You read that right.
Whipped goat cheese.
WHIPPED GOAT CHEESE.
How, you wonder, does one go about preparing such a culinary delight? Such a feast for the senses? Such a groovy thing to do with cauliflower?
Easy! It takes a little time, but that doesn’t change the “easy” factor. Here’s what you need for the cauliflower. I’ll talk about what to do with the goat cheese later, mostly because I’m evil and want to heighten your anticipation. Can’t bring it home too early, see. Anyway. Cauliflower.
- 2 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Juice from 1 lemon and juiced lemon remains
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar/honey/agave nectar
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 10 whole peppercorns
- 1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
Cooking this cauliflower requires two steps; braising makes the cauliflower tender and infuses it with a variety of flavors, while roasting coaxes out the savory nuttiness and gives it a crusty texture. Plus, it looks and sounds elegant as hell. (Is that a legitimate term? Who cares. You all dig, I’m sure.) I’m a hearty advocate of making things that sound impressive to boost my cooking cred.
Oh, yeah. P.S., it tastes great.
Trim the cauliflower so it’s cleared of leaves and its stem is pared down so that the cauliflower can sit flat on a serving plate. Assemble all the ingredients you need for the braise.
When choosing the braising wine, make it as dry as you can stand. You don’t necessarily want the cauliflower to become oaky or sweet, you just want it to become fragrant and delicious. So go dry, and make it a decent bottle.
Put the wine, salt, butter, oil, lemon (juiced, and then toss in the halves as well because why not?), sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a large pot and get them cooking over a high heat. I did add some red pepper flakes when I made my cauliflower but frankly, I didn’t think they brought much at all to the party, so meh, only add them if you’re really committed to their presence. When everything’s going along at a pretty steady boil, add the cauliflower. CAREFULLY, so you don’t cause a big splash and burn yourself with water and boiling oil.
If you think you still need a little extra cooking liquid in the pot, feel free to add some water or broth. Lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 15-20 minutes or so, until the cauliflower is soft enough to sink a knife in but still offers some resistance. You don’t want it to be mush, you just want it to be soft-ish. When it’s ready, take it out and let it drain.
The nice thing about this dish is, you can park the cauliflower here for a while if you need to take care of other business in the kitchen; once the braise is done you’ll only have to worry about getting it in the oven when you’re in serious dinner-prep mode.
When you are ready for Phase Two: Roasting, make sure your oven is pre-heated to the not-messing-around temperature of 475° and that your oven rack is positioned roughly in the middle of the oven. Put the cauliflower in a baking dish, give it a light drizzle of olive oil and toss on some salt and pepper. Then? In it goes, for 30-40 minutes. Turn it once halfway through. You’ll want to pull it out of the oven when it’s nice and browned and toasty on the outside. It should look something like this:
While it’s roasting you can whip your goat cheese.
Because seriously, words fail. Just saying it is sexy: Whipped goat cheese. Yes! It’s that good. You need:
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese
- 3 ounces cream cheese
- 3 ounces feta
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened Greek yogurt (or more, in the interests of a smooth and creamy texture)
- drizzle of honey
- Fresh-cracked pepper to taste
Measure out your ingredients.
And then…ready for this? Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Process.
I mean, taste it and see what you need to add. I don’t say you should add salt because feta and goat cheese are plenty salty on their own, but if you feel like the salt–or the pepper, or the honey–are lacking, then adjust accordingly. If you think it needs to smooth out a little more you can add some more yogurt, or some milk or water, but only do so in small increments so as to not make it too soupy. You want it to stick to the cauliflower, not run off. As further evidence that this may seem complicated but isn’t really, your goat cheese can be whipped ahead of time. I made mine the night before and it was perfect, I just had to let it warm up to room temperature and give it a couple of stirs to loosen it up.
Your guests, your family, your dining companions will be dazzled sho’ ’nuff when they walk in your kitchen and see this waiting for them.
It’s soft enough to cut with a serving spoon, so don’t be afraid to dive into the cauliflower, dress it with a happy dollop or seven of goat cheese and feast yourself silly. A dish this gorgeous makes every dinner better. Set aside a little time. It’s worth it, if for no other reason that it’s ultimately really simple and if you do what the dish requires (braise, roast, food process), you’ll look like a kitchen rock star.