Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cauliflower in mayo - Conopida cu maioneza

When you grow up Romanian, you know the taste of boiled cauliflower well, too well. One of the delights of learning to cook for myself was discovering that other, more exciting things could be done with cauliflower too -- it could be roasted to nutty sweetness, for example, or stir-fried with curry leaves, turmeric, and coconut, or pureed into a satisfying creamy soup. Cauliflower could be seriously good.

So why is it that lately I've had urges for recipes made with boiled cauliflower, of all things? It has to be something atavistic, a longing for the blander bits of my childhood. In this case, I was paging through Silvia Jurcovan's Carte de Bucate, and the single recipe she gave under "conopida" (cauliflower) was for cauliflower made with mayonnaise. Now, I despise mayo, and try to avoid it. But it turns out I had tasted a version of this recipe when visiting my uncle in Bucharest in 2006, and knew that it could be incredibly tasty.

Now, it certainly doesn't look tasty. It's a white vegetable in a white sauce when you get right down to it. But don't let looks fool you. I played quite a bit with the recipe given in Jurcovan, so much so that I'm only going to give you very vague directions. I think the keys here are not overboiling the cauliflower, and making the sauce flavourful enough to carry the veggie.

First, cut the cauliflower into large florets. I had an enormous cauliflower head (about 1800 g!), which I think was ideal. If you cut it into large enough pieces, they won't cook through as fast and they can suffer a bit of breaking. Then throw them in boiling water for around 5 minutes, but check every now and then to see if they're tender by inserting a sharp knife into a floret. Remove and drain.

In the meantime, make the dressing. Take about a cup of mayo and mix together with two cups of sour cream. I also added a couple of teaspoons of mustard and plenty of dried dill because Jurcovan told me to, and a few things Jurcovan didn't mention: four crushed cloves of garlic, a dash of Worcestershire, about half a lemon's worth of juice, a few squirts of olive oil, to say nothing of salt and pepper.

Finally, mix the thick dressing with the cauliflower -- do so gently so that the florets do not break apart. Chill, and serve! You can add some chopped parsley on top, though I might vary the leftovers tomorrow with some scallions.


Anonymous said...

You should try the combination cauliflower and mayo mixed with garlic and fresh parsley.
Delicious !!!!

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