Regular readers of this blog would probably not be shocked to know I don’t like cauliflower. I suppose I can understand how someone hundreds of years ago with limited options for sustenance could look at this odious, mealy brain-like thing and think “This looks edible!,” but today? In this day and age? Still, like most people in their 30s, it’s come to my attention that eating more vegetables is actually really important, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to sneak the ones I really hate into my diet. Making a purée seemed to work pretty well in the case of a broccoli pesto I made last year, so why not use the same technique with something equally versatile, like a soufflé?
I admit my working knowledge of the flavor profile for cauliflower fell somewhere between “Blecchhh” and “Ptooey,” so I was forced to consult The Flavor Bible for additions that might further aid in covering it up. (Yes, there actually is a book called The Flavor Bible, and it is eminently informative and useful, and you should totally check it out from the library.)
Turns out hardly anything goes with cauliflower other than butter, pepper, and cheese. Thanks, Flavor Bible! What DOESN’T go with butter, pepper, and cheese?
In any case, I followed the Flavor Bible’s recommendation, and the finished product was pretty good—creamy and warming, let light. It certainly tasted like cauliflower, but in a good, wholesome, baked-vegetable way, not sulphury, obese-person-farting-in-the-hot-springs way. (Yes, I said it.) In fact, I’d definitely make it again if for some reason I had any cauliflower sitting around—isn’t that the compartment always left untouched on a store-bought vegetable tray?—and that’s saying a lot.
As below this makes one large soufflé to fit a 1-quart ramekin. It serves 2 as a main course.
• 1/2 lb. cauliflower florets, chopped: $1
• 1/3 cup chicken broth or water: 2 cents
• 2 T cream: 4 cents
• 1 clove garlic, crushed through garlic press: 1 cent
• 3 T plus 1 tsp butter (about 1/3 of a T): 20 cents
• 5 eggs (the chickens STILL aren’t laying): 60 cents
• 3 T flour: 1 cent
• 1 cup whole milk: 16 cents
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese: 30 cents
• Pinch cream of tartar: 1 cent
• Salt & white pepper to taste: 2 cents
• Handful of bread crumbs: 1 cent
TOTAL: $2.37/2 = $1.19
To make the cauliflower purée, put the chopped florets in a small saucepan with the chicken broth or water, crushed garlic, and a pinch of salt, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the florets are tender. Transfer them to a blender, food processor, food mill, or ricer, and purée them with the cream and butter. You’ll get about a cup’s worth. Honest to god, they taste kind of like mashed potatoes.
The rest of the process is pretty much identical to my usual standby cheese souffle, substituting the cauliflower purée for the cheese:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub the inside of the ramekin(s) with butter and coat with bread crumbs so the soufflé doesn’t stick to the sides when it bakes.
Melt 3 T butter over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the flour and stir constantly until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the milk slowly, stirring the whole time, until the sauce is thick and smooth. Add a large pinch each of salt and white pepper, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 5-6 minutes, until sauce is VERY thick. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and cauliflower purée. (At this point you can refrigerate the base for a few hours if you need to and warm it back up when you need it.)
Separate the five egg whites into one bowl (if you have a stand mixer, use that bowl, making sure it’s totally, 100% clean without so much of a speck of dust or smear of grease) and add four of the yolks to the cauliflower mixture (save the fifth yolk for another use). There cannot be ANY yolks in the whites—not even a microscopic dot—or else the whites won’t fluff up when beaten.
Add a pinch of cream of tartar to the whites (it helps stabilize the foam) and beat with either a handheld mixer or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until glossy and forming stiff peaks. Take care not to over-beat to the point where the mixture turns dull and foamy and bunches up around the beater.
Fold about 1/4 of the whites into the base to lighten it, then pour the lightened base into the empty spot where you took out the whites. Fold the base into the whites gently with a rubber spatula until almost totally incorporated. The mixture should look quite foamy. If not the soufflé will still be edible, it just won’t rise and will probably be wet in the middle. Pour into the prepared ramekin and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
Bake on the middle rack until the top is golden brown, about 25-30 minutes depending on your oven. Slice in half, scoop it out, and serve immediately.