Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Caulipotatoes

Judy and I joined a service that delivers veggies to your house every week. It’s not a CFA since you can join and quit at anytime. On our second delivery we got something I wasn’t expecting: two heads of cauliflower.

Great. Cauliflower. Another one of those things that only tastes moderately good even when fried. And two damned heads of the shit.

Judy mentioned that when she was doing the macrobiotic thing (which always results in a subconscious roll of the eyes) they used to make “mashed potatoes” out of cauliflower. What a laugh. Mashed potatoes out of cauliflower? That’s like an atheist blessing the meal: it’s blasphemy.

Still, I had two heads of the stuff. The concern I had was, “How will you get the depth needed to make ‘mashed potatoes’ out of cauliflower?” The answer was simple: add a potato.

And cream, and butter, and crème frâiche….

I was also worried that not having a ricer wouldn’t get me the creamy texture I wanted. My buddy Jim said no worries – just run your food processor for a long time. He was spot on.

2 heads of cauliflower
1 small yellow potato, sliced paper thin
¼ sweet onion, sliced paper thin
8 oz crème frâiche (substitute sour cream)
1 TBS fresh chives, minced
2 TBS unsalted butter
¼ cup heavy cream

Bring a large pot (4 quarts) of salted water to a boil.

Cut the first inch of outer layer of the cauliflower off. All you want is the outside - the brainy parts. Set aside.

For the potato and onion, when I say paper thin I mean PAPER THIN. When cutting through them you should see your knife blade clearly through the slice. We’re talking about 1/16 of an inch here, if not less. If you’ve got moderately good knife skills you can easily do this without adding knuckle skin to the mix. If not it will take some time – be careful; a mandoline would really help but there’s not much here to warrant that mess. Unless you’re OK with that.

In a medium skillet add the butter and bring to slight bubble over medium heat. Add the onion, potato, 5 cranks of pepper, two big pinches of salt and lightly sauté – DO NOT BROWN – over medium heat for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the heavy cream and crème frâiche, stir to mix, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Put the cauliflower into the boiling water. Boil the shit out of it: about 8 minutes. Strain in a colander and then spread out the florettes into a thin layer in the colander. Let it steam for about 5 minutes. [LME Tip: The point here is not to cool but let excess moisture come off. There’s a difference.]

Add the florettes to a food processor and grind for about one minute, stopping to push down if necessary. Add the cream/potato/onion mixture all at once, and with the processor off, and continue to process for about 2 – 3 minutes…maybe longer. Go until the processor is effortlessly cutting through it and then go an additional 30 seconds more. The texture should be smooth and creamy.

Serve immediately and sprinkle some chives on it. You can also put it back into a pot and hold over low heat until ready.

It would be easy to lighten this dish up too. Lower fat sour cream, a little less butter, and 2% milk would work. It wouldn’t have the mouthfeel of this version but still good.

I served this with some butter-poached monkfish medallions. You could do the same with shrimp. Or as a side to steak. Anywhere you'd normally serve mashed potatoes. The more I think about it, these are probably more versatile as a side than classic mashed potats'.

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