Boredom can lead to sudden spurts of inspiration. Looking in the fridge and realizing that only a few unlabeled jars as well as a head of cauliflower are all that I have, I decided to play with a few concepts from my time in Ireland and France. Derived from Dan Barber's cauliflower recipe. Side-note: this dish can easily be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock instead and vegan by removing the butter as well. —Matthew Bounous
Head of Cauliflower
Milk--whole or skim
Garlic Confit Oil
Garlic Confit Clove
Butter--I prefer Kerrygold
Freshly grated Nutmeg
Red Pepper Flake
Maldon Sea Salt
Cracked White Pepper
Picual Olive Oil--or one with a peppery after-taste
Note on Garlic Confit: Garlic confit is one of my favorite ways to bring an added punch of flavor. With one head of garlic, separate the cloves and trim the bottom near the root, but keep the paper of the garlic intact. Set in a pan just large enough to fit and cover with a good olive oil. Add a pinch of black peppercorns, a bundle of thyme and a bay leaf. Heat until a fine stream of bubbles starts and confit for 1hr30mins. Cool. And can be saved in the fridge for up to a month at least.
Begin by trimming the stem of the cauliflower and removing as many of the leaves as possible without digging too deep into the core. You want to keep the stem intact to hold the "steaks" together.
Divide the head of cauliflower in half. Then, from where you cut, measure between 3/4" to 1" in and cut the "steaks." Be gentle because you want them to be as sturdy as possible. Set the "steaks" aside.
Put the 2-cups of chicken stock into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the stock by half. While the stock is reducing focus on the leftover cauliflower. With the outer pieces of cauliflower and trimmed stalk, pare the pieces into about 1/2" segments. When the stock has reduced, add the milk and the cauliflower. If the liquid is not enough to cover, add more milk. Add 1 tablespoon of the garlic confit oil and the clove of garlic as well (paper removed). Pinch of coriander seeds. Now, here is the secret, grate a touch of nutmeg. Not too much, just enough to know it is there. Bring to a boil and simmer until the cauliflower is tender when pricked with a knife.
Strain the cauliflower from the liquid and reserve the liquid. Put the cauliflower in a blender, add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, tablespoon of butter. Blend until a fine, silky purée is produced. Add more liquid as needed. The purée should have the consistency of a soft whipped cream. Firm enough to stand by itself, by loose enough that it settles/spreads if you hit the bottom of the plate. Season to taste.
Now, preheat your oven to 425degrees fahrenheit. Take an oven-safe skillet just large enough to fit both cauliflower steaks and heat over a medium heat.
Baste the presentation face of the cauliflower with a bit of the garlic confit oil or olive oil. Season with salt. When the pan is hot enough, start the cauliflower on the presentation face. Baste the back of the cauliflower with a bit more oil and after 3-4minutes check for browning. When browned to desired golden-brown. Flip and put the pan in the oven. Check on the steak in 5minutes. It is done when the stem is easily pricked with the tip of a knife.
Plating. Dollop the purée in the center of the plate and spread into a round. Hit the bottom of the plate to smooth out the ridges and make the round look as close to pristine as possible. Set the "steak" into the middle carefully so that you do not mess up your purée. Pick the points of parsley off of the leaves and place around. Drizzle the picual or other spicy olive oil around the plate. Spritz with a bit of lemon juice. Pepper flakes around the border. And a grind of white pepper as well as a sprinkle of maldon sea salt over the dish. Eat.