, pulse the parsley until coarsely chopped. Add the bread pieces, olive oil, mustard, and Parmesan. Pulse again until the bread forms large crumbs.

3. Spread the crumbs on the sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, turning several times, or until they are golden. Leave the oven on.

CAULIFLOWER

1medium whole cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
2tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼cup lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2tablespoons olive oil
4cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife (skins left on)
2tablespoons capers
4sprigs fresh thyme
cups vegetable or chicken stock

1. Have on hand an 8-or-9-inch baking dish and foil to cover it with several inches left over.

2. Trim the base of the cauliflower so that it is flat, discarding the tough outer leaves and keeping the prettiest leaves intact.

3. In a bowl, whisk the mustard, lemon juice, a generous pinch each of salt and pepper, and the oil. Brush the cauliflower generously with some of the mustard mixture. Set the cauliflower in the baking dish, rounded side up.

4. Stir the garlic, capers, thyme, and stock into the remaining mustard mixture. Pour it into the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil.

5. Roast the cauliflower for 30 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven. Discard the foil. Baste the cauliflower with the pan juices. Continue roasting for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a skewer and the outside is golden brown. (Total roasting time is 65 to 70 minutes; larger heads may take a little more time.)

6. Transfer the cauliflower to a plate. Remove the garlic and thyme sprigs from the roasting juices. Spoon the juices over the cauliflower and sprinkle with the crumbs. Slice into wedges.

Sally Pasley Vargas

Serves 4

A New Year's resolution to eat more vegetables is a bit of a challenge since January is about the worst month in the Northeast for vegetables. But a roasted whole cauliflower with a coating of mustard, olive oil, and lemon juice is as delicious as it is dramatic. I used to find it difficult to cook the whole head all the way through in the oven without first steaming it on the stovetop. Needless to say, getting it in and out of a huge pot of boiling water was too cumbersome, and frankly, a little dangerous. My new method is to it steam the whole cauliflower in the oven, covered with foil at first, then uncovered so it can brown. Before setting it in the baking dish, trim the bottom stem so the head sits without wobbling. Set the cauliflower in a bath of vegetable or chicken stock with Dijon mustard, sprigs of fresh thyme, capers, and garlic cloves smashed just enough to break their skins. Halfway through cooking, remove the foil. The cauliflower continues roasting and browns while the liquid in the pan reduces to make a flavorful sauce. Sprinkle the head with golden, crunchy crumbs made with sourdough bread or a baguette mixed with parsley, mustard, and Parmesan, then toasted. Present the whole golden, glorious cauliflower at the table, then cut it into wedges. Who says vegetables in winter are boring?

CRUMBS

1 handful parsley leaves
2slices sourdough or French bread, torn into pieces
2tablespoons olive oil
1rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Set the oven at 425 degrees. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a food processor, pulse the parsley until coarsely chopped. Add the bread pieces, olive oil, mustard, and Parmesan. Pulse again until the bread forms large crumbs.

3. Spread the crumbs on the sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, turning several times, or until they are golden. Leave the oven on.

CAULIFLOWER

1medium whole cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
2tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼cup lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2tablespoons olive oil
4cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife (skins left on)
2tablespoons capers
4sprigs fresh thyme
cups vegetable or chicken stock

1. Have on hand an 8-or-9-inch baking dish and foil to cover it with several inches left over.

2. Trim the base of the cauliflower so that it is flat, discarding the tough outer leaves and keeping the prettiest leaves intact.

3. In a bowl, whisk the mustard, lemon juice, a generous pinch each of salt and pepper, and the oil. Brush the cauliflower generously with some of the mustard mixture. Set the cauliflower in the baking dish, rounded side up.

4. Stir the garlic, capers, thyme, and stock into the remaining mustard mixture. Pour it into the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil.

5. Roast the cauliflower for 30 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven. Discard the foil. Baste the cauliflower with the pan juices. Continue roasting for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a skewer and the outside is golden brown. (Total roasting time is 65 to 70 minutes; larger heads may take a little more time.)

6. Transfer the cauliflower to a plate. Remove the garlic and thyme sprigs from the roasting juices. Spoon the juices over the cauliflower and sprinkle with the crumbs. Slice into wedges.Sally Pasley Vargas