God did just fine creating cauliflower. Pure, creamy and white, it needs nothing more than a quick steam before tossing with salt, pepper and farm-fresh butter. That, however, is not the shortest path to impressing you with my culinary creativity. So, last week in the test kitchen we were faced with a decision: sweet and Indian or hearty and French? We stayed up until 1 AM and tried both. Here’s effort number one.
Cauliflower provides the comforting weight of potatoes with a mouth feel as light as zucchini or yellow wax beans. We found earthiness and luxury in Crimini mushrooms, sliced and sautéed, finished with thyme and white wine. Yukon Gold potatoes, relatively low in starch, gave heft without weighing our stew down. We needed depth, and found it in garlic and anchovy paste. A spicy, robust olive oil finished the stew richly.
We had achieved cauliflower stew Nirvana: hearty enough for a cold, damp fall night, but light enough that we weren’t crawling to bed from the dinner table.
You’re freaked about the anchovy paste, aren’t you? Your nose is wrinkled in disgust at the thought of that fishy, salty brown paste, oozing like toothpaste from a tube. Anchovy paste adds necessary layers of flavor in a dish that might otherwise feel one-dimensional. You won’t taste it. It’s one of those perfect stealth ingredients, delivering lots of flavor without getting caught. So go ahead, squeeze a little in, and don’t tell your kids or your picky eater of a boyfriend. They’ll never know.
Hearty Cauliflower Mushroom Stew
- 2 tbs butter
- 2 cups sliced Crimini mushrooms
- 1/4 cup dry Vermouth
- 1 tbs chopped, fresh thyme
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
- 3 Yukon Gold potatoes*, in 1/2” dice
- 3 cups vegetable stock (here’s a quick and simple recipe)
- 1/2 head cauliflower, cut in florets
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tbs Moresca Olive Oil**
*This past weekend, Dan at Agora Farms introduced me to the Eva potato. Named after the mother of the Cornell researcher who developed it, Eva is creamy and white, with bold flavor (who knew potatoes could have flavor?!) and medium starch. They make a perfect, creamy mash, just sayin’…
**Sapore’s latest introduction, Moresca is a bold, spicy oil perfect for dipping bread, tossing with pasta, arugula and walnuts and gave great depth as a finish to this stew.
- Melt butter over medium heat in large sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms until golden brown on edges. Deglaze with Vermouth. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. Reserve.
- Heat olive oil in same pan. Sauté onions until translucent, add garlic and anchovy paste and cook 30 seconds.
- Add potatoes and cook until onion begins to brown on edges.
- Stir in the stock, cover and cook until potatoes have started to soften.
- Add cauliflower and fresh thyme. Cover and cook until cauliflower is crisp tender.
- Uncover and let broth thicken. Season to taste with Moresca oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg.