This vegetarian play on the French classic coq au vin benches the coq, or chicken, and calls in deeply caramelized cauliflower as the star player instead. The trick to a full-bodied sauce without the meat is to lean in to umami-boosting ingredients, like dried porcini mushrooms, tomato paste, and soy sauce. For the red wine, pick a medium-bodied, dry variety that you’d want to drink. You’re only using a cup in the sauce, so that leaves another three for you to serve with the meal.
The cauliflower is good, but the rich, luscious, mushroomy red wine sauce is where it’s at. Make sure to serve this dish with something carby to soak up all that delicious gravy. My go-to sides are mashed potatoes, buttered egg noodles, or lots of warm bread.
Got leftovers? Make a French-inspired shepherd’s pie! Here’s how: Chop up any leftover cauliflower and mix it back into the sauce along with ½ cup thawed, frozen peas. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish (the size will depend on how much you have). Top with a layer of mashed potatoes, dot the top with some unsalted butter, place the dish on a sheet pan, and bake at 400°F until the filling is warmed through and the top is golden, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Prep time 25 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour
- Serves 3 to 4
dried porcini mushrooms (about ½ ounce)
large cauliflower head
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons
kosher salt, divided
unsalted (or plant-based) butter
cremini mushrooms, sliced
large shallots, thinly sliced
medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch rounds
freshly ground black pepper
garlic cloves, minced or finely grated
low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
fresh thyme leaves
dried bay leaves
fresh rosemary sprig
1 1/2 tablespoons
dry red wine, such as Burgundy or Côtes du Rhône
cognac or brandy
Light or dark brown sugar, to taste (optional)
fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Mashed potatoes, buttered egg noodles, or crusty bread (for serving)
- Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Turn off the heat, stir in the dried porcini, cover, and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the cauliflower: Trim the fibrous, stalky leaves off the bottom (the inner, tender leaves are fine to leave on). Cut the cauliflower into 8 wedges, making sure each wedge has some of the inner stalk, holding the florets together.
- After 15 minutes, remove the rehydrated mushrooms with a slotted spoon, squeeze to remove any extra liquid, and finely chop them. Reserve the mushroom-infused stock for later use.
- Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the cauliflower in a single layer, gently pressing the pieces down to make sure that the cut side has contact with the hot pan. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and cook undisturbed until deeply golden and caramelized on one side, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the browned wedges to a plate (it’s okay if some of them start to fall apart).
- Keep the pot over medium-high heat and add the butter and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms, stirring to coat them in the fat, spreading them into an even layer. Cook, undisturbed, until they start to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Stir and continue to cook until caramelized, another 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the shallots, carrots, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots soften and just start to turn light golden, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, soy sauce, thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, flour, and chopped porcini. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste turns brick red, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir in the red wine and cognac and cook, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the reserved vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the mixture starts to thicken again, 4 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and sugar, if necessary. (If the red wine I’m using is bigger with a higher acidity, I’ll often add ¼ to ½ teaspoon brown sugar, for balance.)
- Nestle the cauliflower in the red wine sauce, caramelized side up, submerging the wedges about three-quarters of the way, and spooning some sauce over the top. Cover the pot most of the way, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, basting the top of the cauliflower a couple times, until the stems can easily be pierced with a paring knife, 22 to 26 minutes. (I like my cauliflower to still retain a slight bite, but if you want yours meltingly tender, you can cook it for up to 40 minutes.)
- To serve, remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprig and finish with a sprinkle of fresh parsley. Enjoy hot with mashed potatoes, buttered egg noodles, or lots of crusty bread. Leftovers will keep up to 5 days in the fridge (check out the Author Notes for a fun way to reinvent them into a new meal).