Friday, 14 February 2014 | 46 comments

Whole roasted cauliflower

Snowed in, for the second day in a row. We’re keeping busy digging the birds out of the 16 inches of snow and trying to keep water un-frozen. (They–the chickens in particular–hate the snow, so it’s pretty hilarious to watch them dubiously eyeing the precipitation and then deciding to stay in.) Inside, other folks might be baking cookies or braising short ribs, but I’m roasting cauliflower. For the third time in a week.

As usual, I am late to the party on this one, but it’s okay, because it’s the kind of party you show up to late and another bottle of wine is being opened—you haven’t missed too much. I read about this whole roasted cauliflower in an issue of Bon Appetit in the airport (magazines are airport treats for me, or things I pilfer from waiting rooms) and tore it out, where it promptly got lost in the bottom of my bag. By the time I next found it, it was creased, illegible, and covered in that weird dusty gunk that is the collateral damage of not cleaning out your purse for six months.

I finally tracked down the recipe online and tested it out with my friend Danielle, and we liked it so much that we tripled the recipe for a dinner party the next night. Poached in a wine-y, peppery broth until tender and then roasted until it crackles, you can slice this cauliflower into wedges and serve as a side, or into thick steaks for a main, with a bright gremolata on top. There is not much that makes me feel better than taking a humble vegetable about which people are pretty ambivalent and turning it into something extraordinary. This is one of those recipes.

Whole roasted cauliflower

Adapted from Bon Appetit
This recipe originally ran with a whipped goat cheese condiment that went alongside it, but I like it as is. The cauliflower goes really well as a side to soak up a pan sauce, like that from a roast chicken.

You’ll need

  1. 2 1/2 cups dry white wine
  2. 1/3 cup olive oil
  3. 1/4 cup kosher salt
  4. Juice of 1 lemon
  5. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  6. 1-2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  7. 1 bay leaf
  8. 8 cups water
  9. 1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed and tough stem trimmed, but kept entire
  10. For serving:
  11. Olive oil
  12. Coarse sea salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Bring the wine, olive oil, salt, lemon juice, butter, pepper flakes, bay leaf, and water to a boil. Add the head of cauliflower and reduce to a simmer, gently poaching the head of cauliflower, for 10-15 minutes, until tender. The cauliflower is ready for roasting when you can easily insert a knife into its center.
  3. Using a spider skimmer or carefully using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the cauliflower from the liquid and place on a baking sheet.
  4. [Don’t throw out your poaching broth! It makes wonderful pasta water or risotto liquid.]
  5. Roast the cauliflower, turning once, for 30-40 minutes, until it is evenly dark golden all over. (I actually like it a little more than dark golden, but roast to your taste.)
  6. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Serve immediately.


§ 46 responses to Whole roasted cauliflower

  • Tim

    I forgot about this too! It was on my list. Now, I shall try (though I cant resist the goat cheese). Thanks! Hope you guys have a fun weekend. xo

  • Wow – so simple and it looks super delicious! I might have to serve this at an upcoming wine night!

  • this sounds crazy-good. cauliflower is one of my favorites, and i read somewhere that it has the most protein of any vegetable. who knew? the sun is out here and the great melt has begun. our birds quite pleased to see the snowy fluff leave.
    (found you via Meryl, my bit of earth).

  • I pilfered a truffled tart recipe from a waiting room one time, and mentioned it offhand to my parents. My stepdad, a physician, actually scolded me, something he never does. (We were one of those curfew and grounding free households.) He pointed out that the magazines were for all the patients, and to please ask the receptionist to make a copy of the recipe next time I wanted to rip. Just passing along the suggestion. More cauliflower for everyone this way.

    • You are a better person than I! Thanks for the advice :)

    • Catherine Cox

      Oh, the moral agonies I’ve experienced in doctors’ waiting rooms! But my camera phone has solved the problem: I just take a photograph of the recipe I want. People do look at me a bit strangely as I smooth the magazine out and get the light just so . . .

    • Molly comment about taking a recipe from an office reminded me that one time I was cutting out recipes from a magazine in a Dentist office. A patient waiting in the office said,. “I’m sure they would make a copy for you” and I replied, they probably would but it was MY magazine!

  • Sirena

    This dish is fabulous! I highly recommend trying the whipped goat cheese, it gives this rustic take on cauliflower an elegant twist and the taste combo is fantastic.

  • Beautiful cauliflower. Beautiful ducks and chickens!

  • Those geese are gorgeous! What elegant bills (?) they sport and fantastic colors.
    And this makes me want to go out and buy – what I indeed think of as boring, cauliflower.
    And redundant. A million years ago I visited a remarkable man who lived with his elegant wife, a grand piano, and his paintings, in a shanty in the woods beside the Ohio river in Indiana – self-sufficiently – they were at least in their 70s then. No electricity or running water, living mostly off what they grew and foraged. (his name was Harlan Hubbard – worth checking out )On a visit there I helped him in his garden and he said that he thought cauliflower ‘redundant’. Although he grew it as well as broccoli. I don’t know why I felt compelled to share my cauliflower association – perhaps because I think you would have loved Harlan.
    I also want to know about the “bright gremolata”.

  • Not affiliated, but I just signed up for two(!) years of Saveeur for $8.99 and then got sucked into getting Bon Appetit for an additional $4.99. As a food magazine junkie who, at one point, had FOUR food magazines coming each month (I know, I know… of them was Real Simple so technically it didn’t count), that is a fantastic deal. Seriously.

    So a PSA for anyone else reading who might be interested:

    The code is DEALSEEKINGMOM at Discount Mags:

  • I am among the cauliflower-ambivalent crowd, but this looks really good. Might have to give it a try. Thanks!

  • Maggie

    Sarah, I have cauliflower in the frig earmarked for tonight’s dinner. Gonna try this! Thanks so much.

    P.S. I, too, love the photos of your sweet birds.

  • I have roasted cauliflower like this before and it was fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

  • Susan

    Or, you could skip the poaching bit, and just break the raw cauliflower head into even size bits: slicing the larger florets in halves or quarters: spread on a parchment covered baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper and roast at 425 until crisp-tender: 25- 30 minutes. Turning the larger pieces over half way through the roasting time will help them get toasty brown on both sides. any left-overs are great the next day tossed with buttered pasta and a little grated parmesan. Or smashed and mixed into mashed potatoes.

  • I LOVE cauliflower and regularly roast florets either plan or doused in herbs and ground spices and have topped with a fried egg for an easy meal. Will definitely give this a try x

  • Now this is different. Roasted cauliflower is already my favorite thing — crispy, caramelized, delicious. But poached in wine? It’s almost too much. Almost, but not quite. Can’t wait to try it when I’m back in my own kitchen in a few months. Also, I want to say I’m glad you tore out the page. You posted the recipe on your blog – this definitely caused the idea to end up in front of a lot more people than if you had left the page in the magazine. These days, I’m anti-stuff, so I would have taken a photo and stuck it in evernote, but whatever floats your boat! Thanks, as always, for sharing and good luck with that weather.

  • I have pinned this recipe over and over again and have been meaning to try it. I adore cauliflower so now you’ve reminded me AGAIN that I must make this. Those trees are magnificent by the way.

  • Love your confused ducks.

  • Dina

    Great recipe!! And I LOVE your ducks. What breed are they?! Just gorgeous.

  • mary

    I roast cauliflower all the time but never whole…I’ll definitely try this next time I come across a head of romanesco, I always feel sad cutting up a vegetable that looks so awesome!

  • I’ve never been a fan of cauliflower, but this looks so delicious! Would this also make a good side?

  • I made this last night. I didn’t have white wine so I figured red might be odd but couldn’t hurt. Thank goodness I was eating alone. Totally ugly; completely delicious. I don’t think I would have wanted to share. Thanks for the recipe!

  • i cannot get enough of cauliflower…love this simple recipe

  • I love it how you’re able to make something that reminds of a roasted human brain look so beatutiful nevertheless!

  • Rachelle Golden

    I made this last night for my husband. He was watching me make it and I could tell he was scared. However, as soon as he ate a bite he said, “this is the best cauliflower I have ever had!” We are SOLD on this recipe!!

  • Terry

    Your recipe looks fabulous. Would you please tell me what kind of ducks are shown in your photo?
    I live in the Midwest and have never seen these before. Thank you.

  • Michael Myers

    Personally, I would skip the poaching. I roast cauliflower in florets and small chunks. I put olive oil, Sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce), garlic, and whatever spices (I sometimes use Creole seasoning) in a large bowl, and stir. Then I put the cauliflower in the bowl and mix until they are all covered. Put them on a large cookie sheet and bake them until they are all nicely carmelized. Sometimes I add vertical strips of onion, too. Yum!

    • Hi Michael—that method is very familiar to me, too. I think you’d be surprised at what a nice technique the poaching prior to roasting is, though. Just something different. —S




  • GG

    Love the idea of a whole roasted cauliflower!
    This was just WAY too spicy, though. And we love spice! All we could taste was the red pepper flakes. I only put 1 tablespoon, instead of 2.
    Is it possible it should be TEAspoons, instead of TABLEspoons? Just a thought.

    • Thanks! I will take a look. I have not gotten feedback before that it was too spicy, and I definitely didn’t think so, but I assume a transcription error is possible. Thanks–S

      • Hm, so upon further examination, the original Bon Appetit called for 1 tablespoon, and I think I put more in than that because I liked it, so I listed 1-2 tablespoons, which is not particularly precise. So perhaps working up to two tablespoons would be advisable. Of course, as always, different chili flakes can be spicier than others, so start small and taste. I’m sorry yours didn’t turn out well :-/

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