Alon Shaya's Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese

October  9, 2013

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Cauliflower becomes centerpiece, and a stunning vegetarian main is born.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52

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As you already know, cauliflower takes well to roasting. All those clammy, starchy crevices get nutty and sweet and come into their own -- catching oils, crisping, browning, basking. 

But here's a twist: you don't even need to floret it first. Like a chicken, a cauliflower is roastable by design.

Cauliflower on Food52

It's not quite as simple as chucking it in the oven as-is -- although you could do that. People do. But if, instead, you go with chef Alon Shaya's way -- which is nearly as easy -- you can control the seasoning all the way to the core.

Alon Shaya Will Blunt

"I started making the whole roasted cauliflower two years ago after returning from a trip to Israel." Shaya wrote to me. "Fried cauliflower with yogurt is a very classic dish there. I loved that dish so much that I wanted to recreate it in a way that showed off the beauty of the whole vegetable."

More: Genius, 3-ingredient cauliflower soup from Paul Bertolli.

At Shaya's New Orleans restaurant Domenica, this means sous-vide, then an 800° F pizza oven. At home, it's a big pot and whatever oven came in your wall. No matter.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52

First, you'll make a quick winey, punchy broth.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52  Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52

Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52  Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52

Once it's hot, lower in your cauliflower to poach for about 15 minutes.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52  Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52

Then you'll dredge it up and set it in a roasting pan. Save that broth too! It could be considered a boozy first course (the vegetarian version of pot-au-feu), or the base to tomorrow's risotto or pasta sauce, or a means for cooking more vegetables or fish.

You might think the thing would have a hard time browning after such a thorough soak, but don't get out the hair dryer yet. The small amounts of olive oil and butter in the poaching liquid are enough to cling to all of the cauliflower's folds and curves, which don't hesitate to brown and crackle up in a hot oven.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52

Your pale, plain cauliflower is about to come alive. The best part: any spots that are lying flat against the pan go as crisp and bronze as a roast suckling pig. (So make sure you hack the stem down enough to get some of those.)

Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52  Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52

Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52  Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52

Meanwhile you'll fluff up a creamy, funky sauce -- it's goat cheese on feta on cream cheese, with a little cream and olive oil to loosen them all up. Shaya explains, "It reminds me of one of my true loves, Israeli labneh."

Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52

Now you'll tip over more olive oil and scatter on some hunky salt, then carve it into wedges or break it off limb by limb, dragging each through tides of cheese -- dark crust against clean white, the only reminder of the wallflower it used to be.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower on Food52

Alon Shaya's Whole Roasted Cauliflower and Whipped Goat Cheese

Adapted slightly from Bon Appétit and Domenica Restaurant

Serves 4 to 6

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

2 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for serving
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
1 head of cauliflower, stem trimmed and leaves removed

Whipped Goat Cheese

4 ounces fresh goat cheese
3 ounces cream cheese
3 ounces feta
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for serving
Coarse sea salt (for serving)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom, except Alon Shaya by Will Blunt/

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to Food52er shovel2spoon for sending in this one!

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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Judith R. October 7, 2015
Just wanted to add that you can make a really good vegan version by substituting a spicy, salty cashew cream sauce or other vegan sauce for the cheese sauce. Made it a few times, and when I have a vegan at the table, I just substitute for the sauce.
Judith R. October 7, 2015
And use olive oil for the butter.
Kim R. March 27, 2015
I made this, so easy and was spectacular with a french roasted chicken ...I simplified the 'whipped goats cheese' and just whipped together drained yogurt, feta cheese, olive oil & black pepper. It was great and though I am sure the cream cheese and cream would be fine for a dinner party, I still think the simple version was just right for a relatively simple Friday night dinner. I will make this again & again.
TerryKes March 25, 2015
I made this as one of the sides to the Valentine's Dinner my husband and I cooked together. It was amazing. You could really taste the flavors the cauliflower was cooked in before roasting. And the cheese was delicious, too, with a good amount left over that I spread on everything!
Cookster61 May 10, 2014
This is now a staple at our monthly potlucks. I pretty much HAVE to make it.
Morgan A. March 15, 2014
I've personally had this at Alon's restaurant; Domenica (in NOLA) and it's fabulous!!! Cannot wait to try my hand at re-creating it.
Chrysanthema January 30, 2014
But isn't it simply burned? This black parts can't be healthy ...
Cookster61 May 10, 2014
I put a little square of foil over the top once it's browned. (It also keeps the aliens from reading the cauliflower's thoughts :-) )
JohnZ January 19, 2014
I absolutely love this way of using cauliflower! I've made this around five times, and each time the eaters rave. I've made several variations on the salty goat cheese dip, but I've also made a puttanesca sauce that I discovered in one of my Jamie Oliver cookbooks. If you are having a dinner party, the goat cheese and puttanesca dipping sauces offer a good contrast that I guarantee your guests will love.
allstar379 November 4, 2013
wow! This looks amazing. This chef also went to my high school!!
Stacy October 24, 2013
This looks amazing - trying it tonight. Any suggestions of what to serve alongside?
Anne October 15, 2013
I made this last Sunday. I used dry vermouth and then cut down the amount for the whipped goat cheese. WOW! was this yummy and looked magnificent! It was even good re-heated the next night. The whipped goat cheese has been added to several sandwiches this week too!
yo1ocean October 14, 2013
Does cutting the head in half defeat the purpose?
It sounds like the part that touches the pan is very delicious and this would increase the surface area that touches it. Just a thought. :)
shiraz.moola October 11, 2013
What could you use to substitute for the wine, chicken or vegetable stock?
Cathy H. October 11, 2013
I tried this recipe last night and did use wine, though I can easily see either chicken or vegetable stock working well. Given the choice, I'd go for chicken. Good luck!
haapi October 10, 2013
I've had this several times at Domenica and it is exquisite. Thanks so much for posting this.
TheWimpyVegetarian October 10, 2013
Wow. This looks absolutely fantastic!! I'm making this over the weekend, assuming I can wait that long...
Cathy H. October 10, 2013
Just made the shopping list to try this tonight! Not that I needed any more convincing -- me and cauliflower go way back -- but seeing wine in the list of ingredients sealed the deal for me. Thank you!!
RonaMoser October 9, 2013
I had this at Alon's restaurant Domenica in New Orleans, it is so good!!! Thanks for the recipe.
Phyllis G. October 9, 2013
lavagal October 9, 2013
I have two in the fridge now. Looking forward to staging my own food porn episode here. And I gotta tell ya. What is up with cauliflower pizza crusts? It is cruel. It is not its purpose!
savorthis October 9, 2013
I have to say I like the cauliflower pizzas. We should all reach beyond our original purpose :)
thirteenJ October 9, 2013
And would you happen to have a good recipe for cauliflower za crust,Chica? ;)
savorthis October 9, 2013
Oh the pressure! I used this one last time though I used whatever cheese nubs I had on hand in addition to the mozz (I think it was a nutty dutch cheese and I think a gruyere would be good too): I topped it with a homemade tomato sauce from the tomatoes in our garden and topped with more cheese and basil and sausage. Every time I try it, I am surprised. Truly.
lavagal October 10, 2013
Maybe I'll try it just this once! Mahalo!
thirteenJ October 10, 2013
Wow! That looks like a real pizza! (I'd say you excel under pressure!) Thank you so much...I'll give it a go this weekend
Pinomarion October 9, 2013
I'm worried it would just be mushy after cooking for so long?
@SamuelMoore October 9, 2013
I made this a couple months ago after reading about it in a national food magazine, it's incredible… And so easy!