When I was living in New York, most of my Sunday nights were spent recounting the weekend with friends at a small West Village spot called Joseph Leonard. JL is basically everything I'm looking for in a restaurant. The food is seasonal, interesting and excellent and the menu is always changing. The atmosphere is fun and relaxed. The staff is super friendly and never forgets a familiar face (it also helps when you go at least once a week for three straight years). This place just has so much character and something special that keeps people coming back. Though their menu does change quite often, there are a few staple items that they just can't take off. One is the pork hock, aka CRACK for pork lovers, and the other is the caramelized cauliflower, which is just plain crack.
In trying to recreate this cauliflower recipe, I did some research and found that it was inspired by a dish on the menu at St. John in London. Check. St. John was started by Fergus Henderson, a self trained chef made famous for his 'nose to tail eating' philosophy. This place is literally doing everything right and is basically a Ballymaloe students dream. Go there. The second thing I found about this cauliflower is that the term caramelized actually means fried. Hope I didn't just ruin it for anyone. I also hope I didn't scare any of you away from making this recipe! I know frying sounds scary but it's actually quite easy as long as you have a dutch oven on hand. And don't worry, it's just a shallow fry and I'll walk you through every step :) Let's get started!
Joseph Leonard Caramelized Cauliflower- Serves 2
2 C Raw cauliflower
1 TBS Dijon Mustard
3 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Honey
1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic, smashed and pressed into a paste
1 TBS Parsley, finely chopped
1 TBS Chervil, finely chopped
1 TBS Chives, finely chopped
1 TBS Tarragon, finely chopped
1 TBS Pine nuts, toasted
1 TBS Capers
1/4 C Pickled Red Onion
1-2 C Sunflower Oil (or any flavorless oil)
Pickled Red Onion:
1 Red Onion
10 Black Peppercorns
2 Sprigs Thyme
1 Clove Garlic, peeled and halved
1 Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 Cup White Wine Vinegar
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1. Let's start by pickling the red onion. Start by bringing a small pot of water to a boil. Cut the onion in half and peel off the outer layer of skin. Slice the onion into half moon shapes, the thinner the better.
2. Combine vinegar, thyme, peppercorns, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and sugar into an airtight jar. Once the water is boiling, toss in the onion slices for about 30 seconds- 1 minute and immediately strain. Pour blanched onion slices into the airtight jar and stir to combine. Let chill for a minimum of 30 minutes before using. These will last for several weeks!
3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Move onto the cauliflower. Combine mustard, honey, apple cider vin, smashed garlic and olive oil in a jar or bowl. Shake or stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Cut cauliflower into bit size pieces. Take 1/4 of the raw cauliflower and toss in a few TBS of the dressing. Set this aside to marinate.
4. Throw pine nuts in a small roasting tin (I actually use a small cake tin which works quite well). Put in the oven for 5 minutes to toast. You can also do this in a pan on the stove top if you prefer.
5. In a dutch oven, start to heat the oil for frying the cauliflower. The oil should only be about a half inch high so the amount you use will depend on the size of your pot. This should be a shallow fry so we want to use a little oil as is necessary. Turn the heat on high so the oil can start to heat while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
6. Chop parsley, chervil, chives and tarragon. Combine and set aside in a bowl. Test the oil by putting a small piece of cauliflower in the oil. If it floats to the top, it is ready. Fry the cauliflower in two batches. Each batch should take about 5 minutes. Monitor and toss the cauliflower as it's frying, it should be golden brown when ready. Don't be scared to let the cauliflower fry until it's a deep golden brown color, just make sure it doesn't burn! Let cauliflower sit on a paper towel lined plate when finished. Sprinkle with a TINY bit of salt right after frying. The cauliflower will absorb the salt as it cools.
7. Once the cauliflower is fried, all of your ingredients should be ready to combine: herbs, pine nuts, capers, pickled red onion, raw cauliflower, fried cauliflower. Start by tossing fried cauliflower with the raw cauliflower. Add a little more of the dressing just to lightly coat all of the cauliflower. Toss in herbs, pine nuts, capers and red onions. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Enjoy!