Meal Menagerie: Starring Cauliflower

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Every few weeks, we have a grocery standoff in my house. No one is interested in heading to the store, but we are all hungry. For the most part, when we do go grocery shopping, I plan the meals and make a detailed grocery list so that I do not have to frequent the store any more than necessary. This way of shopping helps keep down on wasted food, but does not lend itself to making meals up on the fly. So when we have a meal menagerie, where we have to put together a meal from what’s in the cupboard, it is a challenge akin to Chopped or Iron Chef except there is no time limit. More…

Every few weeks, we have a grocery standoff in my house. No one is interested in heading to the store, but we are all hungry. For the most part, when we do go grocery shopping, I plan the meals and make a detailed grocery list so that I do not have to frequent the store any more than necessary. This way of shopping helps keep down on wasted food, but does not lend itself to making meals up on the fly. So when we have a meal menagerie, where we have to put together a meal from what’s in the cupboard, it is a challenge akin to Chopped or Iron Chef except there is no time limit.

This week’s odd pairing consisted of orecchiette pasta, a head of cauliflower, a few slices of leftover bacon, Italian bread crumbs, and some herbs–nothing to outrageous. I put all the ingredients in front of me, trying to make sense of what to do. It started off simply enough. I decided to roast the cauliflower, but as I began to unwrap it, I changed my mind. I decided that I would fry up the bacon and then stir fry the cauliflower in the bacon drippings. But then I had an interesting thought. What if I took a potato peeler and shaved the cauliflower, and then braised those tender slivers in a pan with a knob of butter and some chicken stock? I decided it was worth investigating. It took a bit of work to shave the whole head, but was well worth it,  it looked like pristine albino truffles when I was done.

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The rest of the meal came together rather easily and I was more than happy with the results. The orecchiette provided a nice toothsome quality that I have not found in other pastas; chewy yet somehow creamy. The cauliflower provided a sweetness, and by braising it, a small amount of sauce to stick to the pasta. The bread crumbs stood in for grated cheese. The bacon provided some guts and smoke. But what pulled it together were the herbs. They took what otherwise may have seemed a heavy dish and brightened it up; making my first bite of tonight’s meal menagerie enchanting! And as I watched my 9-year-old eat her entire bowl of pasta containing more than two servings of veg without arguing about it, I realized this dish was pure magic!

Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Bacon, & Herbs

INGREDIENTS

  • 250 grams (8.8oz) of dried orecchiette
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • a knob of butter
  • chicken stock to almost cover cauliflower in pan
  • 4 sliced of smoked bacon
  • sprinkling of Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp of thyme, cut finely
  • 1 Tbsp of tarragon, cut finely
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp of salt for pasta water

MISE EN PLACE

  1. Cook bacon in the oven at 400 degrees until fully cooked.
  2. Fill large stock pot with water.
  3. Shave cauliflower.
  4. Get out butter, chicken stock,bacon, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper.
  5. Cut herbs finely.
  6. Slice cooked bacon into thin strips.

STEP ONE
Turn pasta water to high. Once boiling, add salt and dissolve. Cook according to package directions.

STEP TWO
Heat large fry pan over medium heat. Add butter. Once melted, add cauliflower. Once fully coated with butter, add chicken stock and simmer over low heat until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

STEP THREE
Using a spider/slotted spoon, add cooked pasta to cauliflower pan. Add bacon, a sprinkling of bread crumbs, and most of the herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

STEP FOUR
Serve in wide bowls, adding a bit more bread crumbs and herbs to garnish.

Makes 4 generous servings.

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